finds himself in a unique predicament this month.
Even though he’s 38, the Los Angeles Kings’ captain would be the ideal rental for a contending team. He’s still a solid puck-moving defenseman and he’s used to the process, having already been dealt in-season once. Three months after that deal, he wound up lifting the Stanley Cup along with Ray Bourque and the Colorado Avalanche.
Blake’s proof that deadline deals actually do work. But this time around, Blake controls his fate with a no-trade clause. All he has to do now is figure out if it’s worth invoking.
“The main reason I came to L.A. is I want to build something here. It would be tough to leave that,” Blake told NHL.com. “I made that commitment to come here two years ago. That’s why I had that no-trade (clause) put in so I could make a decision.”
Blake didn’t have that seven years ago, and it wound up being the best thing for him. Not only did he win the Cup in 2001, he would play another four seasons in Colorado, including 45 more playoff games, before returning to the Kings two summers ago on a two-year contract worth $6 million per season.
The goal was to help his old team get back to respectability. It hasn’t quite worked out that way yet, but Blake doesn’t appear ready to give up.
“You don’t want to ever lose that itch and that’s a factor for sure, but in this case I made that commitment, and whether it’s as a player or if I’m in the organization after, to get to that Stanley Cup level again with this organization is the reason I came here,” Blake said. “It would be the ultimate reward at the end, and I do see the light at the end of that tunnel. Hopefully, we can get to that level.”
Right now, that seems so far off as the Kings are last in the NHL with a record of 21-30-3 and 45 points. They have allowed 3.23 goals per game, which is third-worst in the entire League.
Blake, though, feels the Kings are closer to respectability than most believe because they’re still breaking in a slew of young and talented players.
Fourth-year left wing Dustin Brown leads the League in hits and has 24 goals. Second-year center Anze Kopitar is an All-Star. Patrick O’Sullivan, another center in his second year, is having his breakout season. Plus, center Mike Cammalleri and left wing Alexander Frolov, who are each 25-years-old, are both productive scorers.
Toss in rookie defenseman Jack Johnson -- an All-Star in waiting -- and goalie Jonathan Bernier, who is playing in Lewiston of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Kings certainly do appear to have a nice young core of talented players.
It just hasn’t translated on the ice yet.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t think we’d be as bad as we are right now. That’s the frustrating part,” Blake said. “We do have a group of real good young players and they fill all the positions. Dustin Brown is a power forward. Cammalleri is a goal scorer. Kopitar is going to be the player on this team for the future. Than you have young Jack Johnson and Bernier in juniors. Every cornerstone to build is in place. It’s how you take it from that point on.”
One way is by adding more young assets; but to accomplish that task Blake may have to waive his no-trade clause.
But with the ball in his court this time around, Blake certainly doesn’t sound like a man who wants to pick up and go anywhere, even if the reward could come in the form of another Stanley Cup ring.
“You know there is a group of teams that can compete for the Cup and if they want to get a couple of guys just to push them over the top, I am totally for it,” Blake said. “If I was an older player without a Cup, maybe. My goal was to come here and to build something and that’s what I hope happens.”
That being said, even he admits you just never know.
“There will be a lot of speculation over the next few weeks for sure,” Blake said.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org