Good Morning, Insiders!
Checking in after Rob Blake’s availability last night, where he touched on a variety of topics following his segment of the State of the Franchise event. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing we probably wouldn’t have assumed he’d say, but as we sit here 15 days from the NHL’s Trade Deadline, on the day after he signed a player to an eight-year contract extension, it was a good time to hear from the man upstairs.
On The Deadline
If Blake made one thing clear last night, it’s that he is not opposed to making a trade, but he’s not going to do it just to do it. Blake’s only intention is to make the team better and if there’s an opportunity to do so, he’s willing to look at it, but he’s also very happy with his group as it’s currently assembled.
“We’d like to, if it fits the right way, I think we’re real comfortable with where we are sitting right now,” Blake said. “I think the guys have played well, getting these injured guys back I think solidifies the forward group and how they slot in there, we really haven’t had that since probably the first couple weeks of the season, that’ll be nice to get that going. I think every team, come the deadline, they’re always exploring all different options and if there’s something but the one thing to be clear, it has to make our team better. We’re not taking away from this team anymore.”
The last line is something that is certainly a deviation from past seasons, especially dating back two years ago. It’s nothing new – we know that the Kings are no longer in a position where they’re looking to move NHL-level talent for future assets. The way I interpreted what Blake said is that he’s looking for a clear upgrade and he’s looking for a clear upgrade that blends in with the group as currently assembled.
When looking at his current roster, Blake believes that the team, as it is assembled right now, “can compete with some of the top teams”. He’s never been one for the splashy, blanket statements about his team, nor should he be. He does believe in the group as assembled and understands that there is a balance between continuing to let guys play, who are making great strides right now, and also possibly adding to that group.
“I think a little bit of our balance is, with the younger players, the ones that are starting to solidify themselves in the lineup, is it better let them keep going,” he added. “You don’t want to bring something in that’s going to throw that mix off. I think we have a good mix right now and I think they’re real comfortable in Todd’s style. So, to bring anything in there, I think it has to improve our team, without taking anything out of that lineup. It has to add to that team to make it better.”
Blake On Mikey Anderson
“I think the best thing is that we have real good understanding of what Mikey is, but he’s risen to a real capable defender against top, top offensive players in the league. He’s low maintenance, shows up every day, a big part of the leadership going forward with our group too. We felt that commitment over time, he is the same and he’s going to come in and do his job every day for us.”
The Kings have handed out a term of eight years just three times before in franchise history and those three players have or will one day have their numbers retired here in Los Angeles. Anderson is a home-grown piece who has come in right away and made an impact, both with his play on the ice and with his presence and personality within the room.
Blake indicated that negotiations went in a variety of directions. Over the summer, when Anderson agreed to a one-year deal, the Kings had cap issues when it came to a longer-term deal. He admitted that there were conversations regarding a variety of lengths once negotiations resumed on an extension during the season. Blake said the organization felt comfortable with the eight-year term in large part due to Anderson’s age, with the contract kicking in for him at 24 years old and running through age 32. Lots of good years to come. Blake also confirmed trade protection on the back end of the contract, something that is not permitted until the UFA years of his deal. Anderson has a 10-team no-trade clause in the final five years of his contract.
When Anderson signed the one-year contract, Blake shared that there were no promises of a reward to follow, but that even at that time, there was no question that the Kings wanted to retain Anderson for the long haul. Blake and the Kings viewed the player as a key part of the future here and Anderson said he felt the same way. With both parties on the same page and Anderson being a player that Blake believes will age well, it was a perfect fit.
“I think with Mikey right now, you see him partner with Drew, playing against the best players in the league, that’s what he does on a nightly basis,” Blake said. “He’s anywhere from 20 to 23 minutes a night and that role solidified what he is, we’ve got a good idea of that. I think you’re going to see more of his leadership and his command and I’ve seen him get a little more physical as the years went on. I think once he got one or two years in the league, he started to understand his abilities there.”
Blake went on to use many of the same things to describe Anderson, as a person, as he did when he signed Trevor Moore to a long-term extension back in December. Words like character and leadership were thrown around with regard to Moore and were also used with regard to Anderson.
When Anderson was given a green jersey for yesterday’s practice, it resonated with Blake that he took it in stride and had fun with it. It also resonated with him that everyone recognized Anderson as a guy who would appreciate it, which shows how everyone views him within the room.
“He’s been vocal in that group, right from day one,” he added. “He had a pedigree of being a captain in college and you do see that come out. The guys played a little joke on him [yesterday] with his jersey during practice and I think the guys had fun with him because they really enjoy having him around.”
Additionally, Blake touched on a couple of points, including the decision to extend Pheonix Copley, the progress of Cal Petersen and the current state of the team, with another level for the group as currently assembled.
Blake On Extending Pheonix Copley
I think he’s been able to come in and solidified that spot in net for us, his win/loss record has been really good over that time. Just looking at our goaltender situation going forward, we only had one goalie under contract next year, so to step in there and get him under contract, it gives us an ability there in the net.
Blake On Cal Petersen’s Progress In The AHL
He’s been good, both he and Matty [Villalta] and Nelson touched on it today, the overall team save percentage [leads the AHL] and he’s been getting the wins, the goals against over the last four or five games are down. That was the whole purpose, was that he had to play and if he wasn’t going to play up here, we wanted to get him in as many games as possible, because we still feel like he can help our franchise.
Blake On Current Level Of Play & There Being More To Give
I think there’s more to it, there’s more to our team. The one thing they do is they play well within the structure and they’ve been up to challenges. Some of you guys travel on the road with us and we’ll be on tough trips, where we’ve got one last game left against a real good team, we did against Boston and they showed up in Carolina, even to get a point out of that game. They’ve shown a little bit of character there and that is good for us.”
The Kings are on the ice here any moment with practice to follow. Expecting to hear from assistant coach Jim Hiller following today’s skate, so we’ll have some power-play notes from the man behind that unit.