Meet the Buyers: The Los Angeles Kings need a goaltender, and Jacob Markström could be the fix

Photo credit:© Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
4 months ago
The team we’re looking at today has had a weird season.
This is Meet the Buyers, where we look at teams that are contenders for the Stanley Cup, and what they need to improve their chances. The Calgary Flames have two players – Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin – set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Moreover, the Flames could flip Andrei Kuzmenko or Yegor Sharangovich for a maximum return at this season’s deadline, but it’s unlikely.
In this edition, we’ll look at the Los Angeles Kings, along with their needs, their assets, and the cap situation of both teams.

The needs of the Los Angeles Kings

In the last Meet the Buyers article, we looked at the New Jersey Devils and how they and the Flames had discussions surrounding Jacob Markström. Well, it’s going to be much of the same in this article, as the Kings’ goaltending situation has been hurting them for nearly two months now.
Prior to the Kings’ eight-game losing streak that started after their Christmas break, former Flame Cam Talbot had a .925 save percentage in 22 games played, along with a 14-6-2 record and two shutouts. The 36-year-old netminder was among the league’s best, was chosen as the Kings’ All-Star selection, and was on pace to be a potential Vezina Trophy nominee.
Since the start of the Kings decline on December 28 – the start of the eight-game losing streak -, Talbot has an .885 save percentage in 12 games, along with a 1-7-3 record. This has given the starters’ crease to another former Flame, David Rittich.
Like Talbot, Rittich started his season great, posting a .919 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against average in 15 games played, along with a 8-2-3 record. Unlike Talbot, Rittich hasn’t quite fallen off just yet, as the Kings are 4-1-0 in their last five since the All-Star break, and Rittich has three of those wins.
However, Rittich hasn’t taken on a starter’s workload since the 2019-20 season with the Flames, where he had 48 games played and a .907 save percentage and 2.97 goals against average. Interestingly, he shared the crease with Talbot that season as well, with Talbot being the backup netminder.
If we’ve learned anything from watching Talbot go from a Vezina Trophy candidate to dropping to a .911 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average in a span of 12 games, it’s probably that the Kings’ defence is good, and the quality of the netminders is that of a backup at best.
Well, enter bonafide starter, Jacob Markström. This season, the 34-year-old has a .913 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average in 35 games, along with two shutouts and a 18-15-2 record. It’s not a stretch to say that the reason the Flames are around a wild card spot is because of Markström, who consistently bails out the team in most games he plays in.
Not just that, but since Markström has an additional two seasons of contract remaining with a cap hit of $6 million, the Kings will have stable netminding until the end of the 2025-26 season. This would also allow them to use Rittich and/or Talbot in a backup role.
There’s also a case that the Kings could use a right-shot defender, as youngster Brandt Clarke is currently on the second pairing according to Daily Faceoff’s daily lines. They could use a battle-tested, hard-nosed defender like Chris Tanev in this spot instead of a rookie with less than 20 games played. More on Clarke later.
There’s a great fit there if the Kings want to make a serious move, but do they have the assets to pull it off?

What assets do the Los Angeles Kings have to offer

According to The Hockey Writers mid-season update, the Kings have the 21st-best farm system in all of hockey. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler is a little higher on them, ranking the team as the 17th-best farm system in the league.
The Hockey Writers have Brandt Clarke, Francesco Pinelli, Koehn Ziemmer, Jakub Dvorak, and Alex Turcotte as the Kings top five prospects, while Wheeler has Clarke, Turcotte, Alex Laferriere, Erik Portillo, and Ziemmer as his top five. Let’s take a look at these seven prospects.
Clarke is a right-shot defenceman who has 18 National Hockey League games under his belt. The 21-year-old has a goal and four points in nine games this season, and is currently playing on the second pairing as mentioned earlier. Clarke is going to be a good player for a while to come and even has eight goals and 33 points in 32 American Hockey League games, but he lacks the experience needed in a playoff race.
Pinelli is a left-shot centre who the Kings selected in the second-round of the 2021 draft. This season, the 20-year-old is playing for the Ontario Reign of the AHL in his first professional season, where he has five goals and nine points in 42 games. It’s a bit of a learning curve, and his 41 goals and 90 points in 60 Ontario Hockey League games in 2022-23 is an encouraging sign that he’ll figure out the professional level.
Ziemmer was the Kings’ third-round pick in the 2023 draft. This season with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, he has 11 goals and 31 points in 20 games. However, he’s dealing with a long-term injured ankle sustained during a fight. During the 2022-23 season, he scored 41 goals and 89 points and was pacing to have 37 goals and 105 points.
Dvorak was the Kings’ second-round pick in the 2023 draft. The left-shot defenceman started his season in Czechia with HC Bílí Tygři Liberec, where he scored two goals and three points in 19 games before moving to North America to play with the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL. With the Broncos, the 18-year-old has a goal and eight points in the 17 games, facing off against opposition his age instead of guys like Jaromír Jágr in the top flight of Czechia.
Turcotte was the Kings’ fifth-overall selection in the 2019 draft, but has had a long and winding journey to finally make it to the NHL this season. So far, he has a goal and two points in seven games, which is all the point scoring he’s done in his 19 games total in the NHL. With the Ontario Reign this season, the left-shot centre has seven goals and 23 points in 30 games and the potential to be a good player is still there for Turcotte.
Laferriere is not to be confused with Alexis Lafrenière of the New York Rangers, who was selected with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Kings’ Laferriere is an American who was selected with the 83rd-overall pick in the 2020 draft, and has seven goals and 16 points in 52 games this season. He’s a right-shot right winger who may not be considered a prospect for much longer.
Portillo was actually selected by the Buffalo Sabres in 2019, but was traded for a third-round pick in Mar. 2023 to the Kings. This season is his first in the AHL, where he has a .919 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average in 24 games with the Reign. On top of that, he has a 13-8-2 record with two shutouts.
As for their draft pick situation according to Puckpedia, the Kings have traded away their 2024 second-round, third-round, and fifth-round pick, but do still have a valuable asset in their first-round pick in the 2024 draft. On top of that, they have all of their remaining draft picks for the 2025, 2026, and 2027 drafts.

The cap situation of both teams

Where it becomes difficult to make a trade is with the Kings cap situation. According to Puckpedia, the Kings have just $770,021 in current cap space, with a projected cap hit of $-2,766,273 by the end of the season. To make matters worse, they have $4,351,690 on their LTIR pool, with defenceman Carl Gundstrom recently hitting the LTIR and joining Blaze Lizotte and Pheonix Copley.
Unfortunately for the Kings, retention carries over throughout the length of the contract. That means that if the Kings hope to get Markström, the Flames would all but need to retain 50% of his $6 million salary for the remainder of the contract that ends after the 2025-26 season. The Kings would first need to send money back the other way, and due to the long-term retention, would need to pay a significant price to do so. But hey, this may be a necessary move to get out of the first round.

In conclusion

There’s definitely a fit that works between the two teams, and the Kings even have some young, interesting pieces that could help the Flames in the near future. Where this gets difficult is due to the cap situation of the Kings, as they are right against the cap and would need to do a money in, money out type deal with the help of the Flames.
A trade for Markström to the Kings probably wouldn’t happen until the off-season, but who knows. Perhaps there’s also a pathway for the Kings to trade for Tanev.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.
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