If you looked at the Kings lineup in late December, then looked at it again in February and did a double-take, don’t worry; you aren’t seeing things.
That’s because among the 22 players who were on the Kings’ roster prior to GM Jay Seo’s arrival last month, only one – first-line winger Johnny Gaudreau – remains with the team.
We sat down with the Kings’ new GM to uncover the secrets behind his mad-scientist management style.
Many of your critics have argued that you took a wrecking ball to a perfectly good team. What happened?
I don’t know – I traded Kyle Connor in a surprise deal and the next thing you know, the whole team looks different.
Looking back, my goal was to build a deeper team. When I took the job, the roster had a few very high-quality pieces, but it lacked the depth and contract flexibility that top teams need to make a serious playoff run: it didn’t have a #1 defenseman, most of the star players were slated to become UFAs next season, both goaltenders were on one-year deals, and the forward depth was very suspect.
It can be tempting to address those issues by trying to trade aging veterans for younger, high-potential players, but that’s a very transparent approach that your fellow GMs will catch onto in short order.
I wanted to retool the team instead of pursuing a rebuild, so I knew had to trade good players in order to gain the depth and flexibility I needed for bigger moves. It’s taken a lot of work, but I’m happy with how this team looks now.
Of all your recent trades, which one was the hardest for you to make, and why?
Trading Kyle Connor to Chicago (for Anthony Cirelli, Robert Thomas, and Calle Jarnkrok) was very difficult, because if you deal the best player in a trade and it doesn’t work out, that can be a massive blow to your franchise.
I had to be very confident that Anthony Cirelli would be a long-term fit in my organization, Calle Jarnkrok had more offensive upside than he’d shown in Chicago, and Robert Thomas would live up to his potential. Thankfully, the success of that trade and its knock-on effects have been a big reason why my team’s in a good spot right now.
Rumors suggest that you (successfully) advocated to abolish the trade limit restriction because you want to set the league record for trades in a single season. Care to comment?
Can you repeat the question? Sorry, I’m on the phone.
You’ve made so many trades that nobody knows what your full-strength lineup looks like. Can you clue us in?
Nicklas Backstrom is set to return in three weeks; once he does, the lineup should look like this:
Johnny Gaudreau – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Tuch
Kirill Kaprizov – Anthony Cirelli – David Perron
Ondrej Palat – Brayden Schenn – Jakob Silfverberg
Calle Jarnkrok – Jay Beagle – Oskar Sundqvist
Seth Jones – Shea Theodore
Morgan Rielly – Dustin Byfuglien
Devon Toews – Danny DeKeyser
What are your goals for this season?
It’s still early, but I’d like to reach the Western Conference Final. Failing that, I hope my moves don’t backfire to the extent that the first-rounders I’ve traded away become lottery selections.
Johnny Gaudreau is the only player left from the previous GM’s tenure. How many lewd photos does he have of you?