Trading for a player is never about what he's doing with his old team, but rather about what he can provide his new club.
Alec Martinez is a member of the Vegas Golden Knights today because the organization believes he can improve their defense corps. Martinez will move from the Los Angeles Kings, where he was constantly forced to stop leaks, to being a piece of a group on the rise. Martinez, who has one goal and seven assists through 41 games this season, will almost certainly see an uptick in his results in Vegas as he is surrounded by winning teammates.
Vegas sent two second round draft picks to the Kings in exchange for a two-time Stanley Cup defender who has this season and next left on a contract which pays the 32-year-old a very reasonable $4 million per season.
"We get a guy with real good leadership ability. Very versatile in that he plays left defense and right defense equally well. Excellent penalty-killing defenseman. Good in transition, and a player that we really feel is going to improve our team and have a significant impact on our group," said Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon.
"We feel he is going to fit in very well as a teammate, a person and we really feel that we made ourselves better. This trade, in many respects, brings full circle the strategy that we went into the offseason with last year, a situation where we were over the salary cap. We had to make some decisions that involved veteran players and rostered players and we wanted to acquire draft picks in return to build capital for decisions and moves just like this. So part of the strategy was to add draft choices, which we did with I believe two second-round picks, a third-round pick, a fifth-round pick, a conditional fifth-round pick, and we didn't take a player away from our team. We improve without subtracting, which is really important to us."
The Golden Knights remain in a surplus situation holding three picks above the standard allotment in the next three years. Vegas moved their own second-round pick in 2020 and a second in 2021 previously acquired from the St. Louis Blues.
The deal was set up by the Golden Knights during the offseason when they made deals to shed salary cap. Trades which sent Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres for a second and fifth round pick; moving Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes while bringing back Nick Roy plus a conditional fifth as well as trade that sent Nikita Gusev to the New Jersey Devils for a second and third.
With wins in three straight and five of its last seven, Vegas sits second in the Pacific Division while Martinez's old team the Los Angeles Kings are last in the conference and second from the bottom of the NHL.
Martinez has spent this season attempting to put out a defensive zone inferno. In Vegas he'll be part of a defense, which under head coach Pete DeBoer, has been trying to add fuel to the club's offensive fire.
The market for defensemen got hot over the last few days with New Jersey moving Andy Greene to the New York Islanders, Ottawa shipping Dylan Demelo to the Winnipeg Jets and the San Jose Sharks trading Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals.
Martinez is about to spend much less time behind his own blue line. Judging Martinez on what he's done in LA the last two seasons would be shortsighted. He's been fighting injury while skating on a team in the middle of a restructuring.
Now Martinez is healthy and moving to a playoff contender.
Think of Ilya Kovalchuck who was so mired in the Kings troubles he became unusable and eventually the recipient of a contract termination. Kovalchuck, after escaping LA, signed a league minimum contract with the Montreal Canadiens and has exploded with six goals and 12 points in 20 games with the Habs.
Martinez has been logging just less than 22 minutes per game with the Kings.
"I know the coach, Todd McLellan, he's a smart guy and he's trying to win every night," said Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer. "Ice time and how a coach like that uses people is the best testament to how they're playing and how they're valued."