Column: Kings ‘a little scared of the fire’ Jonathan Quick could bring to Vegas rivalry
Funny how the puck bounces, eh?
A day after the Kings traded two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick to Columbus to upgrade their goaltending for what they hope will be a long playoff run they learned Quick had been traded again — and is now in position to block their postseason path.
The Blue Jackets, rebuilding as they sit at the bottom of the NHL East, acquired Quick from the Kings on Wednesday for draft picks, goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov. Before Quick could be issued a new jersey or jump when the cannon booms at Nationwide Arena, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen performed a noble deed Thursday by flipping Quick to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Columbus got a minor league goalie and a late draft pick from Vegas for retaining 50% of Quick’s salary-cap hit and making the numbers fit for the Golden Knights. “We just wanted to do the right thing for a future Hall of Famer, Jonathan Quick,” Kekalainen told NHL Network. “He gets to stay close to home, with his family, and gets to play for a team that’s in the playoff picture and is going for the Stanley Cup.”
Jonathan Quick led the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships, but for them to contend again the front office needed to make changes.
The Golden Knights undoubtedly liked Quick’s competitiveness, pedigree and playoff experience enough to ignore the reduced effectiveness that led the Kings to decide they had to move past Quick in order to move forward. Quick can be valuable in Vegas’ locker room, where he will sit among former Kings teammates Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez and Michael Amadio. Quick might get some playing time, too, because Vegas’ goaltending corps has been hit hard by injuries.
Still reeling after Quick’s shocking departure as they prepared to face Montreal at Crypto.com Arena on Thursday, the Kings had to digest the new and confusing thought that Quick has become a Pacific Division rival, not an ally.
“I’m a little scared of the fire he’s probably going to have in his belly if we do play him,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “It’s not going to be easy, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”
“The last two days it’s affected us a lot. It’s really sad and unexpected. And it sucks seeing one of your best friends of your life leave.”
— Drew Doughty, Kings defenseman, on the team trading away Jonathan Quick
And they’ve got to adjust to life without Quick. That process began Thursday, when Gavrikov, who had been held out of several Columbus games in anticipation of being traded, was paired on defense with Sean Walker. Gavrikov, wearing No. 84, made his debut early in the first period against the Canadiens. Korpisalo, wearing No. 70, backed up goalie Pheonix Copley.
On a purely hockey level, Doughty saw the merit of general manager Rob Blake’s move to bring muscle and size to the Kings’ defense.
“You love seeing that part. We got a really good team here and we’re playing for the division title right now and we think we’ve got a really good chance and there’s no doubt about it that he added some good pieces for us,” Doughty said. “So from that standpoint, I think we’re really happy with that.”
Veteran Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is equally deft at turning away competitors for his job and shots on goal, defying time and chasing wins.
But on an emotional level, the trade hasn’t completely hit home yet. Especially with Doughty and Anze Kopitar, now the last two players remaining from the Kings’ Cup championship teams.
The abruptness shook them. They left the ice at Winnipeg on Tuesday on a high, after a 6-5 comeback shootout victory, only to be shaken 10 or 15 minutes later by news that Quick was no longer one of them.
“The last two days it’s affected us a lot. It’s really sad and unexpected. And it sucks seeing one of your best friends of your life leave,” Doughty said. “Just so many emotions.
“It sucked. That’s the bottom line. Never wanted to see Quickie go. Expected to play with him the rest of my career. I don’t love that he’s gone at all but it’s hockey. It’s business. Sometimes things happen that you’re not going to like.”
Kopitar said his bond with Quick is “a brotherhood that’s never going to go away,” but acknowledged it was strange that Quick wasn’t at Thursday’s morning skate. “The bottom line is we’ve got to deal with it and look to the road ahead and wish him all the best in his journey,” Kopitar said.
Even if, in a strange twist, Quick’s journey has put him in the Kings’ way.
There’s a precedent for the Kings trading a goalie to the East only to have him bounce back to the West: In 2015 they traded Martin Jones to Boston, but Boston flipped Jones to San Jose a few days later. This turn of events is bigger, more elevated, because Quick was the backbone of their success and Jones was merely one of many goalies who unsuccessfully challenged Quick’s No. 1 status over the years.
“It was super tough. Probably the toughest moment of my hockey career, anyway, to see him go,” Doughty said of Quick. “We have no choice but to move on past it and get ready for the next game. Nothing’s going to heal those feelings we had [Wednesday] and the day before but we’ve got to move on.”
Move on and move up — unless Quick gets in their way.
Gabe Vilardi and Anze Kopitar score in the third period and Pheonix Copley makes 19 saves in the Kings 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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