2014 LA KINGS DRAFT WRAP-UP: Confused about why the Los Angeles Kings traded away forward Linden Vey, one of their finest prospects? Here’s the answer…
LOS ANGELES — A little over two weeks has passed since the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second time in the last three seasons and while the team, the entire organization, and their fans continue to celebrate, the hard part of winning a championship has already hit the Kings front office…
…keeping the team that just won hockey’s Holy Grail together.
Days earlier, the Kings confirmed that they will not be able to sign veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell to a new contract due to salary cap constraints and with the cap for the 2014-15 season coming in at $69 million, about $2 million less than what most expected, teams like the Kings, who were already very close to the cap ceiling, are facing even greater challenges in terms of keeping their rosters intact.
With just $3.66 million of available cap space, the Kings do not have much wiggle room at all, and that fact is now reverberating in the minds of players throughout their system whose contracts expire on June 30, not just that of President/General Manager Dean Lombardi and his front office staff.
One of those players was forward prospect Linden Vey, who was traded to the Vancouver Canucks on June 28, during the second round of the 2014 National Hockey League Draft, in exchange for the Canucks’ second round selection in this year’s draft.
Many were stunned when the trade was announced, lamenting that the Kings would trade Vey, a home-grown prospect (selected in the fourth round, 96th overall of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft), who appeared to be right on the cusp of making the big club’s roster.
Don’t let appearances fool you.
Even though Vey had chances to show off his NHL-ready skill last season during several recalls from the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings have a logjam up front, especially at center, where Vey has been playing for the majority of his time in the Kings organization.
In short, there was no spot on the big club’s roster for him, even though he has paid his dues in the minor leagues.
Perhaps more important is that, as reported earlier, Vey’s entry-level contract expires on June 30. Although he would be a restricted free agent, once he was signed to a new contract, he could not be assigned to the minors without clearing waivers.
In other words, unless Vey made the Kings’ opening night roster, he would have to be placed on waivers before being assigned back to Manchester. To be sure, a top prospect like Vey would be quickly claimed by another team, leaving the Kings with nothing in return.
That left Lombardi with a pretty easy decision. The Kings had to try to trade Vey to a team that needed depth at center and could not afford to wait until their turn on the waiver wire came around in October.
Enter the Canucks, who do not have a whole lot coming up through the ranks at the center position, which was greatly weakened by the trade that sent Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks on June 27.
“There’s a lot of value to the player (Vey),” said Michael Futa, Kings Vice President of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. “Linden had paid his dues.”
The Canucks being needy at the center position presented the Kings with the opportunity they were looking for to move up and get a prospect they coveted. It also gave them the opportunity to honor Vey’s request for a trade—he too saw the writing on the wall with the Kings.
“You just look at the way things unfolded with [Vey’s] opportunity,” said Futa. “We set his asset value at a high-second or a mid-second round pick. The player we really felt strongly about, Roland McKeown, we had him rated in the first round. The fact that he was still there [at the 50th overall pick]—we felt that, after great debate, [the trade] was going to provide Linden with an opportunity, which he had requested, and it allowed us an opportunity to take a young defenseman who we coveted.”
In short, the trade benefits the Canucks, who added much-needed NHL-ready talent at the center position. But it also turned out to be the perfect deal for Vey and the Kings, who were able to grant Vey’s request and add a player of McKeown’s potential to the fold.
“He’s a player who will start fresh in our development system, and we think he is going to be a big part of things,” said Futa. “He’s an exceptional skater, and he’s been the captain or [alternate] captain on Hockey Canada teams—under-17 and under-18. He’s played [Drew] Doughty-like minutes at the junior level and probably played a little too much and, [as a result], got exposed too much, trying to do too much down the stretch. That might’ve hurt his rankings a little bit. But he’s already an NHL-[caliber] skater, and he’s a great athlete. Once he fills out, he’s only going to get better.”
