With so many of the biggest names heading to the Eastern Conference this trade deadline, we’ve been wondering when a Western Conference team (and which one?) would step up.
After all, while the East houses the top six teams in the entire league by points, that just means the West is wide open for someone to take.
On the wild day of action Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers finally broke the freeze, acquiring stud defenceman Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators. Ekholm, signed for a few years to now solidify Edmonton’s top four, was recognized by our scout Jason Bukala as perhaps the best defenceman who was available this trade season.
But they weren’t the only western-based team to jump into the flurry of action. Hours after Edmonton’s deal — and made official Wednesday morning — the Los Angeles Kings acquired goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The deal lands the Kings the defenceman they were after (they were also in on Jakob Chychrun) and the goalie upgrade they needed as well.
And while this move was a positive for the Kings, it’s still going to leave a mark. That’s because Stanley Cup champion cornerstone and franchise legend Jonathan Quick was offloaded back to Columbus — along with a conditional first-round pick in 2023 and a third-rounder in 2024.
Quick, though, was reportedly not happy with the move. Columbus may try and flip him to another team and we wonder if he will ever suit up for the Blue Jackets.
“He was obviously in shock,” Elliotte Friedman said on the Jeff Marek Show.
But the Kings have now made a notable move, acquiring depth and defence for the back end, but also addressing their biggest weakness in goal. Prior to the trade, the Kings had the league’s 31st-ranked team save percentage (.881), better than only the Vancouver Canucks. They’re also the only team in a playoff spot right now that doesn’t have a positive goal differential (the Kings are even).
So we turn to our scout Jason Bukala for his break down of the deal.
Los Angeles Receives
• Vladislav Gavrikov
• Joonas Korpisalo
Gavrikov’s name had been circulating for weeks in the trade winds. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound left-shot defenceman had his most productive season offensively in 2021-22 when he scored five goals and added 28 assists. This season he has been used in all situations in Columbus, but his offensive numbers have declined dramatically. He’s a seasoned defenceman who was a member of Russia’s WJC, World Championship, and Olympic teams in the past.
Gavrikov is best described as a two-way defenceman. He isn’t a player who will rush the puck on his own too often. He distributes pretty well, and shoots the puck hard from distance in the offensive zone. He has the tools to be used on the second power-play unit if required, but isn’t going to quarterback a first unit.
Defensively he competes to take away time and space. He isn’t overly physical. He is more of a bumper. He relies on his long reach to interrupt plays. Gavrikov is an adequate skater, but I have concerns about his posture. He gets hunched over when leaning forward with this stick, which takes away his leverage (and is probably the reason he has only been credited with 56 hits on the year).
This season Gavrikov has scored three goals and seven assists in 52 games and has averaged 22 minutes of ice time. His primary minutes come at even strength and the penalty kill. He has also been credited with 89 blocked shots.
Gavrikov definitely adds to the depth of the LA Kings’ defence. I envision him skating in a top-four, mostly match-up/defensive role for the Kings. He’s also a pending UFA.
Korpisalo, meantime, has been tough to beat since December after a slow start to the season. The Kings are acquiring the 6-foot-3, 191-pound goaltender at the top of his game. His season stats have to be observed with some perspective. His goals-against average (3.13), in relation to this save percentage (.913), speaks to the fact the Blue Jackets give up a ton of high-danger chances against. The goalies in Columbus are under duress on a nightly basis.
Korpisalo, like all goalies, is at his best when he’s not too busy in his crease. He plays a butterfly style. Korpisalo sits tall when down on his knees, using his stature to take away the upper portion of the net. He’s been battling to make second stops. He’s athletic. When he’s on his game, he’s really on. When he’s off his game, pucks tend to slip through him (under his gloves when going down, for example).
Korpisalo’s stats don’t lie. Over his past five starts he has posted a 2.40 GAA and .933 save percentage.
The Kings needed an upgrade in goal and got one with the addition of Korpisalo. He’s on an expiring contract that pays $1.3 million against the cap, and is set to become a UFA this summer.
• Jonathan Quick
• 2023 first-round pick
• 2024 third-round pick
I have a ton of respect for the career Quick has had. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion. I’m not going to over-analyze his struggles this season. I’m sure it’s with a heavy heart Quick leaves the Kings. This trade will sting for both management and the player, but it’s the NHL and I’m sure Quick recognizes his game was not good enough this season.
Quick is 37 years old and on an expiring contract that pays him $5.8 million against the cap, but just $2.5 million in salary. I’m anticipating him retiring at the end of the year.
Reports were circulating that the Blue Jackets were asking for, at least, a first-round pick and a third-rounder for Gavrikov alone. The fact they ended up with only a first and a third for both Gavrikov and Korpisalo has to feel like a bit of a loss. Having said that, adding draft capital is a positive in this deal.
Columbus now has 10 picks overall in the 2023 draft.
The addition of Gavrikov improves the depth of the LA Kings blue line. More importantly, in my opinion, adding Korpisalo at the top of his game is the biggest part of this deal. Columbus could end up winning the lottery and drafting Connor Bedard. They have had a ton of injuries this season, but that excuse can only go so far. This team is in desperate need of retooling. Extra draft capital always helps with the process.