Now, shifting over to the Los Angeles Kings, who I hope are resting and healing fast for the real upcoming 82-game season starting in October...
The pending trade of backup, yet capable #1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier is obviously the most important next step for GM Dean Lombardi.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs emerging as front runners as of right now (although not sure why) it seems as if the 21st overall pick is or will be included along with other pieces. Unless that 21st pick is on a player who is NHL ready, I don't see the reason for acquiring it. The Kings are built to win the Cup now and for the next five or so years perhaps longer, but the window remains best for the next few seasons. Trading a young, capable goaltender to a team in desperate need for one (Toronto?) should bring back a couple of NHL ready or already experienced players.
As of this point, adding a bunch of young prospects and draft picks is not going to help the LA Kings get back to the Finals and beating Chicago. That should be the main focus for Dean Lombardi and his staff getting ready for the 2013-14 season, not stockpiling first round picks or prospects.
If Toronto truly is the front runner for Bernier, Lombardi should be asking for the likes of Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne or perhaps Tyler Biggs or Mikhail Grabovski as part(s) of the deal.
Realistically, I think Bernier would serve the New York Islanders or Edmonton Oilers better. The Flyers are willing to give a tandem of Steve Mason and Ilya Bryzgalov a shot, God bless them, and the Devils just do not seem to have enough arsenal to pull off a trade for Bernier. New Jersey has more important matters on their hands at the moment, such as retaining David Clarkson and locking up Adam Henrique. Losing one or two of those guys down the line and the Devils will never score.
I doubt Garth Snow is about to hand over the starting job to Kevin Poulin or Anders Nilsson just yet. Evgeni Nabokov is still serviceable, but that young team could definitely use a long-term solution that makes sense (i.e. Rick DiPietro failure) in goal. A couple of guys that could interest Lombardi are Michael Grabner, who is perhaps the fastest skater in the NHL and a physical forward like Matt Martin. The fact that the LA Kings nemesis the Chicago Blackhawks used their speed as their main weapon against them in the Western Finals, should persuade Lombardi to fill the need for more speed and skill to go along with an already defensive-minded core of forwards.
Edmonton would be the next option, but playing in the same Conference could end up killing any potential deal, although both teams could strongly benefit from a Bernier deal for some speedy forwards. The Oilers will not likely give up anyone like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Nail Yakupov (still does not mean Lombardi shouldn't try!) but perhaps they'd be willing to part with someone like Magnus Paajarvi or Sam Gagne.
Enough of the Bernier talks for now...with the Maple Leafs in the mix for some silly reason, I am sure something will happen that I will not approve of since Toronto and LA are my two clubs and I wish for both of them to win.
The Kings have a few UFA's on the list at the moment, and although Rob Scuderi has been a solid defenseman for them, unless he is willing to take a paycut and stay with a championship calibre team, then he has the right to walk and the Kings should allow him to do so. As a New Yorker, he may want to return and play with a local team, and I wish him best of luck in his remaining seasons in the NHL. The guy has won two Cups with two different teams, therefore he can do whatever and I will not be upset with his decision.
With the emergence of Jake Muzzin this season and the long-term deal for Slava Voynov, which was another must sign makes Scuderi a little bit expendable, although I cannot call his services expendable. It's just not fair for the effort he has put on wearing the Kings jersey. But looking long-term, it makes sense.
The same goes for Dustin Penner. I think Tyler Toffoli and/or Linden Vey should be able to take care of his spot in the season(s) to come. Allowing both Scuderi and Penner to walk will add some more cap space to spend on another speedy forward or defenseman.
Brad Richardson is also someone who LA can resign for cheap, but is not a huge necessity. The Kings have their core, and I don't see Richardson fitting in with it.
As solid as the core of Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Williams, Carter are, there is still a glaring need for some speed to go along with the solid defensive-minded play.
Going through free agency, LA could look at someone like Mason Raymond (27) from Vancouver. I see Raymond as a good fit for the Kings, as he is very fast, has some skill, plenty of playoff experience and also hates the Blackhawks...which is good when the Kings face off against Chicago again sometime in the near future.
If Detroit fails to sign Damien Brunner (27), Lombardi could add some of his speed and skill to the mix, but I'm not sure if LA will have enough cap space to entice him to leave Detroit. Brunner should resign with the Red Wings. I'd be surprised if he didn't.
Some other speedy forwards the Kings could look into are Michael Ryder (33) or perhaps Clarke MacArthur (28).
If the LA Kings are to get another date with Lord Stanley, they must find a way to get past Chicago. Adding some quality fast forwards through Bernier's trade and a possible free agent deal are key. The Kings are built so well, that all is needed is a little speed and skill to go along with a very strong structure starting in goal, to the blue line and out.
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