Reaction Time, Insiders.
From Rob Blake’s media availability today, one which lasted for more than 26 minutes, he touched on a wealth of topics, focusing generally on the reasoning behind the players coming to Los Angeles, the difficult decisions behind a franchise player departing the organization and the play of the team on the ice, which forced the management team in a direction that looks to build upon a group not only making the playoffs but doing some damage in the process.
Breaking down Blake’s comments below into a few different buckets, beginning with a look at what the Kings acquired today.
What They Got
First, there’s the notion of progress.
The LA Kings have been good. They’ve worked their way into a tie at the top of the Western Conference and just three teams in the league have had a better winning percentage since December 15. They’ve cemented themselves as a firm playoff contender in the wide-open Western Conference and that led to the team’s mentality as the deadline approached.
“I think the team directed us, in that they’ve played hard, they’ve been very competitive in different situations,” Blake said. “Two very difficult road trips back-to-back in the last month, it put us in a position that we felt as a staff, we needed to go out and address needs that we had identified previously to help this team continue to push for the playoffs.”
Blake indicated that the Kings have spent time identifying those internal needs as the season has progressed and that certain things started to pick up as the deadline approached. Certainly no surprise, with how much activity we’ve seen around the league over the last couple of days. Teams are making their moves and the Kings are now one of them.
“I think we’ve been we’ve been identifying needs as the season progressed in certain areas and felt the conversations with the trade deadline, particularly this year, you’ve seen a lot of movement prior to [over] the last week. So, lots of discussions and we felt that this type of move addressed the two situations that we felt needed to be addressed on the team.”
The two “situations” he is referencing were in the form of a left-handed shooting defenseman and a goaltender. The Kings filled both of those voids in one shot with the additions of defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who both joined from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both players have been on the Kings radar for a long time now, much deeper than just recent days, though discussions really picked up regarding bringing them to the Kings over the last 48 hours.
Blake took the time to discuss both players and why he coveted them.
Gavrikov – With Vlad, there’s the situation with right-handers and left-handers, but I think it’s the mold of a player, he’s a bigger player who is very solid defensively. He can play man, he can check top players. As you talk about the West and the teams as we go forward here, they all have good players that we rely on checking, through a very structured system.
Korpisalo – I think the stability of Joonas, the calmness of his game, it’s not unsimilar to Phoenix right now, the way he’s playing. Just the feeling of giving us the two [goalies] giving us a good chance for us in net every night. No discussion yet on the split, that will play itself out with Billy Ranford and the coaching staff.
Additionally, while not necessarily an asset gained, the Kings also acquired $1.7 million in additional cap space, if you view the transaction on a full-season basis. While full-season totals are not an accurate representation of what the Kings could add, CapFriendly says that the Kings could add a player making in excess of $5 million per season should they so choose. There are multiple ways to utilize that space and there’s no guarantees that they use it.
They’re able to, however, and that opens up flexibility for the team moving forward.
“We’ve gained some cap space in this move, to be able to look at different moves,” Blake added. “I’m not sure or certain there’s anything going to happen, but there’s a lot of time left before the deadline and you start to see different moves or different players that may have not been talked about in the past couple of days come available. We’re going to explore different options, as long as we’re pushing forward to to make our team better.”
What They Gave Up
Have to split this section up into two sections – the player and the picks.
On the player, there’s Jonathan Quick going the other way to Columbus. Quick is a franchise legend, the greatest goaltender in LA Kings history and among the greatest players in franchise history. Blake said as much in his availability today.
“I’ll start first by saying that Jonathan Quick is the best goalie to ever play in this organization, let alone in the league and he’s taken us with a handful of players, the organization, to the highest level on two different times,” Blake. “Throughout his career, we are so thankful for what he’s been able to do for this organization as a player, as a person, him, his family and his kids. We’re indebted to what he’s been able to do for us.”
Blake also understood that the timing of the situation was not how he would have liked it to go down, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. He also indicated that the call with Quick was perhaps the most difficult one he’s had to make in his position.
Blake said he had multiple meetings with Quick, privately, throughout the course of the season and unfortunately their final conversation had to come via a phone call, with Blake not in Winnipeg with the team. A “less than perfect” way for things to go down and as much was said today. Blake did not disclose the exact nature of his previous conversations with Quick, and likely won’t, so we won’t know exactly how far certain conversations had gone prior to the eventual trade.
“Leading up to this and that conversation, I had met a few times with Jonathan throughout the season,” Blake said. “I wasn’t on the trip there in Winnipeg, I was back here in LA, so the conversation regarding the trade unfortunately had to happen after the game by telephone, it was just the way things worked out. It couldn’t wait until the morning to do it in person and that’s the way that it had to unfold.”
Blake added that he spoke with Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty by phone as well and Todd McLellan spoke with Phillip Danault to hit all three team captains.
When the time comes, Quick will be among those honored by the organization as he’s fully deserved. We don’t know exactly when that time will come, but Blake knows that he will eventually be honored as the other Kings greats have before him.
“By far, he is just as deserving as a few other guys will be in this organization,” Blake said. “Like I said, the group of them have done some things here that are going to be very hard to duplicate and they should be honored and celebrated by the organization and the fans.”
What’s To Come
Armed with more cap space than he entered the day with, what’s next for Blake and the Kings?
Well, first and foremost, the Kings have a lot of flexibility with their decision-making. Blake highlighted the word depth when discussing what he could do moving forward to maximize that space and to continue to add to the group in pursuit of the postseason. While not depth in the conventional term, Blake added young goaltending prospect Erik Portillo to the ranks today in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. With an eye on the present as well, however, the Kings are still looking to upgrade if the pieces fall into place.
“Depth, I think, may be the key word there,” Blake said. “I think Rasmus Kupari has come in and done a real good job earning a spot on that line, he gives you a penalty killer and a righthanded centerman that’s been effective for us. Depth in different areas is probably what we’re looking at here over the next couple of days as we come in, but again, it has to be the right fit and it has to allow us to get better.”
Blake has been willing to part with future assets in order to help move the team forward, looking no further than a first-round selection in this morning’s deal. He also reaffirmed that he’s not looking to take pieces away from the team currently, but rather looking to add to it. He’s now moved consecutive first round picks, building off of the Kevin Fiala trade in the offseason, though the scenarios were different. With a competitive group, he’s looking to do everything he can to improve.
“Yeah, we understood that risk. Last year was a little different scenario, I think we knew the probability of the extension with Fiala and moving that first. We just felt that the team has put themselves in a position to be very competitive and challenge and we want to help do that. There’s lots of time to work on different things with these players as the season progresses, but also the flexibility in the summer and the unknowns with the cap, we would like the ability to adjust that if needed as we go forward. I think the main point was that the team has played very well and was very competitive. They’ve put themselves in a position that as a staff here, we felt we wanted to improve it.”
Lot to digest, Insiders. 4,200+ words in the total transcript from today, tried to include the best smattering of answers to cover all aspects of the deal. Lots of repeats in different words, including several regarding Quick’s legacy here. Also, I am including this afternoon’s All The Kings Men which includes about eight minutes of Blake audio, for those looking for additional content. Scroll past our interviews to the end……or listen to Blue Jackets team reporter Jeff Svoboda gush about Gavrikov and Korpisalo first.
Both players are expected at morning skate tomorrow and should speak after practice. We should also have a better sense of their integration into the group then, with potential timelines and fits within the lineup. We keep rolling tomorrow!