The Los Angeles Kings Need Offense—Do The Toronto Maple Leafs Have The Answer?
After reading all the pre-season fodder and a fast start to the 2010-11 season, the Los Angeles Kings look to be struggling to find their way. Like most struggling teams, many fans have started to suggest that the Kings need to make a trade, and we are not talking about adding a depth player.
Regarded as having one of the better stockpiles of young talent, the Kings’ could easily put together a deal involving a number of their prospects, a few of which, all 29 other clubs would love to have.
Brayden Schenn is a highly coveted prospect, but with his strong showing at the world juniors and pedigree it is hard to imagine the Kings letting Schenn go.
The issue for the Kings is this—if they are going to make a strong playoff push and/or run, they will need to add some offense and that is going to cost them.
The alternative is to turn their backs on this season and look towards 2011-12 where, with just under $20 million in cap space available to them this summer, they could make a move for Alexander Semin or Brad Richards, who could be potential unrestricted free agents this summer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, pending UFA’s Justin Williams and Michal Handzus will likely be in need of new contracts, as will restricted free agents Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds.
Alex Ponikarovsky, Marco Strum, Trevor Lewis, Peter Harrold and Alec Martinez will likely be let go, or in the case of Harrold, Martinez and Lewis, be signed to similar small dollar contracts, which will not really impact the Kings’ ability to sign a high profile free agent or two.
If the Kings decide they already have the horses on-board free agency and the promotion of a few of their youngsters may very well be the way this team approaches the 2011-12 season; if not, well, they might just consider making a blockbuster trade.
With that in mind, could the Toronto Maple Leafs come up with the right package to entice the Kings to part with one or more of their blue chip prospects?
Over the past twenty games it has become painfully obvious that the Kings are not deep enough up front to compete with the the top teams in the Western Conference, never mind the tough Eastern Conference foes.
Adding a forward would be nice, but it appears as if it may take more than one addition to right this sinking ship.
So which players could Toronto offer the Kings? Easy. For starters, how about Phil Kessel?
At first glance the Leafs Nation is bound to call me crazy (which I am), but when you dig a little deeper, the addition of Kessel could (yes, I said “could”) make sense.
Kessel is just 23 years old, a proven 30 goal scorer and his speed may be more suitable to the Western Conference style of play.
Further, at $5.4 million, Kessel, while not cheap, is signed to a relatively good deal.
A top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Kessel would be a force to be reckoned with. A good mix of toughness, skill and scoring prowess—possibly one of the Leagues best.
Now, to sweeten the pot, the Maple Leafs could offer up Kris Versteeg, who could bring additional Stanley Cup experience, speed and a tremendous locker room presence. Versteeg’s modest $3,083,333 contract would be easy for the Kings to absorb and his presence would solidify the Kings second line and power play units.
And what about more veteran presence on the blueline? It is my feeling that, despite a strong defensive core, the Kings could benefit from another veteran puck mover—Tomas Kaberle.
It is well documented that, due to his no-trade clause, that Kaberle is in control of his future. That said, what better place to go than Los Angeles? What better club to sign with in the off-season?
And for the Kings, Kaberle could offer them a solid blueliner who could help them make a run for the playoffs and, once in, could bolster their chances of raising the Stanley Cup.
If Kaberle performs well the Kings could opt to re-sign him, if not, they could let him walk and use the cap savings to sign a unrestricted free agent.
A tri-fecta of Phil Kessel, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kaberle would likely command a big return. Fortunately, the Kings have all the pieces in place to pull off such a deal.
The disappointed look on the face of Brian Burke when the Los Angeles Kings drafted Brayden Schenn with the fifth pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is well documented.
Clearly, Burke had visions of brother Luke Schenn and Brayden leading the Blue and White to the promised land, and you have to think Burke has never really let that feeling go.
Without question, Schenn is perhaps the most highly coveted prospect on the planet right now—especially when you take into account his solid performance at the 2011 World Junior Championships.
That said, when you are getting a 30-goal scorer in Phil Kessel, a Stanley Cup winning 20-goal scorer in Kris Versteeg and a veteran puck moving D-man in Tomas Kaberle in return, Brayden Schenn’s name is bound to come up.
Schenn for the Kessel, Kaberle and Versteeg would not be enough for Burke to pull the trigger, so the Kings would have to add a couple of pieces to the puzzle.
Wayne Simmonds will be a restricted free agent this summer, and while it would be tough to let him go, one has to think that he could become expendable in the right scenario.
Simmonds is a nice third liner, who may very well blossom into a second line player. But right now he does not have the offensive upside of either Kessel or Versteeg.
The third and final piece of the puzzle would be adding a defensive prospect to the deal. Tomas Hickey and Colten Teubert are the two most coveted defensive prospects the Kings have. If they could add one of these two prospects to the deal and throw in a first round pick, it says here Burke would pull the trigger.
In return for Hickey or Teubert, Burke could throw in one of Carl Gunnarsson or Jesse Blacker.
Here’s how the final deal would look—
To the Los Angeles Kings:
Gunarsson or Blacker
To the Maple Leafs:
the Kings 2011 1st round draft round choice
Los Angeles gets the scoring they need in Kessel and Versteeg. Both players are young enough for the Kings to justify selling off their young prospects.
Both Versteeg and Kessel are reasonably priced players, who are signed to reasonably termed deals—creating flexibility.
Los Angeles has the cap room to take on both Kessel and Versteeg, while Kaberle supplies them with a veteran puck mover who they can let go at the end of the season or try to sign if he excels down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Toronto gets Schenn (who many believe Burke still covets). Toronto also adds another top prospect D-man in Hickey or Teubert and a decent second/third liner in Simmonds.
The draft choice helps ease the pain of losing those two draft picks to Boston in the Kessel deal and Burke would have upwards of $8 million to go fishing in the free agent market, with the goal of signing Brad Richards or Alexander Semin.
I am just throwing this out there. I am not all that serious. That said, this deal would sure help both clubs…in fact, LA may be getting a heck of a deal, depending on how they make out in the next 2-3 seasons.
Do the Kings want to wait for Schenn and Hickey to develop? Or, do they feel they are close to winning the Cup, with the addition of a couple of forwards and a veteran D-man being the key to their success?
Do the Maple Leafs believe Phil Kessel can take them to the promised land? Has Burke seen enough of Versteeg to determine that he may not be a good fit for the Blue and White? And, would Kaberle finally waive goodbye to a fanbase and team that is yearning for him to move on?
The trade makes sense on some level, but one could easily argue that I am completely off my rocker. Stranger things have happened, the question is, would you make the deal?
So, I put it to you faithful readers….Deal, or no deal?
***Disclaimer: This article was intended to spark debate—do not take it too seriously!
If you need me, I’ll be in my padded room!
Until next time,