A pair of Western Conference contenders have swung a deal to help each other out with their depth. The Chicago Blackhawks are reporting that they have acquired forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling. The Blackhawks have confirmed that Latta will remain in the AHL for now and will report to the Rockford Ice Hogs, while there has been no word yet from the Kings on Schilling, as they struck the deal just prior to their game against the New York Islanders tonight.
While the trade is somewhat of a minor one, it is interesting in a couple different ways. The first, is that it is an exchange of former teammates. Both Latta and Schilling made their NHL debuts with the Washington Capitals and played for the team for three years, including playing together in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Schilling signed with Washington as a college free agent out of Miami University in 2012, while Latta was acquired by the Caps alongside Martin Erat in a trade with the Nashville Predators for Filip Forsberg (a trade they would rather forget). The second interesting detail is that both players left Washington via free agency, only to land with teams who had yet to give them a shot at NHL play time. Schilling had only played in six games with the Capitals over three seasons and had zero points to show for it, but halfway through his second year with the Chicago Blackhawks, the blue liner had yet to even be promoted to, nevertheless actually play for, the team. Latta, on the other hand, skated in 113 games for Washington in his three seasons, mostly playing an energy line role and contributing just 17 points, but was a starter nonetheless and a fan favorite. In his first season with the L.A. Kings, Latta too had yet to earn a call-up despite having a regular NHL role in his previous location.
Both players are now heading to new teams with new possibilities for NHL ice time. While Latta is not quite what the Blackhawks are looking for in their search for an impact top-six forward, he is a reliable bottom-six player and the team can bring out the best in just about every forward who plays there. Already, Chicago fans have expressed their delight with the deal, excited to see how an experienced center with some physicality and grit can help out a lineup that is littered with young, streaky players. Latta has just six points with the AHL’s Ontario Reign so far this year, but has continued to play a smart, two-way game in the minor leagues. While he’ll remain in the AHL for now, expect Latta to step in and play well for the Blackhawks when he gets the chance. Meanwhile, Schilling is likely itching to get into a game with the Kings as soon as possible. The 28-year-old has just six NHL contests on his resume, despite an ability to move the puck and contribute in all three zones at the AHL level. Schilling has scored at least 16 points in each of his five AHL seasons, but has 17 points already in 2016-17, on pace for his best AHL season to date. However, he hopes to instead contribute at the top level, and Los Angeles may need him too. Though the Kings have a strong defensive core of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and breakout blue liner Derek Forbort, there are questions behind them. Brayden McNabb has been limited to just 17 games this season due to injury, while veterans Matt Greene and Tom Gilbert have played little and contributed even less. Rookie Kevin Gravel has played 30 games, but is very limited in his offensive ability. If the Kings need another puck-mover in the lineup, Schilling appears to be the next man up. While the trade is a win-win for Chicago and Los Angeles, it appears to be so for Latta and Schilling as well.