With Carl Grundstrom back in a full-contact jersey Monday morning and set to return soon, the Los Angeles Kings' forward room is officially overcrowded.
Todd McLellan has talked a lot about difficult decisions regarding who plays and who sits recently, and those decisions will become even more difficult once Grundstrom is activated off the injured reserve list.
The decision goes beyond who sits and who plays now, with 23 players on the roster not including Grundstrom, someone has to move.
And a trade might be the best option to make room.
Blake could send down Tobias Bjornfot and make the numbers work, but then the Kings would have just six defensemen for their five-game road trip. Not an ideal spot to be in.
The problem runs beyond just, who sits and who plays. Yes, depth and competition are a good thing, but there comes a point when sitting out NHL-caliber players is a problem.
Last Saturday the Kings had Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Arthur Kaliyev in the press box as healthy scratches. For a few games that's not a big deal, but as the games start to pile up, it's a problem.
Not only are they two effective players, but they're also young players who need game time to develop. McLellan has called Anderson-Dolan the Kings' most improved player this season. Development that could be wasted if he spends most of the last 25 games scratched.
And Kaliyev is a player with massive upside who needs game time to develop. Yes, there was a good reason to scratch him Saturday, he was terrible in the defensive zone on Friday against Anaheim. But having a player with his upside spend a significant amount of time scratched would be a huge mismanagement of his development.
One thing that makes this decision more difficult is the play of Rasmus Kupari recently. McLellan has mentioned Kupari growing into his role as a fourth-line center and penalty killer, a role Kupari is thriving in right now. This is his best stretch of performances in the NHL and it would be difficult to send him down now.
Assuming the Kings don't want to risk sending someone like Anderson-Dolan or Grundstrom through waivers and sending Kaliyev, who still is waiver exempt, isn't an option. A trade seems like the most sensible route to make room.
And it doesn't have to be a monster trade, even a small one that provides some value for a player who can't make it into your lineup would be a good move.
There's also the issue of ice time for some players. Again, depth is good but only to a point.
Eventually, players like Kaliyev and Gabe Vilardi, even Kupari, have to move up the lineup. They weren't drafted as bottom-six forwards and can't stay down there much longer. Yes, Kaliyev and Vilardi make up some lost ice time on the power play and Kupari on the penalty kill, but they need more five-on-five ice time to develop.
The Kings' current position puts them in a tough spot, trying to develop these players while also competing means making compromises somewhere. And right now, it feels like player development is taking a back seat.
We've seen how impactful moving up the lineup is for a young player with Quinton Byfield recently and there's reason to believe an extended look in the top six would have a similar impact for some of the other names mentioned. But, there's no room.
A trade feels necessary now, with another likely needed in the summer.
And if the team is ready to take the next step, that might include moving a good forward prospect. There's little doubt Vilardi and Kaliyev will be excellent top-six forwards in the future, but if there's no room for them in the lineup, moving them might be the best option. Something has to give and soon.
In the short-term, moving one of Anderson-Dolan, Lemieux or Grundstrom to make room seems sensible. With the long-term roster planning saved for the summer.
That summer move won't be an easy one either. As mentioned, some of the young players need to move up the lineup and for that to happen, an Alex Iafallo or Viktor Arvidsson has to make room.
Blake has 11 days to figure out his short-term move and that could include moving some players he'd prefer not to.