DENVER -- The Los Angeles Kings would like to add a veteran defenseman on an expiring contract before the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline (Monday at 3 p.m. ET) in order to help reduce the number of minutes Drew Doughty will play for the balance of the regular season.
Doughty is third in the League in ice time per game at 28:24. He has played 30 or more minutes in five consecutive games, including a season-high 35:16 against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 18.
The Kings have a four-point lead on the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division.
"I think where we can do it maybe, is if you get a solid veteran defenseman that can kill penalties, he'll take 30-45 seconds of a penalty kill away, and those are hard minutes on a 'D'," Kings assistant GM Rob Blake said Friday before playing for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game at Coors Field. "If we can take some of that away from [Doughty] and get him down that would be good, but come playoff time he'll be half a game."
The issue the Kings are dealing with is the cost for veteran defenseman before the deadline.
Blake said the Kings are reluctant to part with a high draft pick after trading their first-round pick last year for defenseman Andrej Sekera only to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs and watch him sign with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings don't have a first-round pick this year, which makes it doubly difficult to consider trading their second-round pick, Blake said.
Los Angeles could look to trade higher picks in future drafts the way the San Jose Sharks did to get Roman Polak and forward Nick Spaling from the Toronto Maple Leafs (second-round picks in 2017 and 2018) or the Washington Capitals did to get Mike Weber from the Buffalo Sabres (third-round pick in 2017). However, Blake made it sound as if the Kings are reluctant to do that.
"We have a window of I think five years, probably, if you look at our core with [Anze] Kopitar, [Drew] Doughty, [Jonathan] Quick and [Jeff] Carter, so it's about adding the right piece," Blake said. "Cap-wise, we're obviously tight against it going forward, but we have a little wiggle room this year so it'll have to be a UFA. But I don't think [general manager] Dean [Lombardi] is willing to move high-end picks anymore. We don't have a first this year and we do have to restock a little in the minors. Dean has been real conscious the last few weeks of looking at our drafts picks, the ones that have turned out and the ones we have moved. I know he's a little cautious."
The top rental defensemen who could be traded before the deadline Monday likely are Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks and Kris Russell of the Calgary Flames.
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Justin Schultz, slated to be a restricted free agent after the season, could be intriguing to a lot of teams too, but he wouldn't be a rental, which means the Kings would have to consider him for their cap going forward.
Kings defensemen Luke Schenn and Jamie McBain can become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Brayden McNabb can be a restricted free agent.
"I think we could look to improve the bottom-end of our defense and it might not be as costly," Blake said. "Our top three with Doughty, [Jake] Muzzin and [Alec] Martinez, they're solid, but the bottom end we might be able to fill with a veteran that can help us in situations.
"It'll be interesting. Dean does his job very well. He talks to everybody and looks at everything. I'm sure he'll have something."