Why the Kings Trading for Marco Sturm May Be the BIG Move

Final score: 2-0.

The Los Angeles Kings have now won only 2 of their last 12 games.

They sit last in the Pacific Division.

They may only be 5 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but as the season progresses, the points will be even harder to earn than they have been already.

The 2-1 to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night seemed to be the low point for most fans this season- that was until last night’s 2-0 heart breaker against the Coyotes, in which many screamed ‘SHENANIGANS’ against the war-room in Toronto. Aside from that ‘goal’, some have been calling for the firing of Terry Murray; others the desire to continue tanking and score a better draft pick in June, but most have been clamoring for General Manager Dean Lombardi to get the team some help in the form of a goal-scoring winger or a 2nd-line center.

Amidst the roller-coaster ride that is the Kings ability to win games this season, one thing is consistent: Dean Lombardi does not panic, except for when calling the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy a jealous cheater.

Some may see this conservative philosophy as a fault, and the reason he has never made a blockbuster trade in his GM career. Sure, there was Owen Nolan with the San Jose Sharks, and Ryan Smyth two summers ago with the Kings. Those deals may have been substantial, but blockbuster they were not.

When Lombardi is active in the trade market, he rarely risks anything substantial. More recently he certainly hasn’t been willing to jeopardize the future of the Kings franchise – the prospects – that he and the organization have worked hard to draft and develop, and as of November 12, hockeysfuture.com has the Kings prospect pool ranked 2nd in the NHL, behind the Nashville Predators.

Conservative doesn’t necessarily mean stagnant. In keeping with this strategy, Lombardi was able to snag left-winger Marco Sturm from the Boston Bruins for essentially a bag of pucks and a jock strap. OK, it was ‘future considerations’, but even as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said, “Whenever you see ‘future considerations,’ it’s usually nothing. [laughs] In fact, it always is nothing.” Like I said.

So for those Kings fans out there are hoping that Lombardi will go out and trade for that big name goal scorer before this season’s trade deadline on Feb 28, I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to happen. Here’s why:

1) There really isn’t that much out there.

  • Rumors have permeated all season long about Jarome Iginla possibly being on the trading block for the struggling Calgary Flames. He MIGHT be dealt somewhere, but since he pretty much is the franchise, the asking price would be quite high: most likely one or two proven NHLers with a very low cap hit, a blue chip prospect, a prospect with some upside, and a high draft pick. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s basically what the Atlanta Thrashers got for Ilya Kovalchuk. If Lombardi could somehow get him for just a player(s) over 27 years-old and a pick or two, he may do it, but that seems unlikely. Also, his $7MM cap hit for the next two years is not necessarily too much for Iginla, but it is probably too much for the Kings to afford.
  • New Jersey may be looking to shed some more salary and may deal another veteran or two before March. This may include Jason Arnott or Patrick Elias, and either, while past his prime, would be a nice addition to the Kings line up. Some suspect New Jersey may not be able to afford star winger Zach Parise, who is an RFA next summer. He would no doubt look terrific in a Kings sweater, not only because of his obvious knack for goal scoring but perhaps also because his method is often reminiscent of one Luc Robitaille. The more likely scenario is that the Devils will opt to trade the vets and keep the young talent like Parise.
  • Outside of those scenarios, Lombardi would have to offer an enticing package to another GM to pry anyone substantial from their roster. This is something he is not likely to do, as history would suggest.

2) Scott Parse will be returning from injury in early March, which will essentially be like a trade-deadline acquisition.

Preseason plans were for Parse to line-up with Kopitar and Brown as the first line left-winger, and his injury has been the main reason for the left-wing shuffle the Kings have danced all season long. Expectations for Parse should be tempered. First, he is coming back from an injury that players typically take a while to recover from (hip surgery). Second, I honestly am not buying the notion that Parse is an legitimate first line winger in the NHL. I hope I am proven wrong.

3) The best is still yet to come.  Prospect notes from Jewels from the Crown:

Carrick the difference in Windsor Spitfires 6-3 win over Ottawa 67′s – Winnipeg Free Press
[...] Tyler Toffoli had two goals and an assist for the 67′s (28-12-2) and increased his league-leading point total over teammate Shane Prince to three points. Toffoli has 40 goals and 78 points while Prince is just three points back after recording one assist in Friday’s loss.

