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L.A. looking to upgrade on defense, Pearson a potential chip

Kings NHL Trade Deadline outlook

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com Correspondent

With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 29, NHL.com is taking a close look at what moves teams might be looking to make and whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Today, the Los Angeles Kings:

LOS ANGELES KINGS

Record: 32-18-3, 67 points; 1st in Pacific Division

Unrestricted free agents: Milan Lucic LW; Trevor Lewis, C; Christian Ehrhoff, D; Luke Schenn, D; Jamie McBain, D; Jhonas Enroth, G

Restricted free agents: Brayden McNabb, D

Projected 2016 draft picks: 3 (0 first)

Projected 2017 draft picks: 8 (1 first)

Needs: Defense depth

Surpluses: Forwards

Players Potentially in Play: Ehrhoff, McBain; Tanner Pearson, LW

Likely status: Buyer

Skinny: The Kings will continue to face issues with the NHL salary cap in the long term, but they still can obtain a rental player or depth to fortify themselves for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even after they acquired center Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in a Jan. 6 trade, the Kings still may improve those areas. The depth defensemen, McBain and Ehrhoff, who was placed on waivers Wednesday, are a weak spot, and McNabb has struggled at times. Lecavalier has resurrected his career, but the Kings offense has had bouts of individual inconsistency, particularly since center Jeff Carter sustained an upper-body injury Dec. 26. Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown have underperformed, as has Pearson, 23, a young power forward who was a healthy scratch Tuesday but could be a bargaining chip. The Kings are otherwise saddled with big contracts given to Brown and Gaborik, and their re-signing of Anze Kopitar put them further up against the cap. They would also like to re-sign Lucic and Lewis. Further shrinking their flexibility is the money tied up in Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, plus the $1.3 million annual penalty, according to generalfanager.com, for the buyout of Mike Richards. General manager Dean Lombardi previously has pulled off shrewd moves near the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Carter and Gaborik in 2012 and 2014, respectively, but those trades came when the Kings were fighting to get in the playoffs. With a stronghold on the Pacific Division, they are in a position of strength to make a move this time around.

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