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WYTS: ..... but why?

A confusing Kings trade takes the spotlight

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

youThe Kings are in flux. This is a team that realistically, is competing for the one playoff spot up for grabs in the West - the last wildcard. They’re currently 3 points back of the Blues, who also have a game in hand on them. So shit’s looking rough for the Kings.

That said, the Kings didn’t have an easy road this year. Their starting goalie, Jonathan Quick, got injured early in the season, and only just made his return. In the meantime, Peter Budaj has held down the fort well, to the tune of a .917 save percentage. Great work, Peter. I’m sure your awesome play will be rewarded by the Kings someho-

Orrrr, never mind. Thanks for saving our season, have fun in Tampa! The price isn’t a Kings ransom (get it), but it’s not negligible either. Erik Cernak is a RD for the Erie Otters who isn’t lighting the world on fire, and Budaj is obviously serviceable. But at least they got Ben Bishop, presumably as insurance for Jonathan Quick as they make a push for the postseason and another Cup run.

Of course, Bishop is one of the premier goalies in the league, or at least has been since 2012. The slight problem is that he has been very mediocre this year, sporting a .911 save percentage, and has clearly been usurped by Andrei Vasilevsky for the Lightning. The Kings are obviously betting he’ll turn it around. However, I have a few major problems with this trade for them.

  1. You’re presumably getting Bishop as insurance for Quick (seeing as the latter still has a bajillion years on his deal, he’s not going anywhere). Which means he’s a backup, and will see, at most 20% of the games left in the regular season (and that’s being generous to them). So at best, you paid significant assets and cap space (despite TB retaining 20%) for a marginal upgrade in net for like, 5-6 games.
  2. It might not even be a marginal upgrade! I’m sure you clever readers noticed that Budaj has actually played notably better than Bishop this season! Of course, I’d expect Bishop to be a little better going forward, and Budaj a little worse, but again, we’re talking about a ludicrously tiny sample that they’ll be using Bishop for, so that’s not at all guaranteed. And if they’re doing this because they think Bishop is better suited to take over in case Quick re-aggravates his injury... I sort of get where they’re coming from, but in general, most teams are screwed if their starting goalie goes down. I don’t see allocating extra resources there as wise. This relates to my next point:
  3. YOU’RE THE LA KINGS! Literally every goalie who plays for you has the exact same stats, because it doesn’t matter how good your goalie is when Darryl Sutter is coaching like it’s 1999. This team is one of the best defensive teams in the league, and is ridiculously low event, meaning mediocre goaltending is way easier to paper over for them than for almost any other team. The problem is, no one on this team besides Jeff Carter can score. So they’ve used basically all their resources fixing up a part of their team that didn’t need fixing. And that ‘fix’ might be worse than their previous solution.

So yeah, I don’t get this trade for the Kings, at all. As for the Lightning.... Yzerman is a Jedi. They convinced a team with no defensive issues issues to acquire a rental goalie, and have now actually freed up some short term cap room if they want to add another player to make a last effort dash for the playoffs. The actual return isn’t that crazy, but the fact that they were able to get a functional goalie, a few picks, and a defense prospect for a UFA netminder who wasn’t playing well speaks to Yzerman’s negotiation skill. Great for them, confusing for the Kings, and we wait for the next domino to fall.

Almost immediately, the next domino has fallen. Arizona has continued their fire sale, and traded Martin Hanzal to the Wild.

Hanzal is the type of guy every coach loves. He’s big (6’6”), he’s a centre, he wins faceoffs (above 55% in each of the last 3 years), and he scores (career 0.5 PPG, and he’s been at 0.6 PPG in each of his 3 previous seasons). At 29, he’s close to getting long in the tooth, but his production has been consistent throughout his career, and he’ll add some centre depth in Minnesota, as they gear up for what they hope is a long playoff run. Hanzal is basically the platonic ideal of a middle-6 centre. Perfectly fine acquisition. Let’s see what they gave up for - OH MY GOD

Jesus, Minnesota, what the fuck! He’s a decent hockey player, not Matt Duchene! You already have 6 forwards better than this dude. This trade has the rare problem of Minnesota giving up picks of too high quality, and too many of them. It’d be an overpayment to give a first rounder for Hanzal, in my opinion.

There’s an argument to be made that since draft pick value declines so precipitously outside the top 5, these picks have less value than the sticker price indicates. That being said, these high draft picks are still quite valuable, and the Wild gave up a lot of them. Generating roster players from picks is how contenders stay contenders. They churn out replaceable parts, and keep the stars that are the engines behind the whole thing. That will be harder for Minnesota going forward.

But I guess that’s the problem that arises with teams in Minnesota’s position as it is. You’re a good team, but you don’t know how long you’ll be good. Their best players are on the older side, their goaltender is a reclamation project who has performed at a Vezina level, and their coach has experienced too much playoff heartbreak to be comfortable with what he has. So ride or die I guess. Flags fly forever. I just doubt Martin Hanzal is the difference-making piece to earn one.