Considering all the hemming and hawing about whether or not to rebuild when they were sitting outside of the playoff picture, and all the disappointing performances they’ve received from their big signings, trading Viktor Arvidsson was a surprise move from the Predators.
On Thursday, the Preds sent the Swedish winger to the Kings for the 40th overall pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022.
Over the past three seasons, Arvidsson was just one of five Predators to score over 100 points and ranked first in even-strength goals with 48. He had crafted a reputation for being a high-volume shooting winger with the rare right-hand shot who could play either side and, according to Natural Stat Trick, had generated very good puck possession numbers with a 5v5 CF% above 50 percent in each of his six full seasons in the league.
Arvidsson, by most accounts, was one of their most consistent producers on and trading him is a sign that the Preds are shaking things up with potentially more moves to come. For years, they were the models of consistency, having missed the playoffs just three times in their past 16 seasons, but a fourth straight early exit in the playoffs following their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2017 certainly warrants a lot of self-reflection and changes.
Moving Arvidsson’s $4.25-million cap hit will give the Preds more flexibility going forward as they continue to be hampered by Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene’s burdensome contracts, opening up close to $23 million in cap space with a current roster of 14, according to CapFriendly.
Arvidsson’s ability to generate shots will be missed, but it will also provide an opportunity for younger players on cheaper contracts such as Luke Kunin or Eeli Tolvanen to move into a bigger role on offense.
Making the trade also means Preds’ projected protected list for the Seattle expansion draft also becomes clearer. In the Vegas expansion draft, they were one of seven teams that elected to protect more than three defensemen, and trading Arvidsson certainly adds more credence to the idea that may go that route again.
Matt Larkin’s 8-1 projected protected list with five defensemen becomes closer to becoming reality, and the hope is that the Kraken could provide some relief by taking either Johansen or Duchene’s contract off the Preds’ books.
That still means one of Luke Kunin, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok will be available to the Kraken, but there’s always a chance all three remain where they are should the Preds make another move with three picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft; the Islanders traded a first-round pick to Vegas in the previous draft to ensure they picked goaltender Jean-Francois Berube while exposing quality forwards in Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
The Kings, meanwhile, are rapidly progressing into the next phase of their re-build. Drew Doughty told The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman that the Kings needed to “bring guys in,” and Arvidsson is a player who can help right away.
The Kings’ top-six is pretty fluid at the moment, rumored to be in the mix for Jack Eichel and potentially bringing in a slew of young players, but the most obvious place for Arvidsson to start is on Anze Kopitar’s wing.
Arvidsson is a right-hand shot comfortable playing the left side, but it also means Kopitar will have two right-hand shots on his line with Dustin Brown. That might be difficult for Kopitar to make plays to either wing; last season, it was mostly Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe on their line, both of whom were left-hand shots.
Brown could move down the lineup if Iafallo or Kempe stays and Arvidsson plays the right wing, but the Kopitar-Brown partnership has proven to be very effective in the past. Regardless, it’ll give the Kings a lot of options to configure their top-six however they want depending on what kind of game they want to play.
It bears mentioning that Arvidsson’s production has dipped in recent seasons, perhaps also because he has had trouble staying healthy, no thanks to a crosscheck from Robert Bortuzzo that forced him to miss weeks. Arvidsson’s played more than 70 games just twice in his career and missed 42 over the past three seasons and his goal totals have dipped from 34 to 15 to 10, and also went without a goal in two of his past three playoff runs.
Perhaps a change of scenery – and some added motivation to prove his former employers wrong – will invigorate the 28-year-old, who has 30-goal potential and should still be very much in his prime. The Kings were one of the worst offensive teams in the league last season, ranking 27th with just 2.54 GF/GP.
From a fantasy standpoint, the new scenery gives Arvidsson a big boost. Kopitar would be the most talented center he’s ever played with, and perhaps being the go-to shooter on his line instead of splitting duties with Forsberg will increase his offensive production.
For the Preds, it perhaps opens the door for Tolvanen, a highly-touted Finnish goal scorer who is still acclimating himself in the NHL, to become a fixture in the top six.