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Deadline Targets: Battle-tested playoff veterans from the Los Angeles Kings

Welcome to Oilersnation’s Deadline Targets series. Over the next few weeks heading into the trade deadline, I’ll be walking through the teams expected to unload at the deadline and the players who could be fits on the Oilers for their playoff push. Today, we have the Los Angeles Kings.

Coming into the 2019-20 season, there was really only one completely predictable thing about the Pacific Division — the Los Angeles Kings were going to be bad.

After having so much success in the first half of the 2010s, Father Time caught up with the Kings. They’re now old and expensive and the focus has shifted to stocking up their farm system. L.A. finished 30th in the league last season, did nothing over the off-season, and could very well finish second-last again this season.

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The Kings are currently in a tank race with a handful of other bad teams. The Detroit Red Wings, who have a paltry 12 wins this season, pretty much have last place and top lottery odds locked up. The Kings are right in the mix with the Devils, Ducks, and Senators, all of whom are separated by just two points. In this unpredictable lottery world, getting as low in the standings is crucial, because you never know if you’re going to be the team that drops three spots in the draft.

We already talked about the Sens impending firesale will more than likely help their tanking efforts, so, today, we’ll talk about the Kings.

The Kings’ rebuild kicked off around this time last year when they dealt stud defenceman Jake Muzzin to the Leafs in exchange for prospect Sean Durzi and a first-round pick. They grabbed Swedish defenceman Tobias Bjornfot with Toronto’s pick and picked American forward Alex Turcotte with their own first pick at fifth overall.

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This year, we’ll likely see even more movement from the Kings.

L.A. is reportedly open to moving veteran two-way defenceman Alec Martinez, who has one more year left on his deal worth $4 million annually. The right-handed shooting Martinez doesn’t provide the offence he once did, as he has just six points through 32 games this year, but he has plenty of experience playing in important games as he’s been a key cog on L.A.’s blueline since 2010. I can’t see a Martinez deal that makes much sense for the Oilers, though, as this would ultimately just be picking up a right-handed version of Kris Russell.

The Kings’ batch of rental forwards is where Ken Holland would likely direct his attention. At the top of the list is sniper Tyler Toffoli, who would be a nice addition to Edmonton’s top-six. There are also depth forwards Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford, who would be upgrades in Edmonton’s bottom-six.

A few weeks back, Craig Custance did a look at 27 players who could possibly be moved ahead of the deadline. The second player listed was Toffoli, in which Custance said…

One executive said the expected asking price on Toffoli is a second-round pick and a prospect, which might make Toffoli more appealing for teams cringing at the idea of moving a first for a rental.

That’s a very reasonable price for Toffoli, a guy who’s only a couple of years removed from scoring 24 goals. Toffoli had a down year last season, scoring a career-low 13 goals in 81 games, but that can largely be chalked up to the Kings being one of the worst offensive teams in the league. This season, Toffoli has 12 goals in 49 games, a solid 20-goal pace.

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Apparently, the Flames are interested in Toffoli and the Bruins have been contemplating a deal for weeks. If more teams get involved in the coming weeks, that reasonable asking price could inflate. If Holland wants to avoid getting into a bidding war over a guy like Toffoli, he could end up looking at L.A.’s depth rental options instead.

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Earlier in the week, in an interview with Mark Spector, Holland talked about the importance of adding veteran depth to the lineup…

“Historically at this time of year a team’s looking for some experience. You’re always looking for some depth. There is the odd deadline where you can make a blockbuster — I acquired Chris Chelios at the deadline one year.

“What are we looking for? Is there someone who gives you a little more depth on defence? A little more depth up front? (Someone) who makes you just a little bit deeper.”

Though Lewis and Clifford aren’t game-changers, they do certainly add a wealth of experience to the roster. They also wouldn’t cost all that much to acquire at this stage. As we know, injuries and suspensions are a reality, and simply raising the floor of the roster could be huge down the stretch. Guys like Patrick Russell, Gaetan Haas, and Joakim Nygard have done as well as you could reasonably expect them to in checking roles, but inserting Kyle Clifford into the bottom-six would make the Oilers a better team as they push for the playoffs.