Toffoli was the Kings 2nd round pick last summer. His 78 points is through 42 games and includes two hatties and a 5 goal game. He plays for the Ottawa 67′s of the OHL.

Czarnik dominates in Plymouth Whalers 6-4 win over Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – Winnipeg Free Press
Robbie Czarnik had a hat trick and added two assists as the Plymouth Whalers disposed of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6-4 in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday night.

Czarnik was the Kings 3rd round pick in 2008. He has 24 goals and 26 assists through 37 games for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.

Vey’s four points fuels Medicine Hat Tigers to 5-2 win against Rockets – Winnipeg Free Press
Linden Vey scored twice and added two assists as the Medicine Hat Tigers topped the Kelowna Rockets 5-2 in Western Hockey League play Saturday night.

Vey was the 4th round pick in 2009 and has 30 goals and 45 assists through 42 games for the Medicine Hat Tigers (don’t ask me) of the WHL.

2-minute drill | sctimes.com | St Cloud Times
St. Cloud State University wing Nic Dowd is the WCHA Rookie of the Week for Jan. 11. Dowd also earned the weekly honor on Jan. 5. Dowd had four points and was a plus-5 St. Cloud State’s two-game conference sweep over visiting Michigan Tech last weekend. A 6-2, 196-pound freshman from Huntsville, Ala., Dowd extended his point streak to five games with one goal and three assists. In addition to his points in the series, Dowd earned the No. 2 star of the game honor both nights and fired 10 shots on goal.

Dowd was the 7th round pick in 2009. He has 14 points in 22 games for St. Cloud State. Points don’t come easy in the NCAA, especially not for freshmen, even if they are 20 year-old freshmen.

and then there’s this:

Manchester Beats Binghamton – Sports News Story – WMUR Manchester

Goaltender Martin Jones halted 38 shots and the Manchester Monarchs came from behind to take a 4-3 victory over the Binghamton Senators[...] Center Andrei Loktionov picked up an unassisted goal at 11:36 of the second period as he skated coast-to-coast. Following a blocked shot by defenseman Patrick Mullen in the Monarchs zone, the puck popped free to Loktionov. The center bobbed and weaved through the neutral zone and crossed into Senators territory. After faking a slap shot, Loktionov carried the puck into the left face-off circle and snapped a wrist shot that Lehner got a piece of with his glove but the puck found the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.

I have heard a lot of good things about Loktionov’s play in Manchester. This is what led to his call up and placement on the top line last night. He deserves it. I was hoping he would take the bull by the horns last night instead of deferring to his older teammates, which is natural reaction by young players in the NHL. As soon as he does this and build some confidence, he will start producing at the NHL level, but he is only 20 as well.

Finally, we all know what 2009 1st round pick Brayden Schenn did at the World Junior Championships this year, and in tying the record set for most points by a Canadian player he put himself in some pretty elite company:

  1. 2011 – Brayden Schenn – 18 points
  2. 1977 – Dale McCourt – 18 points
  3. 1978 – Wayne Gretzky – 17 points
  4. 1991 – Eric Lindros – 17 points
  5. 2009 – Cody Hodgson – 16 points
  6. 2009 – John Tavares – 15 points
  7. 1995 – Jason Allison – 15 points
  8. 1995 – Marty Murray – 15 points
  9. 1977 – John Anderson – 15 points

OK so it’s not TOTALLY elite, but still pretty impressive. Also he played the last two games with a separated shoulder. That brand of talent and toughness puts Schenn at the top of the Kings prospect class, and potentially among the top of the entire 2009 draft class, as he was drafted 5th overall.

4) It’s not a part of the plan.

