The 2021 Trade Deadline has come and gone for the LA Kings, with two rather large moves made. Late last night, the Kings traded forward Jeff Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for two conditional draft picks. This morning, the Kings re-signed forward Alex Iafallo to a four-year contract extension, locking up a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.
The contract process with another free agent at the end of the season, Andreas Athanasiou remains “ongoing” per Kings General Manager Rob Blake and talks have taken place over the last two days. Athanasiou is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, negating the rush, and Blake has liked the fit for Athanasiou with the Kings this season.
In terms of other potential moves, Blake said that the team explored adding to the group here at the deadline, but wasn’t looking to part with draft picks or prospects here at this time. He also said that the team has been exploring adding assets by using the team’s cap space, but that deal hasn’t yet come together.
The biggest focus over the last few days was Iafallo’s extension. Blake has targeted the summer as a key point for the Kings to add to the group moving forward.
Hear from Blake, Iafallo, Head Coach Todd McLellan and Captain Anze Kopitar below.
On if the Kings are at the point now of importing talent, rather than sending out
In a frame of building, yes. I think, the key with Alex, was locking up what we considered our core. He’s come in here and proven to be a very versatile player, very reliable, good fit with Kopitar and Brown over the years. By extending him, and actually taking a step forward, was important for us.
On the timetable with the Carter trade, and the thoughts behind it
We had conversations with Jeff and I think we owed him that respect. He’s been a tremendous player for this organization. There’s a group of these guys like I’ve said, unfortunately numerous times at deadlines, that have done so many good things for this organization, taken us to two Stanley Cups, and Jeff was that. He was a true professional, showed up every day, did his job and did it very, very well. I spoke to him last night and this morning, not easy at all. We understand, we respect he’s going to a good spot there and we wish him continued success. It’s part of it, it’s a difficult part that we deal with, but we can’t be any more thankful for everything he’s done for this organization. He’s been tremendous.
On the difficulties of moving a guy like Carter, considering his importance to the franchise
It’s a difficult situation because he has been such a tremendous player and has been able to accomplish so much for this franchise. That whole group, year-after-year, they’re going to be able to share those experiences and be known as Stanley Cup winners, it’s very important. You can see why Pittsburgh wanted to add that.
On if there is a plan to address the team as a whole, following the deadline
Not really, I haven’t done it at past deadlines. I’ve obviously talked to what you consider leadership groups at different times during the season, post-deadline and everything going into it. I rely heavily on Todd, it’s a little different in this situation, with a game tonight, so they’re preparing for that. Their mindset obviously switched this morning to the game tonight. There will be a time and a point where we do, but a lot of it is individual or smaller group talks.
On the importance of locking up Iafallo, as opposed to trading him and signing a player in that range who may or may not fit in
For sure. We fully understand exactly what Alex does and fits with this group, and his importance to this group. Listen, from day one, we were going to get it done. These things take time, it’s something I’m learning, it’s a process that we have to go through, but we were one-hundred percent committed to getting him signed. Now, you take other steps and you get to the summer, and you have the availability to add to the group. You have Alex, you’ve got part of that core going forward, you know where he fits, now you add to that. That’s been solely our focus and like I said, we were focused on Alex right from day one. We understood the process, it does take some time to get that done, but he was one-hundred percent committed to what we wanted to do going forward.
On if there was ever a situation where Iafallo could have been traded
No. Like I said, we were one-hundred percent committed to getting Alex done. It’s a learning process for me, it naturally takes time to get that deal done. We’ve been focused on building a group in here and Alex has been a part of that group. He’s come in and played alongside Kopi on that line and he’s been very effective, very reliable, system-type player that is constantly a real good pro. We want to make sure we are taking care of the good hockey players that are going to be a fit going forward here with us.
On the focus heading into the offseason, with regards to improving the team
Get better. We want to try to improve and continually get better. The players have put themselves in a very good position this year, they’ve played extremely hard, and we expect that continued here, push for that playoff spot. What we will do in the summer will be to improve this team.
