Kings Review: Grading Rob Blake’s Moves
He’s made some big trades, penned a few long extensions and continued to shape this Kings roster.
It's been a busy 12 months for Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake. He's made some big trades, penned a few long extensions and continued to shape this Kings roster.
Now, almost three weeks removed from the Kings' first-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, it seems like a good time to evaluate the moves Blake made.
Trading for Kevin Fiala:
Blake's first significant move last season came very early. Trading for Minnesota Wild Star Kevin Fiala, in exchange for prospect Brock Faber and a 2022 first-round pick.
The same day he made the trade, he signed Fiala to a seven-year, $55.125 million contract extension which carries a $7.875 million cap hit per year. It was a perfect example of trading from a point of strength to address a weakness. The Kings had, and still have, too many right-shot defensemen and a bloated prospect pool. And added an offensive superstar, something they sorely missed.
It was a massive trade with some risk as Fiala was coming off his first truly elite season and some people questioned if he was truly a top-tier NHL player.
Fiala is far from a perfect player — he takes too many penalties, doesn't play much defense and his risky plays with the puck can be costly — but he's the most dynamic player the Kings have had in a long time.
Injuries limited him to just 69 games, but his 72 points still placed him second behind Anze Kopitar for the team lead in points and made him the first point-per-game player for the Kings since Kopitar in 2017-18.
He also grabbed six points in three games for the Kings in the playoffs.
Fiala proved he's an offensive superstar this season and was able to take over games at times. He's one of the few players in the league that gets people off their seats every time he touches the puck. Despite missing 13 games, he still led the team in five-on-five total assists and primary assists. He also led the team in primary assists on the power play and was a big reason the Kings finished with one of the league's best power plays.
He spent most of the season on the third line after not gelling with Kopitar on the top line, but that didn't slow his production down at all.
Fiala's a true star in this league and was well worth the high price Blake paid to acquire him.
Sending Down Petersen and Calling up Copley:
This move was forced upon Blake in many ways. The Kings couldn't persist with Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen in net and you weren't sending down Quick.
Yes, this move is made necessary because of Blake's own mistake in signing Petersen to a big contract. But still, it was a bold move sending your $5 million per year goalie to the AHL.
And it paid off, Pheonix Copley came in and provided solid goaltending which got the Kings' season back on track. Making this move saved the team's season in many ways.
Blake loses some points for putting himself in a bad spot with Petersen in the first place and because it was the only decision he could make. But gets credit for actually pulling the trigger.
Trevor Moore Extension:
On Dec. 15, Blake signed forward Trevor Moore to a five-year, $21 million contract extension. This contract came after Moore established himself as a top-six forward in 2021-22 and led the team in points in the second half of that season.
Just a few weeks after signing the extension, Moore went out with a concussion, an injury he had likely been carrying before going on IR, which derailed his season.
This injury makes it difficult to grade this extension right now. It was a tough season for Moore, he scored at just a 40-point pace and didn't look healthy for most of the season.
When you pop the hood and look at the underlying stats, he was fantastic defensively but really struggled offensively this season.
Moore didn't look like a $4.2 million per year player last season, but it's difficult to know how much of that was down to injury.
Next season will be a much better gauge for this contract but given his initial struggles it's hard to grade Blake too highly on this one.
Mikey Anderson Extension:
A lot of people were shocked that Mikey Anderson signed for just one-year last summer and everyone assumed there was a verbal agreement in place for a long-term extension this summer.
On Feb. 15, that extension was finalized, with Anderson signing an eight-year, $33 million deal carrying a $4.125 dollar AAV.
This is a great deal. Locking up your top-pairing defenseman, who's still just 23 years old, for eight years at just over $4 million per year is excellent business.
Anderson's limited offense does bring that contract down a bit, but what he lacks offensively he more than makes up for in his own zone.
He's established himself as one of the league's best shutdown defensemen and can be trusted against the opposition's best players.
He's a perfect left-defenseman in Todd McLellan's system and added some more physicality to his game this season.
The Kings' number-one spot on the left side is set for the next eight seasons and Anderson's going to be an ideal partner for Brandt Clarke when he eventually takes the number-one spot on the right from Drew Doughty.
The Trade With Columbus:
By far Blake's biggest move in season was his trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Blake traded Quick, a 2023 first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round pick in 2024 to Columbus for defensemen Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
In one trade Blake addressed the team's two biggest needs, a big left-shot defenseman and a goalie.
Looking at the short-term, this deal was a home run. Gavrikov formed a fantastic partnership with Matt Roy and solidified the Kings' top four. And despite some struggles in the second half of the playoffs, Korpisalo was solid for the Kings and provided stability in net.
Blake unquestionably made the team better.
But the team was still eliminated in round one. That isn't Blakes's fault and doesn't make this a bad trade, but when you give up a first-round pick to win now and don't win, it isn't a great look.
And the big question mark with this move is the future of Korpisalo and Gavrikov. Both are unrestricted free agents this summer and with cap constraints, it's unclear whether the Kings will be able to bring both of them back.
If Blake can re-sign both of them to good contracts, this trade looks amazing, if he can re-sign neither it looks awful and if he can only re-sign one it's somewhere in between depending on who he signs.
Gavrikov should be priority number one, but his play down the stretch might price him out of a deal in Los Angeles. Korpisalo on a bridge deal to secure the Kings' goalie situation until Erik Portillo is ready to take over would also be nice.
Whether these two re-sign or not plays a big role in grading the trade overall. But looking at it in isolation, Blake made the team better and addressed their two biggest needs.
Zack MacEwen Trade:
The last move from Blake is a minor one, trading Brendan Lemieux and a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Zack MacEwen.
This trade turned out to be somewhat of a dud, but it wasn't the worst trade. It didn't hurt the Kings really but didn't help them either.
MacEwen was meant to be a one-for-one replacement for Lemieux as the team's extra forward who adds a more physical element and someone who can fight.
But with MacEwen still recovering from a broken jaw when acquired, he couldn't fully play his role. He couldn't fight and that made it difficult for him to be a pest.
I think there were other reasons the Kings wanted to trade Lemieux for MacEwen, Lemieux didn't seem happy with being an extra forward most nights and wanted to go somewhere he could play more consistently.
And to be clear, that isn't to say Lemieux asked to be traded, but McLellan pointed out Lemieux's desire to play more regularly in his press availability after the trade.
Swapping Lemieux for a similar player wouldn't have been a bad move from Blake, but getting someone who couldn't actually perform the role because of an injury was a blunder.