Tonight it was announced that the Kings have acquired defenseman Robyn Regehr from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for the Kings’ second-round picks in the 2014 and 2015 NHL Entry Drafts.
Regehr, a left-handed shooting veteran Canadian blueliner who will turn 33 years old later this month and is in his 13th NHL season, was a first-round draft pick (19th overall) of the Colorado Avalanche in 1998, but never played for the team, and was traded to the Calgary Flames not even a year after being drafted by the Avalanche. Regehr then spent 11 seasons as a Flame before waiving his full no-movement clause to accept a trade to Buffalo before last season (Regehr also had to waive it to join the Kings). In 931 NHL games in the regular season, Regehr has 30 goals and 140 assists to go along with a plus-14 rating and 879 penalty minutes. In 41 playoff games, he has three goals and 12 assists to go along with a plus-9 rating and 28 penalty minutes. Here are some more numbers: in 76 games last season, Regehr had a goal and four assists to go along with a minus-12 rating and 56 penalty minutes, and his best statistical season came in 2005-2006, when he had six goals and 20 assists to go along with a plus-six rating and 67 penalty minutes in just 68 games. This year, he has two assists in 29 games to go along with a minus-4 rating and 21 penalty minutes. Clearly, Regehr is not a guy the Kings are bringing in to provide a bunch of offense, but for most of his career he’s been a guy who’s been a tough, solid, stay-at-home defenseman, and the Kings are hoping he can provide that for them. Regehr wore #28 in Calgary (which is worn by Jarret Stoll in Los Angeles) and #24 in Buffalo (which is worn by Colin Fraser in LA), so we’ll see what number he decides to pick. To make room on the roster for Regehr, the Kings are expected to send Tyler Toffoli back down to AHL where he’ll rejoin the Manchester Monarchs. I’m fine with that. Toffoli likely isn’t ready for the NHL yet, but it was nice to see him get a cup of coffee with the Kings as a reward for his strong play. In fact, he looked alright in his brief stint in the NHL, and even put up a pair of goals and three assists in seven games. The Kings could even call him back up once the rosters expand after the trade deadline. (UPDATE: Dustin Penner was placed on injured reserve — he apparently suffered a lower-body injury yesterday — to make room on the roster for Regehr, so Toffoli may get a bit more time up here after all).
However, Regehr has had his struggles lately, and didn’t live up to the expectations people had for him as a Sabre. But, he was a guy who, despite only averaging 18:39 of ice time per game this year, was constantly playing against teams’ top players, and led the Sabres with 3:15 of average time on ice on the penalty kill this year. Regehr isn’t the same player he once was, and with a reduced role as a King (although it obviously remains to be seen how he’ll be used), he could see his performance increase. Regehr is in the last season of a five-year contract worth $20.1 million.
Now, I’m not really happy with this deal for the Kings. Regehr hasn’t been very good lately, he’s almost 33 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and two second round picks isn’t exactly giving up chopped liver. Further more, I don’t feel defense was a big need for the Kings. I think people have totally overblown that because of the injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, but coming into today, the Kings are giving up just 24.3 shots per game on average, which is the second best total in the league. The top pairing of Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty has been nice. Muzzin is a rookie who’s defensive play still leaves something to be desired at times, but Doughty’s been fantastic in his own end and covering up for him all year, while Muzzin’s been covering up for the poor offensive season Doughty is having. The second pairing of Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov has been steady all year. On the third pairing, Keaton Ellerby, who the Kings acquired from the Florida Panthers earlier this year, has looked more and more comfortable lately and I have no qualms with having him on the third pairing. Alec Martinez hasn’t had a great year, and Davis Drewiske is what he is (a sixth/seventh defenseman), but I have no problem having those guys battle it out for the last spot, knowing they need to play well or they will be sitting for the other guy. But for some reason, Darryl Sutter has stuck with Martinez, not giving Drewiske a shot. Regehr is a guy who at this point I’m not sure how much better he is than Martinez and Drewiske, and I certainly don’t think he’s enough of an upgrade to warrant giving up a pair of second rounders. Besides, what the Kings need is better goaltending from Jonathan Quick or for Sutter to play Jonathan Bernier more. Their defense is fine. What they also need more than defense is a left wing for the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Penner just isn’t getting it done nearly consistently enough, so we’ll see if Dean Lombardi addresses that before this season’s trade deadline at 3:00 PM ET on Wednesday.
Martinez and Ellerby are also younger guys who still may have some upside, but now one of them (which should be Martinez) will be sitting, which isn’t exactly how you develop guys. It’s sounding more and more like Mitchell won’t play this season, but if Greene comes back, I imagine both Martinez and Ellerby will be sitting. I’m not the biggest Martinez fan and personally I question his upside, so I’m not too upset about him sitting, but I like the way Ellerby’s game has improved, and not only has he been better than Regehr this year, but he’s younger, and I would not be thrilled if this trade means he sits when this defense gets healthy (although it’s possible both Mitchell and Greene don’t return this season). On the other hand, perhaps Lombardi feels that those guys pretty much are what they are at this point, and I guess he feels Regehr is an upgrade (who also brings more experience), and the goal for the Kings is to win now, so giving up a couple of second rounders to upgrade the blue line is worth it to him. Hopefully Regehr plays well and justifies that, and this is also a guy who’s familiar with Sutter, who coached him in Calgary for three seasons from 2002-2006, and also was general manager during Regehr’s time in Calgary from 2004-2010. Perhaps that familiarity will help him, but I still feel this is an unnecessary addition to the Kings, one that they overpaid for, and one that may not even be an upgrade. If it becomes evident that Regehr isn’t playing like one of the six best defensemen on the Kings, hopefully Sutter won’t hesitate to sit him, but Sutter has shown that he has his favourites, and Regehr appears to be one of them. You wonder how much input he had in getting this deal done. Ultimately, we’ll see what Sutter decides to do with the defense now that it features Regehr, possibly even as soon as tomorrow night, when the Kings finish their five-game road trip with a game against the Phoenix Coyotes. That would be quite a nice introduction to the Kings for Regehr, starting his tenure with them against their biggest rival, but there’s no word yet on whether Regehr will play tomorrow. And yes, I missed the last two games because I was away, but I am back now, so be sure to check in for my post-game reaction after tomorrow’s game.