Player evaluation: Sekera

This season: 16 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, 6 penalty minutes, +4 rating, 19:12 time on ice (with Los Angeles); 73 games, 3 goals, 20 assists, 23 points, 14 penalty minutes, -3 rating, 21:59 time on ice (total);

The good: The Kings knew what they were getting when they traded for Andrej Sekera, who played under then-general manager Michael Futa at OHL-Owen Sound. The familiarity led to the decision to pay a steep price for the versatile puck-mover at the tail end of the Kings’ eight game winning streak that had catapulted them firmly back into playoff contention. After the natural adjustment period of switching conferences, learning new teammates and new opponents, and re-acclimating himself to playing on the right side, Sekera’s gifts shone through in a terrific (if brief) late season spell. He was very good with Brayden McNabb, compiling a 61.2% Corsi-for rating together when skating at even strength alongside his former Buffalo teammate. Over 124:37 of five-on-five time together, the duo allowed only one goal (via Puckalytics). Sutter acknowledged the pairing after the Kings’ 5-2 win at Colorado on March 10 and said that the Slovakian “was probably the best player on the ice.” As expected, Sekera was adept in moving the puck up to the forwards quickly and also showed particularly strong ability to distribute the puck from the point once offensive zone time had already been established. Though Sekera experienced a major spike in production with 15 power play points in 2013-14, he recorded one power play assist in 16 games with Los Angeles and instead adapted himself well to any game situation. Of the five final “full” games that Sekera played, he averaged 22:01 of ice time and finished either first or second on the team in shorthanded time on three occasions. Clearly he was able to thrive in important game situations, as evidenced by his 60.2% five-on-five Corsi-for and +7.6% Corsi-rel rates. He did this despite being less likely to open a shift in the offensive zone than Brayden McNabb, Jamie McBain, Matt Greene, Jake Muzzin or Drew Doughty (via War-on-Ice). “I think the thing about him, number one, he’s a competitive guy,” Dean Lombardi said the day of the trade. “We have no issues as far as him fitting in here with this group. No question he’s going to be hungry. I think whenever you look at your back end, it’s a mix-type thing, and I think [there are] things he can bring to us. … He’s very mobile, and even though he’s not big, he certainly competes. He’s a smart player.”

The bad: Sekera suffered an MCL injury late in the second period in Chicago on March 30 and did not play again, which raises the possibility that the Kings may have exchanged a first round draft pick and prospect Roland McKeown for a player who ultimately played only 16 games for the team. Had the Kings made the playoffs, Sekera would not have been available at the outset of the first round series. “It’s the one that’s just enough to keep him out,” Lombardi said shortly after the conclusion of the season. “I mean, he was in here working out right after, but he couldn’t play on it.” There’s nothing that would really fall under the “bad” banner in Sekera’s play with Los Angeles; instead, there are the usual caveats of evaluating a small sample size. If you’re grasping for straws, he wasn’t particularly a world-beater in suppressing shots, as Jewels from the Crown pointed out. Again, nitpicky: his three goals, 23 points and six power play points overall were a step down from his 11 goals, 44 points and 15 power play points from the previous season. This matters little, as Sekera was effective and a very good fit in all situations for a Kings team that needed the services of a top-four defenseman.

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks

Going forward: Shortly after the immediate conclusion of the Kings’ 2014-15 season, the Kings, Sekera and his representation opened the door for preliminary exchanges on a potential new contract, though there will be challenges in retaining the multidimensional blue liner. To gauge the range that could be commanded by Sekera, who turns 29 in June and is in his prime years, consider the average annual value of contracts recently signed by defensemen such as Marc Methot ($4.9M), Nick Leddy ($5.5M), Johnny Boychuk ($6M), Chris Tanev ($4.45M) and Luca Sbisa ($3.6M). Sekera, who is among a free agent pool of defensemen that also includes Francois Beauchemin, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, Cody Franson and Mike Green, should command an average figure right around the middle of the contracts listed above. The Kings, who have allotted $64.15M to 17 players for the 2015-16 season and are yet to extend restricted free agent Tyler Toffoli, are banking on Sekera’s enjoyment playing in Los Angeles alongside fellow Slovakian Marian Gaborik and under the familiar presence of Futa, his former general manager (Mike Stothers, Manchester’s head coach, also coached Sekera at Owen Sound) as potential figures who would influence a theoretical “hometown discount” amidst the club’s tight financial restraints. If the Kings are able to retain Sekera, that would be a huge win for the Kings, who would greatly benefit from the versatile defender’s presence amongst the top two defensive pairs.


Arizona Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings

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