2023 Kings Seasons In Review – Deadline Acquisitions

Rolling on with the seasons in review series, looking at the three players the Kings acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline. All three players factored into the postseason, with the pair of Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo playing in all six games. Forward Zack MacEwen played in Game 3 after he was acquired from Philadelphia.

Notes on all three players below. Each is scheduled to hit free agency on July 1, should agreements or qualifying offers not be extended by that time.

Vladislav Gavrikov
LAK Statline – 20 games played, 3 goals, 6 assists, +12 rating, 8 penalty minutes
NHL Statline – 72 games played, 6 goals, 13 assists, +4 rating, 38 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, +5 rating, 0 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 54.1% (-0.7%), SCF% – 56.9% (+2.4%), HDCF% – 62.4% (+4.7%)

Vladislav Gavrikov was one half of the team’s deadline’s haul from Columbus and turned out to be exactly what the Kings needed. The team had an imbalance on the blueline, using four to five right-shot defensemen on a given night for the bulk of the season. Gavrikov provided balance on the backend, at least within the top four, as he gave the Kings the lefty/righty mix they ultimately craved.

When acquired, Gavrikov fit what the Kings hoped would be both a positional and stylistic void for the Kings. That’s on paper though. You never know exactly how a deadline acquisition will fit into a group, both on and off the ice. Gavrikov turned out to be perfect on both fronts.

“Since the day he arrived, he walked in the door – him and Korpisalo walked in the door – and they fit our group,” Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “There’s always risk in acquiring players at the deadline where it doesn’t work simply because of that. So, when they walked in their spirit and the way they carried themselves fit our group, so that was a home run right off the bat. Then his play, from the time that he put the equipment on all the way through, he adapted really quick to a different system and to new teammates……he was very, very solid all the way through the last minute [of Game 6].”

His puck possession metrics shown above are strictly from his 20 regular-season games with the Kings, so the sample size is quite small. That small sample size, though, was a vast increase from his numbers in Columbus. Some of that was performance, some of that was usage, some of that was role and some of that came from moving from a cellar dweller to a playoff team. Not shown above were his on-ice goal metrics, but they do provide a representation of the differential in teams. With Gavrikov on the ice in LA, the Kings scored 70 percent of goals, compared to just shy of 40 percent in Columbus.

Among the 172 defensive pairings with at least 200 minutes played at 5-on-5, the duo of Gavrikov and Matt Roy ranked third in HDCF% and fifth in SCF%. With that pairing on the ice, the Kings not only possessed the puck, but they created substantially more quality chances than they conceded. That pairing was on the ice for 12 goals for compared to 3 against. While their sample size was low, that percentage was the second best in the NHL. Instant chemistry, which gave the Kings a stout top four on the backend.

Safe to say that Gavrikov provided what he was acquired to provide, and then some.

2023-24 Status – Gavrikov is likely the team’s highest-profile unrestricted free agent, as he’s likely to receive the largest contract of the team’s three UFA’s.

Gavrikov is entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NHL career and will most likely receive a sizable raise off of his $2.8 million cap hit from the 2022-23 season. Gavrikov was a terrific fit with the Kings, solidifying the team’s second defensive pairing alongside Matt Roy, providing another shutdown option during his time here. A pair of reports yesterday provided conflicting degrees of status on where negotiations are, but whether it’s with the Kings or another organization, Gavrikov has earned a new contract and will be rewarded as such this summer.

Zack MacEwen
LAK Statline – 10 games played, 0 goals, 1 assists, -2 rating, 12 penalty minutes
NHL Statline – 56 games played, 4 goals, 6 assists, -11 rating, 66 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 1 game played, 0 goals, 0 assists, even rating, 2 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 49.7% (-3.7%), SCF% – 54.1% (+0.9%), HDCF% – 55.0% (-1.5%)

Two items to look at here – the players and the numbers.

MacEwen was acquired in a small deal on deadline day, as he came over from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Brendan Lemieux and a fifth-round draft selection. MacEwen and Lemieux filled similar roles, though their styles were a bit different. MacEwen is a bigger body who plays a direct and simple game. He didn’t play the largest role with the Kings, but provided more size and a right shot up front and was praised by Todd McLellan for his presence on the bench and in the locker room.

