The Los Angeles Kings quietly walked away from the trade deadline as winners.
Although all fronts were quiet for the Kings at the March 2nd trade deadline itself, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions made their move before almost a week prior on February 25th when they traded prospect Roland McKeown and a 2015 or 2016 conditional 1st round pick in exchange for former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, Andrej Sekera.
If the division weren’t so tough and the Kings weren’t still on the outside looking in at the play-off picture, LA general manager, Dean Lombardi, would be giving himself a pat on the back right about now. Despite having to wait out a transition period where the 28-year old Slovakia native has a chance to adjust to Western Conference opponents and the Kings’ style of play, the trade is the perfect fit for Los Angeles.
After placing Russian defenseman Slava Voynov on indefinite suspension after he was arrested on domestic violence charge, the Kings struggled to protect the blue-line. The addition of Sekera to the roster directly addresses this problem and aids LA’s push to the play-offs tremendously.
Most importantly, the LA Kings now have a reliable defenseman in Sekera. Voynov’s suspension left LA scrambling for in the immediate weeks following the incident. The Kings faced salary cap issues, they had no wiggle room for injuries, and even played a few games minus one defenseman. Eventually, Darryl Sutter’s group adjusted, but with the addition of Sekera to the roster the Kings have found a permanent solution to the void that Voynov left in the organization.
Sekera’s stats with Carolina were impressive. He is not a big goal scorer, but his defensive efforts on the ice was crucial aided in the Hurricanes efforts to put the puck in the net. The Washington Post reports that at even strength, 52.7% of Carolina’s shots were in their favor when Sekera was on the ice.
So far, the 201-pound defenseman has played a total of 3 games with the Kings. He’s is still adjusting to new rivals and the Kings gritty, aggressive style of play, but he has also made some promising plays.
On the other hand, Sekera has a great opportunity to make an impact playing on the Los Angeles Kings. The most recent Kings acquisition has spent most of his active years in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres. Los Angeles is far more competitive than both the Hurricanes and the Sabres, allowing Sekera to have a chance to step up his game under more intense pressure, especially with how the current play-off picture looks in the Western Conference. Depending on his play, the Kings have chance to sign the Slovak to a contract extension.
Lombardi’s decision to give up a prospect and a conditional 1st round pick either this year should have pretty much been a no-brainer for the Kings.With key players such as Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and goaltender Jonathan Quick signed to long-term extensions, the Kings are less worried adding to their roster from the outside.
LA doesn’t need to worry about getting old either. Young guns on the Kings, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, just to name a few, might not have signed long-term deals just yet, but at the rate they’re producing, the Kings will definitely want to keep them around and pursue contract extensions when the time comes.
The Kings moves leading up the trade deadline are ideal for the group of guys that Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi have built their team around. They are gritty and physical and have a terrific mixture of youth and experience.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Sutter spoke beyond the hyped up trade deadline expressed what he wanted to see from his team in the final stretch of the regular season.
“The feeling is that you need your best players to be top players,” Sutter said. “We’ve had a lot of guys that have had tough stretches and tough years. They’re good guys, and all that. But they need to be better than good players.”
The Kings have fallen in and out of the play-off picture this season, but as spring rolls around, LA is obviously hoping to secure a more stable place in the standings. We’ve seen what the defending Cup champs can do without Voynov, including their eight game win streak in the middle of January. The LA Kings minimal tinkering with their roster leaves them walking away from the 2015 trade deadline winners.
As fitting of an addition Sekera is to the Kings’ bench, Darryl Sutter is right; they didn’t trade for a single solution to their struggles. Sekera is just one part of a bigger picture for the Kings who are going to need that extra fight from each of their players all the way to the finish line.