Big June News Insiders!
The LA Kings have acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton and forward Hayden Hodgson from the Philadelphia Flyers, in exchange for goaltender Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defensive prospect Helge Grans and a 2024 second-round draft pick. The moves are a part of a three-team trade that also involves the Columbus Blue Jackets, with the Kings also retaining 30 percent of Ivan Provorov’s salary, with the Russian defenseman joining the Blue Jackets. The intricate movements are a little bit more complicated than that, with multiple transactions required, but the bones of the situation are above. Also included in the trade, ironically, is the first-round pick the Kings traded to Columbus back in March, as a part of the deal that acquired Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo from the Blue Jackets. That pick now trades hands again, moving to the Flyers.
The objectives from a Kings perspective appear to be pretty apparent.
The Kings move out $7.65 in salary cap hits between Petersen and Walker, while agreeing to take on approximately $2 million of Provorov’s contract. The Kings free up between $4 million and $5.65 million in salary cap space in the process, depending on where Connauton and Hayden Hodgson slot into the depth chart. Walker and Petersen were both terrific pickups as college free agents, outplaying the status of their initial acquisitions. The Kings are now in a different place, however, in that they are tighter against the cap than they’ve been over the past two summers. In regards to Walker specifically, the Kings are very deep on the right side of the depth chart on the backend and have three young, right-shot defensemen – Brandt Clarke, Sean Durzi and Jordan Spence – who are NHL-ready and capable of playing NHL games right now. While Walker was solid in the second half of the season, there’s an opportunity here for the Kings to work in younger players at lower cap hits, while freeing up space to be used elsewhere.
With regards to Grans and the second-round draft pick in 2024, that is what the Kings are paying in order to move out salary. For Petersen, he now has the opportunity to bounce back and play in the NHL this season, with Philadelphia hopefully providing that path for him. The rise of Pheonix Copley prevented him from an opportunity to rebuild his stock a season ago, as Petersen spent December – April in the AHL with Ontario, a situation the Kings likely did not have in mind when they initially made the move. How everything played out makes his contract and his $5 million cap hit a difficult one to move, hence adding Grans and the draft selection. Grans was a second-round pick in 2020, but he plays in the deepest area of the prospect pool, as noted above. Even on a strong development track, Grans would fall in behind players like Clarke and Spence, which complicates his NHL path with the Kings. Perhaps a clearer path in Philadelphia, wishing the best of luck to him there. The second-round pick, while it’s another draft pick the Kings wont have, is the cost of doing business. The Kings are a cap team and are willing to move draft picks in order to compete right now. This is a part of that process and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not all that high a price to pay.
In Connauton and Hodgson, the Kings are acquiring two players who do have NHL experience, though both spent the bulk of last season playing in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Connauton has 360 career NHL games played with Dallas, Columbus, Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Philadelphia, most recently with the Flyers during the 2021-22 season. He’s a veteran defenseman who is adept at playing both sides of the ice and comes with a cap hit of just $762,500 at the NHL level. Hodgson is a nice development story, coming up through the ECHL, on route to eventually making his NHL debut in the 2021-22 season. He has a cap hit of $800,000. Both players have one season remaining on their current contracts and both players will be unrestricted free agents come the summer of 2024.
Looking ahead, this deal leaves the Kings with, approximately, between $12 million and $13.5 million in salary cap space, assuming the salary cap rises by just the $1 million that it is scheduled to and depending on where you place the acquired players. Could potentially be more. The Kings still have the same players to re-sign as they did entering the day, both on the restricted and unrestricted free agent fronts, but they now have substantially more cap space and flexibility with which to bring those players back. This deal is interesting on a lot of fronts, but when you look at the assets around the NHL that have been moved in recent years in deals like this, it certainly feels like the Kings did a pretty good job of freeing up space with which to operate, without mortgaging the future to do so. With that foresight in mind, knowing that this deal is made to set up a summer’s worth of transactions, it seems to have accomplished exactly what it was intended to, at a cost that is tolerable for the Kings.
