The situation: A 9-1-0 run through early December had the Kings in position to take the lead in the NHL’s hotly contested Pacific Division but their Achilles’ heel, consistent offense has taken hold for the six weeks prior to the Olympic break. As a result, they’ve dropped to third in the Pacific behind the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks in the division. Pending a big rally in the season’s final quarter, they will start the playoffs on the road. While Los Angeles yields the lowest goals per game in the league, their 29th ranked offense and power play removes them from contender status unless there are significant changes down the stretch.
The need: It seems as if the Kings are always looking for a scoring left wing, they’ve had players who couldn’t produce in their system but found the net after departing Hollywood like Buffalo’s Matt Moulson and Anaheim’s Dustin Penner. Dwight King’s strong start has faded away and Dustin Brown’s underperforming half-season makes the left wing need more acute. Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter has turned once again to rookie Tyler Toffoli on the left side after deeming the early season experiment a failure and returning him to their AHL affiliate in Manchester. In addition to the scoring need, Dean Lombardi is seeking a defensive defenseman to bolster the blue line. Jake Muzzin is at best a 3-4 NHL defenseman and while he has good offensive skills, his propensity for turnovers has taken off the top pair alongside Drew Doughty. In the Kings last game prior to the break (an overtime victory of Columbus), 36 year old Willie Mitchell was promoted to the top pair and logged 24 minutes of ice time. It’s doubtful Mitchell can carry that workload through the spring.
The play: You can start lining up the usual suspects for the positional need of left wing, Moulson, and Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri are names that have circulated around this team seemingly forever. Just prior to the deadline, Lombardi was reportedly close to a deal for Edmonton’s Sam Gagner. The potential move shows the level of desperation Lombardi has reached to kick start the offense as Gagner is a right handed center and while he may prop up the power play, he creates a further log jam on the depth chart. A more intriguing play would be with a team that has found success with former Kings Moulson and Thomas Hickey, the New York Islanders. With Andrew MacDonald scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at season end and likely looking for a deal upwards of $ 5 million per season, he can fill the Kings’ defensive need while either Vanek or Michael Grabner would improve the skill and speed on the left side. Another option for the blue line is Buffalo’s Henrik Tallinder as the Kings and Sabres were successful trading partners last deadline when Robyn Regher arrived in Los Angeles.