Kings Trade Chips: The Defensemen
So, it’s more about who, and how many at this point.
Monday I discussed the Los Angeles Kings' forwards who are potential trade chips. And now it's time to look at the defensemen.
With a glut of right-shot defensemen in the system, it's almost guaranteed a few players are moved on the back end this summer. So, it's more about who, and how many at this point.
Sean Walker is the obvious candidate to be moved. To the point that even Walker is aware of the possibility.
"I guess maybe not too solid," said Walker when asked about how solid he feels his place on the blue line is. "Obviously, you know the guys that are coming up. You know where the cap's at. We'll see what happens, I know I can contribute and play here. And that's where I want to be, but at the end of the day, the organizations got to do what they think is best."
And with a right side of; Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, Sean Durzi, Jordan Spence and Brandt Clarke. It's easy to see why Walker has some concerns about his future.
Carrying a $2.65 million cap hit through next season, it's hard to see a world where the Kings hold onto Walker.
He's a solid, third-pair defenseman with exceptional skating. But someone the Kings will be confident in replacing.
He did himself and the team a few favors down the stretch with his play. A year ago, he had zero trade value and was very difficult to move. Now, the Kings can move him for an asset instead of moving an asset with him just to shed cap.
The return won't be high, a mid-round pick at best. But the cap savings alone are worth it.
I'm always surprised how often Roy's name comes up in these conversations. But it does, so I'll address the prospect of trading Roy.
I don't see any world where it happens.
He finished last season with a career-high in goals and points; an Unsung Hero award — voted by Kings players — and a team-leading 1.9 wins above replacement. His nine goals tied him with Durzi and Doughty for the team lead and he's one of the few defensemen on this team with some size.
The Kings have some excellent young defensemen in the system. But I wouldn't be confident in any of them replacing Roy's impact next season. Replacing eight goals and 24 points at even strength and a top shutdown player isn't easy. And none of the young defensemen are ready for that.
Unless the season goes horribly wrong for Los Angeles next season and there's a small fire sale at the deadline. I don't envision Roy going anywhere.
On the other side of the coin, I can absolutely see a world where Durzi is traded. I'm not sure I'd call it likely at this point, but it certainly isn't unlikely.
Last season was an odd one for Durzi. He played his off-side for most of the season and actually grew into a decent left-side defenseman as the season went on but struggled when moved back to his natural right side.
He's a player with clear strengths and weaknesses. He can quarterback the second power-play unit to great effect and plays with an edge not many Kings players do, despite not being the biggest player. But there are serious defensive issues and he makes too many mistakes with the puck.
He's a good player and is going to have a strong NHL career, but I think he's replaceable within the Kings' system.
Assuming he's the third-pair right defenseman next season and quarterback of the second unit. I'd as confident in Spence playing that role and I think there's potential for Spence to be more effective. Especially at even strength.
It's possible the Kings don't re-sign Vladislav Gavrikov and reunite Durzi and Roy on the second pair, they posted decent results together, but I think we all know the Kings want a left-shot defenseman next to Roy.
And if the only remaining spot is the third-pair left defenseman, I'd rather see Tobi Bjornfot get a chance. A Durzi-Spence pairing doesn't sound safe and Durzi has enough trade value to fetch a decent haul.
Durzi could become a victim of the team's bloated right side and a piece that helps improve the team in other areas.
I'd put the chances Spence is traded at very low, but not impossible.
I can see a world where two right defensemen are traded this summer, Walker being one, with Spence and Durzi being the other.
There just isn't room for everyone. The Kings have five NHL-ready right defensemen — not including Brandt Clarke who I expect to start out in the AHL — and just three spots on the roster.
I don't think they want a righty playing the left side for most of the season again, meaning a few players have to make way.
Spence is waiver-exempt next season but keeping him in the AHL again would be a mistake. He won't gain much from playing in the AHL and you'd just be kicking the can down the road on him another season.
It's time to decide between Spence and Durzi this summer and I get the feeling Spence wins that battle.
Still, if Gavrikov doesn't re-sign and the Kings go shopping for a left-shot defenseman. I can see a world where Spence is a key piece in a trade to bring in Gavrikov's replacement.
Again, unlikely, but not impossible.