All eyes are on Los Angeles Kings' general manager Rob Blake.
With the Bo Horvat trade seemingly kicking off the trading season, it was inevitable that the Kings would be involved in their fair share of rumors.
Most recently, it was SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman who brought the Kings up in trade talks. Pointing out that Blake prefers to get his deals done well before the trade deadline, with the exception of the Jeff Carter trade.
Just one month before the deadline now, Kings fans are starting to wonder if Blake will pull the trigger on a move in the next few weeks.
I'm a little more skeptical. Yes, Blake does have a history of making moves well before the deadline. But that was a different Kings team, with a different goal in mind for those trades.
With the exception of the Marion Gaborik for Dion Phaneuf trade, the others were made in an effort to tear the team down so they could rebuild. Now, the team is looking to add pieces so they can compete.
That isn't to say Blake's philosophy has changed and he won't look to trade well before the deadline, but the kind of deal Blake is looking for now is harder to pull off.
Friedman also mentioned the Kings are in the market for a left-shot defender and possibly a goalie.
We've known for a while now the Kings were looking for upgrades in these areas, but confirmation of it is never a bad thing.
It's Friedman's last line regarding the Kings that feels most important to me. "Blake’s biggest decision might be what he’s willing to give up to get what he desires."
Blake has been very stingy in the trade market since taking over as GM, and since the team has transitioned from rebuilder to playoff contender, he's looked mainly for bargain deals.
Viktor Arvidsson at a cut price because of the upcoming expansion draft and Kevin Fiala because of cap restraints in Minnesota come to mind.
So, history tells us Blake isn't going to make a blockbuster trade unless there's a situation he can take advantage of.
But let's look at some of the names the Kings have been rumored to have an interest in.
Thatcher Demko seems to be the name on most Kings fan's lips right now. After the Horvat trade, it makes sense, Vancouver is in everyone's mind and the Demko to LA rumors have floated around before.
I don't see this one happening though.
Firstly, Demko's been bad this season. Posting a .883 save percentage and -10.8 goals saved above expected are concerning numbers. Yes, he's playing on a bad Vancouver Canucks team, but that doesn't excuse all of his struggles.
The Kings would be paying based on the player he's been the last two seasons, not the player he is right now, which is always a big risk.
What they would have to pay is also a big barrier.
The Canucks pulled in an impressive haul for Horvat, and while they won't be expecting a similar return for Demko, they won't trade him at a discount either. At the beginning of the year The Athletics Thomas Drance reported that Demko would likely fetch a first-round pick and a top-organizational prospect.
Even if that price has gone down slightly, will the Kings move a first-round pick and a solid prospect for a $5 million question mark?
I don't see it, and that $5 million cap hit comes into play as well. The Kings aren't swimming in cap space right now, so they would need to either overpay and send Cal Petersen to Vancouver or move a roster player like Alex Iafallo to make the deal work.
Given Blakes's track record and the many question marks surrounding Demko, I just can't imagine this deal happening.
Jakob Chychrun has been heralded as the solution for the King's left-shot defensemen issue for a long time now.
The issue remains the same for Chychrun though, cost. If the Coyotes don't move on their valuation of Chychrun, the Kings will continue to wait.
And, after seeing the return for Horvat, I don't imagine the Coyotes will budge on their asking price. A true top-four defenseman under a cost-controlled contract is going to be an expensive acquisition.
Two first-round picks or the equivalent of and a second-round pick is a massive price, even for a player of Chychrun's quality. It's been well reported that the Kings and Coyotes have had conversations about Chychrun in the past that have gone nowhere.
There's no indication that either team has changed what they're willing to give, so a deal seems unlikely.
With the two most talked about candidates seemingly off the table, what are the Kings' other options?
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion's presence at Kings games has been talked about at length now and nothing changes there.
Cam Talbot and Nick Holden seem like the only options for the Kings from Ottawa, and neither are perfect fits. There are serious questions about whether either player moves the needle for Los Angeles.
Jake McCabe in Chicago seems like a good fit, but again, cost becomes the question. How much will the Blackhawks want for the 29-year-old with a $4 million cap-it through the 2024-25 season?
Stylistically he's a great fit for what the Kings need. But rumors suggest a McCabe trade starts with a first-round pick, with Chicago likely asking for a B-level prospect on top of that.
If the Kings were closer to cup contention, this trade would make a lot of sense. But giving up a first-round pick for McCabe, in a year you aren't a true contender is a big risk.
In net, there aren't a lot of goalies available who would move the needle for LA. An interesting name is Semyon Varlamov in New York. The Islanders just made a big trade and might be done in that market, but it would be worth a call.
Varlamov is a pending UFA who's posting a respectable .918 save percentage and 6.8 goals saved above expected. He would be a stopgap for this season and potentially next but isn't the long-term solution at nearly 35 years old.
The Islanders would want a roster player like Iafallo or Viktor Arvidsson, so it would really come down to how desperately the Kings want a goalie at the deadline.
The Possibility Nothing Happens:
It's not a reality Kings fans want to think about, but it's very possible the Kings don't make any major moves at the deadline.
I don't get the sense the Kings feel this is the year for them to go all-in, so I wouldn't expect a win-now type of overpayment from Blake.
It's clear the team is aware of their flaws, but how desperate they are to fix them right now isn't. I could see them waiting until the summer to address both problems. They might even target a stopgap in net while signing potential college free agent Erik Portillo for the future. With a big move like one for Chychrun coming at, or around the draft.
It's going to be an interesting month coming up for the Kings. And one that will tell us exactly where Blake and management views this team.