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By Kiffin McGinnis
Los Angeles Kings Writer
Las Vegas Writer
Accept it, Kings fans: the Dustin Brown era is over.
Never mind the fact that advanced metrics show a catastrophic decline in production, when was the last time you remember not having to squint at your TV screen to find Brown on the ice? Relegated to low minutes on the ice in 2015-16, Brown’s role as an on ice presence is starting to become something of a myth.
According to General Fanager, Brown has a $5.8M AAV on a contract that runs through 2020. When he signed that particular dotted line, he had just hoisted a Stanley Cup and brought something to Los Angeles few thought possible. But in recent years, his production has declined to a point that his cap hit is no longer sustainable.
There is always a question of trading him, but how difficult would that be? Put in the GM seat of LA, I wouldn’t take less than a second round pick for my former #13. The reasoning here is that many players see a lift in statistical positives upon trade or signing. Marian Gaborik is a great example, amassing 14 goals in the 2014 playoffs for LA after being acquired at the deadline. With a possibility of increased production against the team, the trade isn’t the way to go if the value isn’t there unless the compensation is something of true value (or in the case of the Kings, future value)
Enter Las Vegas, a city primed for its new sports team, hoping to be impactful during their first big introduction: The Expansion Draft. For those who don’t know, the expansion draft is a requirement to fill the roster of the Vegas team with players who are already NHL level; it gives the team some competitive spirit and a fighting chance at the elusive silver chalice. ESPN, NHL Network, NBC sports and any other website with a hockey writer has given a prospectus on who will be open for the Las Vegas based new guys to pick from the existing 30 teams. The question here is really “why not Dustin Brown”.
With the Kings pushed up against the salary cap, a hard-nosed, very physical, possession player like the Dustin Brown of old would be a benefit to a team looking to make a statement in their first season under the neon lights of Las Vegas. If Dustin Brown turned to form, he is (quite literally) a championship asset. He can score, he can skate – read watch him skate during 3-on-3 overtime – and he can hit harder than some of the biggest bruisers in the game – ask the Sedin twins. He has a silver medal from Vancouver, two Stanley cups, and he captained a very old franchise during some glory years. Not to mention Las Vegas has to meet 60-100% of the salary cap through the Expansion Draft. With LA protecting key elements and large contracts like those of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Quick, it seems almost inevitable that Brown will be open to be stolen.
With George McPhee being named as the GM of Las Vegas this afternoon, this could become a reality. Long time hockey fans remember the days when Washington Capitals meant Peter Bondra, Steve Konowalchuk, and the great Jaromir Jagr. During the 2003-04 season, McPhee dumped these players in a mass retooling of the Capitals roster that turned into a saving grace for the team in the long haul. That off season, getting to have the first pick in the draft, the rebuild started at the pearly gates of hockey; McPhee drafted Alex Ovechkin with the first pick. The Russian phenom has, as of this writing, over 500 goals in just over a decade of domination in the NHL. This, along with some coaching shakeups that worked well, cements in the mind the idea that McPhee knows what he is doing in a draft. He needs a winger like Ovechkin to cement the core of his new team. Dustin Brown has more high level winning experience than the Great 8, he has proven he suits the C, and a high Corsi shot-attempts for would, in theory, fit some small reason McPhee decided to draft Ovechkin over a decade ago.
Las Vegas is going to need some validation, some skill, some star power. Dustin Brown wearing the C for the team would fulfill those requirements. This writer isn’t in the LA locker room, but maybe something isn’t working anymore and a change of scenery will spark a turn around that helps the 30-year old be that #13 pick again. If so, the image of that toothless grin beneath the uplifted Stanley cup could happen, just wearing a different jersey.