|Jeff Halpern |
|Fredrik Modin |
The Kings did something subtle, but notable, as Wednesday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline approached.
They acted like a playoff team.
Gone, it seems, are the days when the Kings would make a cross-your-fingers trade, giving up prospects for a player who might (or might not) make a big impact. Gone, certainly, are the days when the Kings would dump soon-to-expire contracts for draft picks and prospects.
When the Kings acquired forwards Jeff Halpern (from Tampa Bay, for Teddy Purcell and a third-round draft pick) and Fredrik Modin (from Columbus, for a conditional seventh-round pick), they showed something not often seen in recent years: confidence.
In acquiring two veteran forwards - Halpern is 33, Modin is 35 - the Kings didn’t make flashy deadline-day deals, but they filled areas of need among their bottom-six forwards and got two players with leadership potential and whose games are playoff-ready.
In short, the Kings simply fine-tuned.
Happy with the play of their young forwards, defensemen and goalie, they sought complementary players and avoided the temptation of giving up prospects for a higher-end player who might tamper with team chemistry.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, in looking at trade options, said he looked less at big names and more at players who would "fit" the Kings’ needs.
"That's the big word there," Lombardi said. "I think that, in terms of what was in the marketplace, that was the key thing, to find guys that fit. We looked at the guys we had written down, and we said, `What elements would we like to add to this group, or what fits better right now?' I think both of these guys bring something that rounds out the mix.
"We felt this was a way to improve our team without getting into our top prospects and top draft picks, things like that. So I think it worked out. We bridged that gap between getting something that helps this team without getting into your top prospects and picks."
Halpern and Modin were expected to arrive in Nashville on Wednesday night and be on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate, in advance of the game against the Predators.
Coach Terry Murray indicated that, at least at the start, Halpern was likely to center the Kings’ fourth line, with Modin on the wing. On Wednesday, the Kings also sent fourth-line forwards Marc-Andre Cliche
and Oscar Moller to Manchester, and called up Scott Parse
, so the fourth line could have a completely different look Thursday.
Halpern, in his 11th NHL season, has 131 goals and 183 assists in 704 games. This season, he had nine goals and eight assists in 55 games with Tampa Bay. Halpern has leadership experience, as captain of the U.S. team in the 2008 World Championships.
Modin, in his 13th NHL season, has 222 goals and 225 assists in 838 games. This season, he had two goals and four assists in 24 games with Columbus and has dealt with a knee injury and a recent virus. Modin won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The seventh-round pick the Kings gave up to get Modin is conditional, based in part on how many games Modin is able to play for the Kings. Both players are due to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
The only player the Kings lost in the deal was Purcell, a 24-year-old winger who struggled to hold down a regular spot with the Kings. Purcell had eight goals and 17 assists in 91 games with the Kings, including three goals and three assists in 41 games this season. Purcell had been a healthy scratch in 21 games this season.
"The one thing, to his credit, is that through this entire period, he never stopped working hard in practice," Lombardi said. "That's a great sign, that the kid never got frustrated and started pouting in practice. That never happened with him. I've seen kids go through that, and then they start going south on you. He kept on working. I just think he lost his confidence. Guys like him, with his skill, he's got to have confidence because his game relies on having the puck and making plays.
"I've seen this before. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a fresh start and, boom, some things come back for him. But unfortunately, he probably he hit a wall here. It's a good move for Tampa to take a shot at him."