The Los Angeles Kings made their intentions ahead of the trade deadline clear on Monday when they traded defenceman Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospects Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi, plus Toronto’s first-round draft pick in 2019.
Kings general manager Rob Blake said after the trade was announced that the Kings will continue to focus on their future moving towards the Feb. 25 deadline.
"This is a move that obviously prepares for the future and going forward, and we’ve got a draft pick and some younger prospects in return, and whether it was now or at the deadline, it’s what we’ve been focused on here for a while, and this was one we got done here today," Blake said Monday night.
The Kings sit last in the Western Conference this season after being swept in the first round of the playoffs last spring by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
Blake said Muzzin was likely caught off-guard by the trade, but the Kings are "not comfortable" with where they currently are and have turned their focus to the long-term outlook.
“I’m sure it comes as a shock as it does for a lot of players when they get traded," Blake explained. "Like I said, they’re never easy conversations, and I’ll reiterate the amount of respect we have for Jake and what he’s been able to accomplish with our organization. He’s helped us win the Stanley Cup, and you can’t ask for more than that out of a player.
“We’re at the bottom of the league,” Blake added. “We don’t like the position we’re in at all. I think we’re in a position where we’re looking up every day in the standings. We’re not happy about where we are, we’re not comfortable with where we are, and now we have to make decisions for the best of the organization going forward.”
The Kings have three pending unrestricted free agents in Carl Hagelin, who was acquired earlier this season from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nate Thompson and Oscar Fantenberg.
Thompson is among the six Kings players who are age 30 or older, along with Ilya Kovalchuk (35), Dustin Brown (34), Jeff Carter (34), Dion Phaneuf (33) and Jonathan Quick (33).