If you haven’t yet read my post about Dean Lombardi’s Kings schedule of success, please do so now. Then, let’s take a look at the Kings’ players’ contracts:

Player Cap
Number
Total
Days
Cap
Hit
10/11
Salary
11/12
Salary
12/13
Salary
13/14
Salary
10/11 Bonus Extension Cap Number
Forwards 38.208
Kopitar, Anze 6.800 186.0 6.800 6.000 6.400 6.500 7.500
Smyth, Ryan 6.250 186.0 6.250 5.500 4.500 UFA
Handzus, Michal 4.000 186.0 4.000 4.000 UFA
Stoll, Jarret 3.600 186.0 3.600 3.400 3.400 UFA
Williams, Justin 3.500 186.0 3.500 3.500 UFA
Ponikarovsky, Alexei 3.200 186.0 3.200 3.200 UFA
Brown, Dustin 3.175 186.0 3.175 3.500 3.500 3.500 3.500
Sturm, Marco 3.500 121.0 2.277 3.500 UFA
Lewis, Trevor 0.903 186.0 0.903 0.803 RFA
Parse, Scott 0.900 186.0 0.900 0.900 0.900 UFA
Richardson, Brad 0.900 186.0 0.900 0.900 RFA
Clifford, Kyle 0.870 186.0 0.870 0.685 0.765 0.680 RFA 0.215
Simmonds, Wayne 0.822 186.0 0.822 0.525 RFA 0.240
Westgarth, Kevin 0.525 186.0 0.525 0.500 0.525 UFA
Loktionov, Andrei 0.846 107.0 0.487 0.662 0.575 RFA 0.212
Defencemen 16.587
Mitchell, Willie 3.500 186.0 3.500 3.500 3.500 UFA
Doughty, Drew 3.475 186.0 3.475 0.875 RFA 2.600
Scuderi, Rob 3.400 186.0 3.400 3.400 3.400 3.400 UFA
Greene, Matt 2.950 186.0 2.950 2.750 3.000 3.000 3.250
Johnson, Jack 1.425 186.0 1.425 1.650 3.500 3.500 3.500 4.357
Martinez, Alec 0.875 139.0 0.654 0.662 RFA 0.212
Drewiske, Davis 0.600 186.0 0.600 0.600 0.600 0.600 UFA
Harrold, Peter 0.583 186.0 0.583 0.550 UFA
Goaltenders 2.643
Quick, Jonathan 1.800 186.0 1.800 1.900 1.800 1.700 UFA
Bernier, Jonathan 0.843 186.0 0.843 0.765 0.975 1.525 RFA

I provide this chart for one simple reason: To display how few players are under contract after the 2011-2012 season: NINE. That is including the final years of Kyle Clifford and Davis Drewiske’s entry level deals. That leaves Quick and Bernier under affordable contracts, Scuderi, Greene, and Johnson on defense, and then just Kopitar and Brown on offense. That’s it.

That leads me to believe that as the contracts for most of these veterans expire, so will their time with the Los Angeles Kings. Those prospects who are flourishing in the Minors and Juniors are the missing pieces to the puzzle; not Ilya Kovalchuk, not Marian Hossa, not Marco Sturm, not Jarome Iginla.

The current Kings, as Lombardi has said, are “ahead of schedule”. His ‘schedule’ did not plan for them being in the playoffs last season, or having such high expectations this season, and he is sticking to the plan.

But performing ahead of schedule has its downside. When a team exceeds expectations, the fans perk up and pledge their undying support. But when the team falters, the fans are quick to revolt, crying for the GM or coach to jump into action, which is exactly what is happening right now. But the management has decided to stay the course, with Murray preaching simple hockey (shoot the puck, play defense) and Lombardi sticking to his plan.

Let’s just hope it pans out.

Comments
2 Responses to “Why the Kings Trading for Marco Sturm May Be the BIG Move”
  1. Not sure why everyone is foaming at the mouth for Iginla. Great player, sure…but his best is behind him. Parise is a guy who is coming into his prime. Why would the Kings be interested in a player on the decline? Especially one who is earning premium money? The Kings have a lot of holes to address. Sign Doughty (NO MATTER WHAT), ‘Zus, Williams (if they can afford him), Simmonds, Lewis (cheap), and Martinez (cheap). Trade Stoll, let Poni and Harrold walk, lowball Sturm…Good luck, DL.

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