How deep will it go? That is the question that Los Angeles Kings fans need to be asking themselves this morning. Last night, the Kings traded a key veteran piece from the last Stanley Cup team in 2014 when they shipped Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In exchange, the Kings brought pick a first round pick in June’s draft, along with defensive prospect Sean Durzi and forward Carl Grundstrom.
The Leafs, who have struggled defensively in a big way in each of the last two postseasons, finally get that top-four defender that they so badly needed. The Kings, meanwhile, finally add some much needed futures to their arsenal. The Kings will have at least two picks in June’s opening round, and have added two legit prospects with NHL aspirations. For a system clearly lacking, that is a good haul.
The nostalgia was real in LA last night. After all, Muzzin was a key part of LA’s 2014 Stanley Cup Championship and played a big role in the organization’s best era. Those times are in the past, however. The Kings have made the playoffs just twice since 2014, failing to win a series on both occasions. They aren’t a threat to win it anymore, and honestly they aren’t even a threat to make the playoffs anymore.
The Kings are an aging team that lacks speed, skill and depth and they are getting exposed nightly because of it. The Kings, as currently constructed, aren’t even close to competing. Rob Blake, in his second season as GM of the Kings, has made the decision to rebuild Dean Lombardi’s core group.
The Time Had Come:
As I mentioned above, the Kings just aren’t very good anymore. They have no impact young players on their roster and don’t have much coming up through the pipeline. They are a veteran team whose best days are behind them, and it shows. They badly needed an infusion of youth and badly needed to reset things.
In moving Muzzin, the Kings not only add young assets but also free up cap space. Those are two things the Blake will be hunting after over the course of the next month and into the summer. Move your veterans for young pieces and free up cap space to wheel come summer time.
The time had also come for the Leafs, who have gone one-and-done in each of the last two seasons. Toronto is arguably better than the Bruins and on-par with the Lightning, with their cost controlled youngsters needing new deals in short order. This might be the Leafs’ best shot at winning a Stanley Cup in the next five years.
I applaud Kyle Dubas, one of the smartest men in the game in my opinion, for rolling up his sleeves and getting to work here. Does Muzzin mean they win a Cup? No, in fact it still doesn’t guarantee that they win a round, but I think the Maple Leafs are a far better and more balanced hockey team today than they were heading into the All-Star break.
The Leafs had been smart in each of the last two years at the deadline. This year they got gutsy, and quite frankly it was overdue.
For the Kings, they begin a road back to competitiveness that could take a few seasons. Let’s be honest for a second, shall we? Outside of Anze Kopitar. Drew Doughty and Tyler Toffoli, there is no one on the Kings’ roster who is worth keeping around for the future. Alec Martinez is right on the cusp, but he’s one of the few assets this team has that could get a good return now that Muzzin is gone. Heck, Toffoli could be moved himself here in the next few weeks.
There just isn’t a lot to build with in LA right now, mainly because the young players and picks that were dealt in the name of hunting for the Cup earlier this decade aren’t there now to push forward and replace departing veterans. It’s the ugly part of going all in in a salary cap world.
This deal sets the tone for Blake. He gets a first rounder, a solid defensive prospect and a young forward that is having success in the AHL this season and could push for NHL time by the end of the season.
It’s not going to turn things around right away, but this was a nice package for the Kings. They add a young player both on the back end and up front, while also snagging another first. It’s a good return for a player likely heading out before July 1st, 2020.
Here’s a look at Durzi’s scouting report.
Durzi is a right-shooting and offensively-talented defenceman, and at 6’0”, he’s not exactly small. The Leafs did not reach off the board to take him in the second round, and while I expect that Evan Bouchard will be the best defenceman in the OHL next year, Durzi could compete for the podium.
He’s not as elusive as top prospects Quinn Hughes or Adam Boqvist, but he sees the ice well, and started to get his shots off incredibly quickly last season. The question becomes: Is he fast and physical enough to defend against top NHL forwards? He’s not as heavy as Morgan Rielly or Travis Dermott, and while I’d like to get a look at him against AHL competition this year, the Marlies are loaded on right-shooting defenceman.
I suspect the Muzzin deal is just the start in Southern California. Carl Hagelin and Nate Thompson are depth pieces heading for free agency that I suspect will be traded, while Toffoli and Jeff Carter are both veterans that could end up getting dealt prior to the deadline. Toffoli wouldn’t shock me as a draft day deal, but could Carter be a target for a team like the Bruins in the next few weeks?
The Kings have options to move in the next few weeks, and I would wager that Blake is just getting started. The rebuild, retool, whatever you want to call it, is underway in LA.