Suddenly, the currency of choice in the NHL trade market is the fifth-round draft pick. Who knew?
For the third time this week, a player was traded for a fifth-rounder – and in this case, the Los Angeles Kings took the pick they received from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Andrei Loktionov and flipped it to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Keaton Ellerby.
The Kings were attracted to Ellerby because of his size – 6-foot-5, 217 pounds – and the fact that he plays a physical game. Coach Darryl Sutter will know him through the Alberta pipeline. Ellerby is from Strathmore, his first cousin is Shane Doan and his dad played in the Western Hockey League around the same time as the six Sutter boys were coming through.
The Kings have had to muddle through the early part of the season without two big bodies on the blueline – defencemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, both pivotal players in their defensive rotation – and they’ve been missed. Without Greene and Mitchell, Jake Muzzin and Davis Drewiske have been playing regularly and Sutter noted only a couple of days ago that both needed to be better.
The one area where Ellerby won’t help out is with the Kings’ sputtering offence. He had two goals and 17 points in 116 career games going into the season – and against the Nashville Predators Thursday in a 3-0 loss, L.A. fell into a familiar pattern and couldn’t buy a goal, or even generate much. The Kings have just 20 goals this season, fewest in the NHL, after finishing 29th in scoring a year ago. The Kings do not have a single player in the top 150 of NHL scorers and have a six-way tie atop their individual scoring list (Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Kyle Clifford and Simon Gagne) with five goals apiece.
L.A. is just 3-4-2 to start the season and currently hunkered down in Nashville – two games into a four-game road trip that had booted out of the Staples Centre as a result of the Grammy awards. They finish the trip with games against the Red Wings in Detroit on Sunday and the Blues in St. Louis on Monday and don’t play at home again until next Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Many figured that the four-month lockout would help the Kings more than any other club to overcome the effects of the Stanley Cup hangover, but it doesn’t appear to have worked out that way. Sutter has been calling out his players in his usual matter-of-fact way pretty much since the third game of the season against the Edmonton Oilers, but no amount of prodding has worked to date. It may not be time to push the panic button yet, but not too soon for general manager Dean Lombardi to – at the very least - get the worry beads out.