Former Los Angeles Kings team captain Dustin Brown was scratched from this afternoon’s road contest in Boston. According to Jon Rosen of L.A. Kings Insider, Brown is battling an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Brown, who was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by Anze Kopitar this last summer, has had a moderate bounce-back campaign after the worst season of his career in 2015-16. Through 30 games Brown has contributed 14 points to the Kings attack and he’s already halfway to his points total from last year when he tallied 28 in 82 games. He is a five-time 20-goal scorer and netted 18 in the strike-shortened 2012-13 season.
With the expansion lurking around the corner, it’s been wondered whether the Vegas Golden Knights would gamble and take Brown, who is almost assuredly going to be left exposed by the Kings. While he is still capable of playing a physical role on a team’s third-line and obviously would provide the new franchise with veteran leadship, Brown has another five seasons left on his pact with an AAV of $5.875MM. Some have suggested the price tag would simply be too high for Vegas but if the Kings were willing to retain salary then it’s at least feasible the two sides could work out a trade following the expansion draft.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Division on this Sunday:
- Rosen also pointed out that it appeared right wing Marian Gaborik would be a healthy scratch today for the Kings based on what he saw at this morning’s warm-ups. That premise was confirmed by Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Gaborik, who has been prone to injuries throughout his career, has missed all but nine games this season after hurting his foot while representing Team Europe in the recent World Cup of Hockey. He has potted just a single goal to go along with three helpers in those nine appearances and it could be that Kings head coach Darryl Sutter is growing impatient waiting for the Slovakian sniper to find his offensive game. Gaboriak is averaging just 14:28 of ice time per game, a rate that is 3 1/2 minutes below his career average. Like Brown, Gaborik is in the midst of an expensive, long-term contract that has four seasons remaining beyond 2016-17, and comes with a cap charge of $4.875MM.
- Kevin Bieksa has spent the vast majority of his 11-year career as a reliable, two-way top-four blue liner. Now in his second season with Anaheim, the 35-year-old Bieksa is averaging less than 20 minutes of ice time per game for the first time since his 39-game debut campaign in 2005-06 while with Vancouver. As Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register writes, Bieksa is not only adjusting to a lesser role but he is adapting his playing style to mask the fact he is no longer a player in his prime. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has encouraged the veteran blue liner to embrace the adjustments: “I think every player has to become somewhat of a chameleon,” Carlyle said. “You have to change with the game and what’s going on with it. I coached Kevin Bieksa when he was in his first year pro out of college. He was not a player, I can tell you, that many people would have believed was going to be an NHL prospect. He worked and he committed. “His personality is one that he’s a striver. And he’s done that and he’s done very well. He’s had a great career. … There’s never ever been a doubt that this guy’s not going to try. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.” As Stephens noted, Bieksa has played less than 15 minutes in each of the team’s last two contests and is skating on the third-pair. Bieksa understands the situation he is in, and as always is willing to whatever it takes to help his team: “To be a good teammate, sometimes you have to take a role that maybe you don’t like,” he said. “But if that’s what they think is in the best interests of the team, you take it, accept it and you do the best that you can.” With a plethora of NHL-caliber defenders in the organization and little cap space available to upgrade the roster elsewhere at the deadline, there have been some suggestions the team could look to move Bieksa, who has one year left at $4MM, to create added flexibility. He does possess a NMC, which adds a further layer of complexity to making a deal beyond his salary and age, however.