Objective number one for Rob Blake this summer was to clear cap space and re-sign the teams’ big free agents.
Blake managed to achieve part one of that objective early in the offseason but paid a decent price for it.
Blake managed to offload Cal Petersen and Sean Walker’s contracts in a three-team trade that sent those two players plus Helge Grans and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers. In return, the Kings retained 30% of Ivan Provorov’s contract to facilitate Provorov’s trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Kings also received forward Hayden Hodgson and defenseman Kevin Connauton in the trade.
Looking to grade this trade can be complicated. So, in an attempt to simplify it a bit, I’ll only be looking at this trade in isolation.
Several people have pointed out that this trade only happened because of Blake’s mistake in extending Petersen to a big contract. And that’s true, but we aren’t grading that contract right now.
Kings Clear Cap:
This trade is obviously a cap dump. They moved out $7.65 million in cap and brought back $2.025 million by retaining 30% of Provorov’s contract. A net gain of $5.625 million.
I’m assuming most of that $5.65 million goes to Vladislav Gavrikov, leaving the Kings with around $7 million to re-sign the rest of their free agents. Assuming no other move is made.
With $7 million the Kings should have enough to re-sign both Gabe Vilardi and Joonas Korpisalo. Great, right?
Yes, but it gets more complicated than that when looking at the other option with Petersen. The Kings could have buried Petersen in the AHL again, saving them $1.125 million next season. Then buy out Petersen’s contract next year, saving the team nearly $5 million in cap. Costing them $1.66 million from 2025-2027.
Given the Kings took on $2.025 million from Provorov’s contract, they didn’t save too much from moving Petersen in the long run. They save around $1.85 million this season via this trade compared to burying Petersen next season.
Pay roughly, $2 million more next season than they would have if they kept Petersen and bought him out. And save $1.66 million from 2025-2027.
The pros of doing it this way, they save more money this summer for re-signings and get out of their “bad” contract two years earlier than if they buried Petersen and bought him out next year. Given the big chunk of cap they’ll get next summer with Anze Kopitar and Viktor Arvidsson’s contracts expiring, I can see why the immediate saving interested the Kings.
The other pro to this deal would interest the owners less than the fans. But because the Kings traded Petersen before July 1, they avoid paying his $4 million signing bonus for the year.
The cons, you give up a handful of assets to save just under $2 million this season and would have found similar savings from burying Petersen and buying him out next year.
Of course, the Kings saved more in this deal because they also moved Walker, but I imagine the team could have easily moved Walker in a separate deal without giving up assets. Even a future considerations type trade could have worked for the Kings with Walker.
There’s another layer to this outside of just shedding Petersen’s contract though. It also means the Kings no longer have to worry about fitting Petersen into their system.
They don’t have to either A) force him onto the NHL roster and head into the season with a massive wild card or B) play him in Ontario, taking away time from prospects like Erik Portillo.
The Kings can wash their hands of the Petersen situation and move forward now. And shed another contract in the process.
The Other Pieces:
Shedding Walker and Petersen’s contracts was the big piece of this trade for the Kings, but they did give up extra assets to do it.
Grans and a 2024 second-round pick were casualties here. The Kings have now traded a lot of their draft capital over the next two years. They’re without a first-round pick for the second year in a row and don’t have a second or third-round pick in next season’s draft.
They still have an abundance of prospects in the system, but failing to replenish that pool will come back to bite them if they make a habit of sending out draft capital.
But, looking at it in isolation, sending out a second-round pick that should be near the back of that round — somewhere around the mid-50s — isn’t a huge price to pay.
And while Grans is a solid prospect, the Kings’ right side is already overloaded with Sean Durzi, Jordan Spence and Brandt Clarke. Realistically, there wasn’t room for Grans in the near future making him expendable.
Obviously, you never want to lose good prospects, but losing Grans isn’t the end of the world. The Kings’ right side will be fine without him.
The two players heading back to Los Angeles, Hodgson and Connauton should be good pieces for the Ontario Reign next season. Both are experienced pros who should help the team’s prospects develop.
Connauton, in particular, should be a good player for this role. With over 350 NHL games under his belt and over 700 professional games, he’ll be able to help mentor young players.
Trade Grade: B-
Even with the recent news of Gavrikov’s re-signing, I’m giving this trade a B-. I’m grading it in isolation, remember?
Yes, the Kings gave up a decent amount to shed two contracts. But the pick and prospect they gave up were expendable and shouldn’t have a big impact on the Kings long-term.
At the end of the day, the Kings did save some cap space that they desperately needed and did so without giving up a premium asset in the process.