His possession metrics are pretty all over the map. First things first, a sample size of 10 games is hardly useful. His high-danger chances for and against suggest a wildly high-event player, both for and against. His scoring chances show a much milder, lower event player. The goal distribution didn’t quite reflect the opportunities, showcased by an extremely low PDO. In just over 80 minutes at even strength, overall, MacEwen was fine.

I also don’t believe we saw the full extent of MacEwen’s skillset in his 10 games with the team. A hard worker and a straight-line player, yes, but it felt like there was more to him that wasn’t unlocked with the Kings. When acquired, MacEwen was coming off a broken jaw injury that cost him the six weeks preceding. Coming off an injury with a bad team and jumping straight into a new team and a playoff race is challenging. There were flashes, but I think there is more to the player than the small sample size we saw.

2023-24 Status – Unlike the player above and the player below, MacEwen is a restricted free agent, not an unrestricted free agent. MacEwen has one more season of being restricted before he would become a UFA at the end of next season.

There are some parallels with MacEwen and Lemieux. Both players were acquired midseason and while we saw flashes of both in their short stints, they didn’t fully show what they could do in that small sample size. If you recall back, Lemieux was a completely different player in the 2021-22 season than he showed in the 2020-21 season. Not saying it’d be the same for MacEwen but having a full summer and a full training camp with the team was something that was very beneficial for Lemieux. Should MacEwen be re-signed, it could be the same for him.

Joonas Korpisalo
LAK Statline – 11 games played, 621 minutes played, 7-3-1 record, 2.13 goals against average, .921 save percentage, .933 even-strength save percentage, 1 shutout
NHL Statline – 39 games played, 2172 minutes played, 18-14-4 record, 2.87 goals against average, .915 save percentage, .925 even-strength save percentage, 1 shutout
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 350 minutes played, 2-4 record, 3.77 goals against average, .892 save percentage, .921 even-strength save percentage, 0 shutouts

Korpisalo was the second half of the team’s big deadline deal, as he came over from Columbus with Gavrikov.

Similar to Gavrikov, Korpisalo saw his numbers and metrics improve once he joined the Kings. Korpisalo won seven of his 11 starts with the Kings and both his save percentage and his even-strength jumped during his time in California. Korpisalo was one of the NHL’s best goaltenders in terms of high-danger save percentage, as he ranked third in the league amongst netminders with at least 1,000 minutes played, looking at 5-on-5 numbers.

Regarding his postseason totals, where Korpisalo once again excelled was in the high-danger department, as he ranked fourth in the league in HDSV%, of the 28 netminders to appear in a playoff game as of May 11. On a per/60 basis, no goaltender to appear in multiple playoff games faced more high-danger chances and Korpisalo was among the best at stopping them. His performance in Games 1-3 were perhaps the league’s best, though Games 4-6 brought the totals down to earth a bit, mirroring the team in many ways.

What Korpisalo brought, whether you focus on regular season or playoff totals, was stability between the pipes. On the season, the Kings ranked 27th in the NHL in save percentage. Before the Kings acquired Korpisalo, they ranked second to last in 31st, at .881. From the trade deadline through the end of the season, the Kings ranked fifth in the league at a .917. No team gave up fewer goals during that span than the Kings. At the very least, Korpisalo helped to stabilize a position of need, which helped the team to a .700 winning percentage from the deadline on.

2023-24 Status – As is the case with Gavrikov, Korpisalo is an unrestricted free agent come July 1. The Kings knew the status of both individuals when they acquired them at the deadline and now the determination of fit is upon us.

Korpisalo did a lot of things that merit a raise upon his modest $1.3 million cap hit this season. His play, even on a struggling Columbus squad, was solid and he was perhaps the best player on the Kings in Games 1, 2 and 3 of the postseason, as the Kings took a 2-1 series lead. His numbers dipped in Games 4, 5 and 6, though again, the sample size is quite small on both fronts. As is the case with Gavrikov, Korpisalo will get a raise somewhere in the NHL, it’s just a matter of the price being right for that somewhere to be Los Angeles.

We’ll progress on with this series with a look at the four forwards who spent the bulk of their season skating on the team’s fourth line – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Carl Grundstrom, Arthur Kaliyev and Rasmus Kupari. More on that quartet to follow next, before beginning individual articles with goaltender Pheonix Copley!

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