Rumors claiming the Los Angeles Kings were shopping right winger Dustin Brown made headlines in the weekend leading up to this year’s NHL trade deadline.
It was initially reported Feb. 23 the Kings were in trade discussions regarding Brown and goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
The following day, the story escalated to the point where Brown was believed to be available. The Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Oilers, Devils and Sabres were said to be interested in the Kings captain, with the asking price believed to be a good young defenseman (apparently to replace Jack Johnson, who’d been shipped to Columbus in the Jeff Carter deal) and an established secondary scorer.
By the evening of Feb. 24, the story had created such buzz Kings GM Dean Lombardi was forced to deny Brown was on the market.
It was believed Lombardi may have spoken with two teams about Brown, but the story leaked and blew up into speculation Brown was available. The Kings were then presented with a deluge of offers, resulting in Lombardi’s subsequent denial.
Brown wasn’t moved by the trade deadline, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation over his future with the Kings.
Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News last Sunday suggested Brown will “likely be traded in the off-season,” an opinion that could spread among the hockey punditry in the summer.
It’s been suggested the reason behind Lombardi’s supposed willingness to discuss Brown with other clubs was to hand off the captaincy of the team to Mike Richards, who was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers until he was dealt to the Kings last summer.
If there were any issue with Brown’s captaincy, it wasn’t raised over the course of this season, nor have there been any reports of Richards coveting the ‘C.’
A more likely reason Lombardi fielded offers for Brown was the Kings’ woeful offensive production.
Only the Minnesota Wild have scored fewer goals this season than the Kings, prompting Lombardi to acquire Richards’ old Flyers teammate Carter in late-February.
Brown plays an all-round, physical game, but is also prone to offensive slumps. He’s currently on pace for 23 goals and 49 points, well down from his 33-goal, 60-point career highs from 2007-08.
He’s signed through 2013-14 at an average annual cap hit of $3.175 million and doesn’t have any sort of movement clause.
The Kings have been the only team Brown has played for in his eight-year NHL career, but their performance down the stretch and into the playoffs – provided they qualify – will determine his future with the Kings.
Lombardi has sought first-line scoring depth for his club since the summer of 2010, when he tried to woo then-free agent left winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who ultimately signed with the New Jersey Devils.
Since last fall, the Kings have been rumored as a potential suitor for Devils captain Zach Parise. If he decides to hit the open market this summer, Lombardi is expected to be among the bidders.
With 20 players under contract for next season at a cap hit of $54.245 million, Lombardi has room to sign Parise this summer.
Given the uncertainty over the impact the next collective bargaining agreement will have on the salary cap, however, the Kings GM might need to move out some salary to give himself sufficient cap space to add a first-line scorer like Parise, as well as bolster his depth elsewhere in the lineup.
If Lombardi fails to land a first-line scorer via free agency, he might have to turn to the trade market.
Brown would be his most valuable trade chip, certainly more valuable than Bernier, who has plenty of potential but has yet to prove himself as a starting goaltender.
A strong finish and a solid performance in the playoffs could ensure Brown remains in Los Angeles beyond this season. It could also bolster his trade value and add more fuel to the rumors heading into the summer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.