In the next seven days or so, the biggest drama in the NHL will almost certainly be where, and if, Erik Karlsson is going to be traded. If the Sens were sensible, and they’re not, they’d move him before the deadline. His peak value is now, as any team that acquires him will get two playoff runs with him instead of one, should he be moved at the draft. They’d also obviously have first shot at signing him to a long-term deal, a deal that will certainly crack the foundations of any team.
The question should be is if the Kings are in the same spot with Drew Doughty.
The differences between the Kings and Senators aren’t as big as you think. The Kings are still scrapping for a playoff spot from the Pacific, two points out of both the third spot in the division and the last wild card. The Senators are at the beginning of a rebuild, and have to figure out who they’re going to build the future around whether Karlsson is there or not. But are the Kings so ar away from that?
They may think that if they can sneak into the bottom seeds, maybe catch the Knights or something in the 1st round, Quick gets hot again as he was at the beginning of the year, they could make some noise. But there’s a lot of ifs there, even if Jeff Carter coming back is a huge boost.
Beyond this season though, there are issues. Doughty is going to command $10 million a year, you’d have to think, or close to it, when he hits the market in 2019. The Kings are already committed to paying Carter and Dustin Brown $11 million combined until 2022, unless of course a lockout and compliance buyouts save them in Brown’s case. They’re paying Kopitar $10 million until the wheel in the sky stops turning. Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo, and Michael Amadio are going to get raises after this season, though probably modest ones. They’ve just taken on Dion Phaneuf’s $5.2 million hit for…reasons. Basically, they’re not fitting in another $9-$10 million player in Doughty.
The other question is how much more are the Kings going to get out of this group? They’ve gotten a renaissance year out of Kopitar, and he’s 30. Carter is 33. Martinez is 30. Quick is 32. If they figure they’re going to be toast when Doughty goes UFA anyway, they might want to at least inquire if they could find their next #1 d-man or center in exchange for him.
That’s if you don’t think this Kings ship has already sailed. Since their 2014 championship they’ve missed the playoffs twice and gotten clocked in the first round by the Sharks in 2016. They look headed for either of those results again. That might be it, so what would you be holding onto?
It would take some real stones for any GM to basically wave the white flag on this season and cash in on Doughty, even more so a first-year GM in Rob Blake. Doughty is basically carrying the team again from the back, with by far the best relative Corsi and expected goals of any d-man. His 41 points are second on the team to Kopitar’s. Again, the easiest path is a hit and hope in this spring, and the one almost every hockey team chooses.
But with Phaneuf’s contract it’s hard to see where the Kings could add this summer to take one last swing with Doughty in town. Stranger things have happened, but perhaps the Kings should have one eye on tomorrow instead of both on what might be today.
Game #60 Preview