On his approach, after signing Iafallo but losing Carter via trade
It’s a bittersweet day. Starting with the sweet part, having Iafallo re-signed is really important to our organization. He is, in my opinion, a swiss-army knife, you feel good about putting him on the ice in every situation. We’ve talked a lot about him, it’s amazing how many teammates came by me and said ‘hey, what’s going on with this, we’ve got to get him signed’, all that type of stuff. They really want him to be here, and he really wants to be here. Checkmark for that on the positive side. On the other side of the coin, with Carts, obviously a real, real important player for this organization for a long, long time. A big part of championships and great memories, nobody wanted to lose him, but the organization has to manage its assets with the expansion draft coming up. The opportunity to get pieces back for somebody that we had a good chance of losing in the summer, I think that decision had to be made, but it doesn’t make it easier for the players. I think the younger ones appreciated his leadership, his ability to carry himself professionally around the rink. He cared about those younger players, but for them it’s an opportunity, it opens up more ice [time]. It’s the older players that probably it stings a little bit more. There were some tears in some eyes today, but he’s going to get a real good opportunity, everyone is happy for him. We’d like to see him make good on it and enjoy another championship out east.
On both moves today being long-term decisions, and the message to the team
Play, I don’t think there’s anything other than that message. Let’s get going, we’re right there. Yes, Carts meant a lot to the team and he played his butt off every time he went out there, but we have others that can do that. Carts, with all due respect, he wasn’t a 50-goal scorer that we lost. We have an opportunity to push here, and to challenge, to grow and become a better team. Last year, at this time after the deadline, we played some of our best hockey and we lost quite a few important, established, veteran players. The message is pretty simple – play, and play your ass off and earn what you get going forward. Don’t lose anything, don’t give anything back.
On the possibility of having Dustin Brown wear a letter, with Carter moving on
Re-ask that question tomorrow. We’re still in the midst of the deadline and getting prepared for a game. It’s something that we need to talk about as a group, as an organization, and quite frankly we haven’t done that, in fairness to everybody involved. Brownie is a real obvious, simple choice. Tremendous leader, but we need to talk about some things.
On being thought of as a part of the core going forward, and hearing Anze Kopitar say that
[It feels] really good. I look up to him and appreciate hearing those words from him. I want to be a part of something special going forward here, that’s why I wanted to stay and I’m looking forward to that, and be a part of something special.
On if there was any stress level over the last couple of weeks
For sure, it was always in the back of my mind. Obviously we’re trying to make playoffs, I always put that first, and wanted to win games. Coming down to the deadline, obviously it was stressful and stuff, but I’m glad it got done and I’m very glad to be here, very excited.
On how involved he got in the process, and how the timeline came together over the last 24 hours
It more sped up along these last few hours, with the deadline, but it was nice, everybody just kind of let me do my thing and let me play. I didn’t have to worry too much about it. I wanted to stay here and figure everything out, but at the end of the day, I wanted to win games and keep playing. Having both sides of things to help figure that out was obviously helpful.
On if signing this contract feels like a validation of the work he’s put in
It feels good, for sure. Obviously I grew up playing this game and I’ve learned a lot from a lot of people along the way, and I’ve used that to my advantage pretty much every day. It doesn’t stop here and I just want to keep playing, putting my heart and soul into all of this. That’s what I’ve got to offer and that’s what I’m going to do here.
On seeing a long-time teammate like Jeff Carter traded
I mean, think about it throughout the nine years, he did just about everything we asked from him. We traded for him in 2012, to spark our scoring, he certainly did that. We went on a run and won a Stanley Cup that year, and then won another one and I don’t think he got enough credit for showing the way as a leader. You think about it, [Pearson and Toffoli], back in the day were on his wings, and he took it, I think pretty personally, to get those guys going and right, and he obviously did a great job. Like I said, I think he’s been flying under the radar as a leader. It’s a very sour taste to see him go, but at the end of the day, you wish him luck and we’ll meet up again soon, probably in the summer.
On any sort of message to the team as the captain, with a game tonight
Yeah, it’s very hard obviously, to see him go, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to prepare for a game. Once the puck drops, we’ll be ready.
On the growth he’s seen in Alex Iafallo over his four years as a teammate and linemate
I think it’s just a steady incline, really. He came in, pretty much as a question mark. We signed him and he jumped on a line with me and Brownie and kind of never let go. He had some ups and downs the first couple of years, but he’s been very steady. His production has been going up and Todd shows a lot of trust in him, putting him on the power play and PK, he plays in every single situation. He’s a big part of this team.
On how much, if at all, he talked with management on these types of moves
Not a whole lot. I realize that it’s a business and the main goal is to win the cup again. Whatever needs to be done, needs to be done, but it’s very, very little. Maybe just some conversations here or there, but I definitely did not get the inside scoop.
A short game preview will follow closer to game time, before the Kings host the Golden Knights tonight at 7 PM.