On July 1st, the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, despite the lack of an official Stanley Cup champion, kicked off the NHL offseason, as LA dealt a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick to Nashville in exchange for Viktor Arvidsson. This season, in 50 games, Arvidsson scored 10 goals and registered 15 assists for 25 points. In his career (385 games), he scored 127 goals and had 112 assists for 239 points (0.62 points per game) all with the Predators. Arvidsson has three years remaining on his current contract with a $4.25 million AAV. After this move, the Predators have about $22.8 million in cap space, which will most likely be used to re-sign key pieces such as Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Eeli Tolvanen, Dante Fabbro, and Juuse Saros, who are all without contracts for the 2021-22 season. That number could increase to around $30 million if Seattle opts to select either Ryan Johansen or Matt Duchene in the upcoming expansion draft.
This is a significant trade for the Los Angeles Kings, and it could lead to the weaponization of cap space for teams that have a large amount across the league. The picks they dealt in this deal were extra picks they had from previous deals, as they still have each of their own selections in these respective drafts and rounds. The 2021 2nd rounder heading to Nashville was acquired by the Kings in the Alec Martinez trade with Vegas, and the 202 3rd rounder was acquired by the Kings dealing Jeff Carter to the Penguins this trade deadline. Even with them adding Arvidsson’s $4.25 million cap hit, the Kings still have around $15 million in cap space heading into the expansion draft, which could be used to potentially take on a bad deal for the purpose of accumulating more young assets to an already rich farm system. Viktor Arvidsson will instantly be one of the Kings top-six forwards upon arrival and will make an immediate impact in year one. At 28 years of age, Arvidsson can be the elite winger to ease the transition to the NHL for the Kings talented young center prospects in 2020 2nd overall pick, Quinton Byfield, and 2019 5th overall pick, Alex Turcotte. Arvidsson has always been a talented goal scorer, as he averages 21 a season, and even set the Predators single season franchise goal record with 34 in 2018-19. Since entering the league in 2015-16, Arvidsson has also been one of Nashville’s best players in terms of AB, as he registered back-to-back +10 individual AB seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18. His 16-17 score was the best on the team, and his 17-18 score was one of nine Predators above the +10 threshold. His +5.53 individual AB score was third among all Predators this season, behind only Mattias Ekholm (+7.76) and Calle Jarnkrok (+7.73). With all that being said, the addition of our coach’s evaluation metric gives us a new perspective on trade analysis, as we will go into detail about during the next paragraph.
Viktor Arvidsson spent the last two seasons playing for Coach John Hynes in Nashville. In these seasons, his average individual AB score was +1.96, tremendously exceeding Hynes’ career average individual AB score of players at -2.80. Of various nationality position groups, Hynes’ -2.22 average AB score of a forward from Sweden was his second lowest of all his forward groups (+0.78 forwards outside CAN,USA,SWE,FIN,RUS, -1.70 forwards from Finland, -1.89 forwards from the United States, -1.97 forwards from Russia, -2.22 forwards from Sweden, and -3.51 forwards from Canada.) Hynes’ advantage percentage of 34%, tells us that 66% of all of the players who either don’t return to him the following season, or that are brought into a team coached by him, register worse AB scores under him than the other coach in the instance. On the other hand, his new coach in Los Angeles, Todd McLellan, has an advantage percentage of 50%, meaning Arvidsson has a solid chance to improve his already excellent +5.53 score in LA next season. Arvidsson is a career positive player as we discussed, and he will be the most talented forward from Sweden that Todd McLellan has coached in our fourteen year study. McLellan has coached Anton Lander, Lias Andersson, Melker Karlsson, Carl Grundstrom, and Adrian Kempe since 2007-08, and only Lander registered a positive individual score (+0.04). For that reason, forwards from Sweden are McLellan’s worst forward position group according to our data (+1.38 “other”, +0.28 Canada, +0.26 United States, -1.73 Russia, -2.93 Finland, and -3.53 Sweden). However, McLellan’s average individual player AB score is -0.55, which is +2.25 higher than John Hynes’. Our data has McLellan (21st overall coaching AB among active coaches) as a better head coach than Hynes (26th overall coaching AB among active coaches) without question, and it’ll be interesting to see if Arvidsson performs better as a result.
To address the Predators side, Nashville has an abundance of talented young defensemen we believe Seattle would be highly interested in should they become available. However, what this trade signals to us are that a scenario where the Predators protect five defensemen and three forwards using the eight skater option is entirely possible. Roman Josi has a NMC and must be protected (as he would’ve been regardless) and letting Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm walk for nothing simply will not happen either. This creates the debate of whether or not to protect their two young defensemen in Dante Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier as opposed to going the seven forward route with the three defensemen we previously listed. However, the exposure requirements state that teams must leave at least two forwards who are under contract during the 2021-22 season that have played either 40 games in the 2020-21 NHL season, or a combined 70+ games in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, one defensemen, and one goalie who meet the same criteria. In this scenario, Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin, and Colton Sissons would be the three forwards the team would protect, leaving Calle Jarnkrok, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Johansen exposed. They would then be exposing six eligible forwards, two eligible defensemen, and one eligible goalie. Essentially, this forces Seattle to think about taking one of Nashville’s bad contracts off their hands without losing draft picks or assets to make it happen elsewhere. Perhaps they end up doing so anyway in order to protect save of the two defensemen (Carrier or Fabbro) that they’d have to leave exposed if they opted to protect four forwards instead of three, meaning they could keep Calle Jarnkrok from being exposed as well. Regardless of the protection list Nashville is going to submit, we believe one of Johansen or Duchene will be a member of the Seattle Kraken for the foreseeable future, as they both make $8 million until 2025 and 2026, respectively. If we had to choose, it would be Johansen, as he is younger than Duchene by two years and has less term on his deal. If Arvidsson were still in the fold, and they opted to go with this option, we believe he would’ve definitely been Seattle’s selection regardless of the defensemen available. Due to this, we think the Predators and David Poile were wise to accumulate solid draft capital as opposed to potentially losing Arvidsson for nothing.
If trades such as this one become more common in the weeks leading up to the expansion draft, then we are in for a very fun summer ahead. We believe both teams did well given their respective situations outlined in this article, however, if Arvidsson improves his scores under Todd McLellan like we think he will, the Kings will without question be the winners of this deal. There is still much work to be done in Nashville on the expansion front, as hard decisions will have to be made in a relatively short amount of time. They will be a team we will be following very closely leading up to expansion, as we can’t wait to see what David Poile and company have in store for the rest of the offseason. Much more to come.