“He was somebody we were just—[McKeown] was really the only name we had on our list who we felt would allow us to make the Vey deal and get value or better [in return],” added Futa.
Linden Vey (@LindenVey) June 28, 2014
Ending the 2013-14 season ranked 27th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, McKeown scored eleven goals and tallied 32 assists for 43 points, with a team-high +38 plus/minus rating in 62 regular season games with Kingston. In seven playoff games, he scored a goal and added three assists for four points, with a +6 plus/minus rating.
McKeown was an OHL All-Rookie First Team selection in 2012-13, leading all rookie defensemen with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 61 regular season games.
The 18-year-old native of Listowel, Ontario won the gold medal for Canada at the 2013 Under-18 World Junior Championships and at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. He also served as Canada’s captain at the IIHF 2013 Under-18 World Junior Championship.
“It’s a dream come true to come to a team like this,” McKeown told KingsVision. “They won the Stanley Cup—very successful organization. To [see] them trade for that pick makes it that much more special. It’s exciting to be off the board and to be a King now.”
As reported earlier, Futa said that McKeown is already an NHL-caliber skater and if you listen to McKeown, he sounds like one, too, sort of.
“I’m more of a transitional defenseman—get back for pucks, move pucks up ice, move it to the forwards and jump up into the rush,” he said.
Like so many young prospects, strength, conditioning and physical play will be areas that McKeown will be working on this summer.
“Especially in the [Western] Conference—it’s a big, strong conference,” he noted. “You’ve got to have a lot of strength to battle those guys in the corners, especially the guys rolling off the cycle. That’s an area I’ll work on.”
LA Kings At The 2014 NHL Draft – Wrap-Up
- 29th overall: Adrian Kempe, forward; 17 years old, 6-1, 178 pounds. Kramfors, Sweden. Plays for MODO (Swedish Hockey League).
- 50th (from Vancouver in exchange for Linden Vey): Roland McKeown (see details above).
- 60th overall: Alex Lintuniemi, defenseman; 18 years old, 6-2, 187 pounds. Helsinki, Finland. Plays for Ottawa 67’s (OHL).
- 90th: Michael Amadio, center; 18 years old, 6-1, 190 pounds; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Plays for North Bay Battalion (OHL).
- 120th: Steven Johnson, defenseman; 20 years old. 6-0, 185 pounds. Excelsior, Minnesota. Plays for the Omaha Lancers (USHL).
- 150th: Alec Dillon, goaltender; 18 years old, 6-5, 168 pounds. Nanaimo, British Columbia. Plays for the Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL; a Junior A-level league).
- 157th: Jake Marchment, center; 19 years old, 6-3, 201 pounds. Ajax, Ontario. Plays for the Belleville Bulls (OHL).
- 180th overall: Matt Mistele, left wing; 18 years old, 6-2, 183 pounds. Whitby, Ontario. Plays for the Plymouth Whalers (OHL).
- 209th: Spencer Watson, left wing; 18 years old, 5-10, 155 pounds. London, Ontario. Plays for the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).
- 210th: Jacob Middleton, defenseman; 18 years old, 6-3, 194 pounds. Wainwright, Alberta. Plays for the Ottawa 67’s (OHL).
Frozen Royalty’s 2014 Summer Prospects Coverage
- 2014 First Round Draft Pick Adrian Kempe Fits LA Kings Like A Glove
- Frozen Royalty Begins 2014 Off-Season Coverage With Photos From LA Kings 2014 Development Camp
- A Glimpse At The Critical Role Development Has Played In LA Kings’ Championships
- LA Kings 2014 1st Round Draft Pick Adrian Kempe Returns To Sweden, But Not Before Making Solid First Impression
- You’ll Have To Look Closely To See Where LA Kings LW Prospect Valentin Zykov Has Improved
- Polished Off The Ice, LA Kings’ Defenseman Prospect Roland McKeown Is Working To Be Equally Polished On It
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