|I've ordered my Hemsky jersey...have you???|
A flurry of moves have been made over the past couple of weeks leading up to the deadline. The Western Conference is loading up on talent and it may be time for the Kings to respond...
Before you start asking: "Where's Brad Richards?" "Where's Marian Gaborik?!" "Where's David Booth?!?!" Please read my qualifications for making it onto this exclusive shopping list.
I used Sportsclubstats.com to distinguish which teams are selling. Any team with less than a 30% chance of making the playoffs was considered a seller (Oilers, Senators, Devils, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Avalanche, Panthers, Thrashers, Blues, Blue Jackets). Then I searched each seller's roster for upcoming UFA's all the way up to the 2013-14 season.
I'm assuming the Kings are content with their defense going forward so I focused on acquiring a forward to help the offense.
Here are 12 players I think the Kings may/should target in the coming days. (SPOILER: It's not pretty...)
1. ALES HEMSKY RW AGE: 27 $4.1M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)With the debuts of Hall, Eberle, and Pajaarvi; Oilers fans aren't as enamored with the 27-year old fan favorite as they once were. Hemsky is one of the most-skilled players in the league but unfortunately for him and his fans (myself included); he's been injury-prone over the last couple seasons. He missed all but 22 games last season after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury versus the Kings.
His quick stride and world-class vision make him one of the premier playmakers in the NHL. He can stickhandle the puck through crowds and get passes through the smallest of openings making him absolutely deadly on the man-advantage. He brings valuable playoff experience; Hemsky reached the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals along with current Kings Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, and Matt Greene. Hemsky recorded 17 points in 24 playoff games that season.
Do the Kings need a first-line LW? Yes but if you can add a first-line player at any position especially on either side of Kopitar; you make the move. Hemsky instantly becomes the second most-skilled player behind Kopi. He turned Shawn Horcoff into a $33-million man; surely he can help Kopi develop into that 40-goal scorer we all know he can be. Hemsky also played on a line with Smyth in Edmonton. A Smyth-Kopitar-Hemsky line looks good to me.
2. ANDY McDONALD C AGE: 33 $4.7M Cap Hit (UFA: 2013-14; NTC)This one is thinking out of the box. McDonald signed the four-year extension in February 2009 which came with a NTC. But St. Louis has made the playoffs only once in the last four seasons. The Blues shook things up last week by moving former #1 overall pick Erik Johnson to Colorado. They've established their core: David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, Alex Steen, Chris Stewart up front. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk on defense. Jaroslav Halak in goal. Moving a big ticket like McDonald may be the answer.
McDonald is listed at 5-11 which is quite generous but he makes up for his lack of size with quickness and hockey smarts. He's got good offensive instincts and opens up the ice for teammates. He can quarterback a power play or play the forward spot and isn't afraid to go to the high-traffic areas to score.
Primarily a center, McDonald can play the left wing. Not surprising, he had his most productive NHL seasons in Anaheim with Teemu Selanne on his right flank winning a Stanley Cup in 2007. He's missed a good majority of the 2011 season with a concussion but has returned in February with ten points in eight games and is among the Blues leaders in ice-time and PP time. Would help Kopitar on the LW and could slot in as the Kings #2 center if needed. He's got a high-price tag and a NTC for the next three seasons which probably makes him less attractive but if Andy Mac wants to return to Southern California the Blues may take less than market value to move his contract.
3. DUSTIN PENNER LW AGE: 28 $4.25M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)While Oilers fans get frustrated with Hemsky's inability to stay healthy; they're equally frustrated with Penner's inconsistent effort over the course of an 82-game season. With his blend of size and scoring touch; Penner has all the tools to be the prototypical power forward. Unfortunately, his lack of drive leaves management, coaches, and fans wanting more. He can dominate and a game and then disappear for weeks.
At 6-4, he moves decent for a guy his size but his lack of foot speed keeps him from being an elite power forward. He possesses great hands around the net. When Penner decides to play the body; he can take over shifts but those instances are few and far between. With those marks against him, Penner is still a 25-30 goal scorer in the NHL. Unfortunately for L.A., they've already got plenty of those types of players. He's a big body and those are always valuable come playoff time; it's just unfortunate that he doesn't use it more often.
4. KRISTIAN HUSELIUS LW AGE: 32 $4.75M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)A prime example of why the Blue Jackets are where they are right now. When you're paying players like Mike Commodore $2.75M and Huselius $4.75M; your team is bound to struggle. With that said, Huselius is still a very good hockey player. He's put together seasons of 77, 66, 56, and 63 points over the past four seasons. He's got the talent to be a first-line player as evidence by his success playing alongside Jarome Iginla in Calgary and Rick Nash in Columbus.
Huselius possesses some of the best hands in hockey and makes him a value commodity on the man-advantage. He also has a good shot with a quick release but doesn't use it nearly enough. His streaky play and shaky defensive zone play has earned him multiple healthy scratches this season. Obviously, Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek are the players Kings fans want the most but I can't see Columbus moving either. At one more year of $4.75M; Huselius is probably available and may just be worth the risk.
5. CORY STILLMAN LW AGE: 37 $3.53M Cap Hit (UFA: 2011-12)Every Kings fan wants the #61 out of Columbus; I think we end up with #61 from Florida. Would David Booth or Stephen Weiss be great fits in L.A.? Absolutely but I can't see DL overpaying to get either player out of Florida. Stillman just seems like the type of acquisition DL would make at the deadline. A pure rental. At 37, Stillman has been around for a while. He reached the 1000 game milestone this season. A winner of two Stanley Cups; he could some valuable experience to the locker room.