From the team’s official release –
Connauton, 33, most recently played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League (AHL), recording 15 points (3-12=15) in 63 games last season. Over parts of nine NHL seasons, he has registered 80 points (28-52=80) in 360 career games for the Flyers, Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. Connauton’s best NHL seasons came in 2017-18 with Arizona where he posted a career-high 11 goals and 21 points (11-10=21) in 73 games and in 2014-15 with 21 points (9-12=21) split between Dallas and Columbus.
A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Connauton is a veteran of 322 career AHL games, notching 133 points (42-91=133) over seven seasons. Prior to his professional career, the 6-2, 205-pound blueliner played one season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2009-10, where he put up 72 points (24-48=72) in 69 games. His 72 points were the most points by a rookie and a defenseman in the WHL while his 48 assists stood as the most helpers by a WHL rookie. His lone 72-point WHL season earned him CHL All-Rookie Team and WHL (West) First All-Star Team honors.
Hodgson, 27, spent the majority of the 2022-23 season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL collecting eight points (3-5=8) and 83 penalty minutes (PIM) in 44 games. He also suited up for the Philadelphia Flyers for one contest. The 6-2, 208-pound forward has skated in seven career NHL games with the Flyers, producing three points (1-2=3) with 11 PIM. Hodgson scored his first NHL goal and earned his first career multi-point effort (1-1=2) in his NHL debut on March 24, 2022, against the St. Louis Blues.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Hodgson is a veteran of 131 career AHL games with Lehigh Valley and the Cleveland Monsters, earning 45 points (25-20=45) with 188 PIM. He spent four seasons (2017-21) in the ECHL, posting 44 points (22-22=44) with 209 PIM in 98 games with the Florida Everblades, Manchester Monarchs, Wichita Thunder, Reading Royals, Wheeling Nailers and Utah Grizzlies. Hodgson also appeared in 21 games for HC Detva in Slovakia’s Extraliga during the 2018-19 season, collecting 14 points (7-7=14) with 43 PIM and appeared in six playoff contests. Prior to turning pro, Hodgson played five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), accumulating 157 points (87-70=157) and 331 PIM in 294 OHL games with the Erie Otters, Sarnia Sting and Saginaw Spirit.
Petersen, 28, split the 2022-23 season between the Kings and Ontario Reign, owning a 5-3-2 record with 3.75 goals against average (GAA) and an .868 save percentage (SV%) in 10 NHL games. He backstopped Ontario to a Calder Cup Playoffs berth with a 16-20-4 record with 2 shutouts, a 2.88 GAA and a .904 SV% in 40 AHL games. Since signing with the Kings as a free agent in 2017, Petersen has played in 101 career NHL games, registering a 44-42-10 record with a 2.92 GAA and .905 SV%. In 156 appearances with the Reign, Petersen posted a 69-68-17 record with a 3.20 GAA and .904 SV%. The Waterloo, Iowa native also represented the United States in three IIHF Men’s World Championships (2023. 2021, 2017), helping the U.S. to a bronze medal and earning Best Goaltender honors in 2021.
Walker, 28, posted 13 points (3-10=13) and 36 PIM in 70 contests this season, matching his career high for single season games played. The 5-11, 195-pound defenseman also made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut this spring, appearing in two games for the Kings. An undrafted college free agent signing by the Kings in 2017, Walker has played in parts of six NHL seasons for the Kings, earning 67 points (16-51=67) in 232 career NHL games. He added 45 points (13-32=45) in 86 AHL contests with the Ontario Reign, the Kings primary development affiliate in the AHL. Internationally, the Keswick, Ontario native represented Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, posting two assists (0-2=2) and 12 PIM in 10 tournament games on the way to a gold medal.
Grans, 21, skated in his second season with the Ontario Reign last season, recording nine points (2-7=9) in 59 games. In his two seasons with Ontario, Grans accumulated 33 points (9-24=33) in 115 career AHL games. Originally drafted by the Kings in the second round (35th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft, Grans also skated parts of three seasons with Malmo Redhawks of the Swedish Hockey League, totaling 15 points (4-11=15) in 69 games. The Ljungby, Sweden native represented Sweden at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, tallying four points (0-4=4) in seven games to help Sweden to a bronze medal.