Not the greatest of skaters; Stillman's hockey IQ allows him to continue to play and contribute as a top-6 forward. His vision, anticipation, and passing skills make him a mainstay on the PP. I can't see Panthers GM Dave Tallon asking for anything more than a late-round pick for Stillman which maybe just enough to persuade DL to take a flyer on the 16 year veteran.
UPDATE: OFF THE MARKET! Traded back to Carolina for Ryan Carter and 2011 5th Round Pick.
6. MILAN HEJDUK LW AGE: 35 $3M Cap Hit (UFA: 2011-12)
With Colorado struggling with injuries this season; it seemed like veterans Hejduk and Adam Foote could be moved at the deadline but it appears at least Hejduk won't be going anywhere. Per Pierre LeBrun.
So what now for the Avalanche after their blockbuster trade with St. Louis? A lot of people are wondering about veteran winger Milan Hejduk because he's an UFA July 1. But GM Greg Sherman told ESPN.com Saturday that Hejduk is not moving.7. RYAN JONES RW AGE: 27 $975K Cap Hit (UFA: 2011-12)
"We're not trading Milan," Sherman said.
With rumors swirling around that Wayne Simmonds is being dangled by DL to acquire anything resembling a top-6 forward; Jones may be the perfect replacement for Simmer if he's moved. If Simmer stays Jones could still be a valuable bottom-six forward. He was picked up by Edmonton on waivers last season from Nashville and has emerged as a decent utility player for the Oilers this season.
He's netted 13 goals this year despite only playing around 12 minutes a game as a fourth-liner. He plays the game hard and never take a shift off. His hardwork has made him one of Edmonton's most valuable penalty killers this season. He skates well and likes to shoot the puck more than most fourth-line players. Could be a great addition for a long postseason run.
8. BRAD BOYES C/RW AGE: 28 $4M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)
It's difficult to believe that a player could start his decline at 26 years old but Boyes is making me into a believer. After a 43-goal campaign 2007-08; St. Louis looked like they stole Boyes from Boston for defenseman Denis Wideman. Boyes followed that season up with a 33 goal campaign. He netted 14 goals last season and is on pace for 16 this season. A far cry from the player who flirted with 50 goals just three seasons ago.
Digging a little deeper, Boyes had the second-highest shooting percentage (20.8%) in the NHL during the 07-08 season. His career shooting percentage is 12.7% which suggests that Boyes is probably more of a 20-30 goal scorer than 30-40 sniper. At 28, Boyes career isn't over by any means but his days in St. Louis may be numbered.
9. STEPHEN WEISS C AGE: 27 $3.1M Cap Hit (UFA: 2013-14)
Weiss is a very good #2 centerman that's being miscast as a #1 in Florida. He's got three years left on his deal at a reasonable cap hit with a NMC. Weiss isn't much of a scorer but a very good playmaker and passer. With Florida's lack of depth up front; Weiss has emerged as a jack of all trades. He plays nearly 20 minutes a game while logging key minutes in all situations.
Weiss's name has been the topic of trade rumors for quite a while and it's beginning to wear on him a bit but is very happy to be a Panther. Per Miami Herald.
“I love it here and I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ll stay here until my career is over if they’ll let me,’’ Weiss said Thursday morning, his eyes affixed on the locker-room floor. “But it’s not up to me. If management feels like they want to make a move and want to move on, I’ll have to consider it.’’Florida seems to always be looking to rebuild. Unfortunately for Dave Tallon the Panthers don't have many assets to rebuild with. Tallon's is looking for an overpayment to move his #1 center.
10. TRAVIS ZAJAC C AGE: 25 $3.88M Cap Hit (UFA: 2013-14)
Kings fans are infatuated with the idea of Zach Parise coming to L.A. as an RFA next season. I just can't see the Devils moving Parise who's one of the top-5 players in the league. After the signing of Kovalchuk, Parise won't be taking any sort of discount to stay in NJ which means GM Lou Lamiriello will have to clear more cap space than just the Jason Arnott's $4.5M expiring contract.
Zajac is only 25 years old and one of the better second-line centers in the league. He's more known for his strong game in the defensive zone than any of his contributions offensively. He's developed chemistry playing alongside Ilya Kovalchuk since Parise went down earlier in the year. The Kings are high on Schenn and Loktionov as their centers of the future behind Kopitar. Therefore trading for centers like Zajac or Weiss may seem like a stretch but both are under contract for the next three seasons; both players will retain their trade value going forward.
11. BRIAN ROLSTON LW AGE: 38 $5.062M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)
Yes. Rolston is older than dirt. Yes. Rolston is overpaid. Yes. Rolston has even been put on waivers this season and gone unclaimed. There's no doubt he's towards the end of his career. Acquiring Rolston would only make sense on a re-entry waivers type deal at half the price but he can still help any NHL team. At 38, Rolston still possess one of the hardest shots in the NHL and makes him valuable on the man-advantage from the point.
He's not the all-around player he was three years ago but in spurts can still be a top-6 forward. He's still not a liability in his own end. His ice-time is actually the highest it's been in three years. After being put on waivers in December; Rolston has tallied 17 points in 21 games in the new year. The hardest part about acquiring Rolston would be absorbing half of his salary for next season as well.
12. SHELDON SOURAY D AGE: 34 $5.4M Cap Hit (UFA: 2012-13)
Despite my numerous pleas on this blog to get Souray back to the NHL; Dean Lombardi refused to acknowledge my blog and didn't put a claim in on him when the Oilers put him on re-entry waivers last week. Hard to believe he spends another season in the AHL after this one but it's entirely possible...