There were many reasons to be skeptical when the Kings acquired 35-year-old center Vinny Lecavalier from the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 6, along with defenseman Luke Schenn.
Lecavalier hadn't played much for Philadelphia and hadn't played at all since Nov. 12. How much could he help a team that wanted to rebuild its strength up the middle after losing veteran centers Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. Lecavalier's tying goal Sunday in the Kings' 3-2 overtime victory at San Jose was his fourth goal and fifth point in nine games, and he has been effective while averaging 12 minutes 57 seconds' ice time per game.
Schenn has averaged 17:51 while boosting the third defense pair, which had been a concern for Coach Darryl Sutter. The price the Kings paid — forward Jordan Weal and a third-round draft pick in June — makes this deal perhaps the best among the few trades completed this season.
"The guys make you feel welcome," Lecavalier said of why he has made an immediate impact. "I think they're a great bunch of guys and they've been playing together for so long and they have that great system. I'm still learning it and trying to get better at it."
Player movement through trades or waiver claims has been sluggish, though it will pick up as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches and teams begin to slide out of playoff contention.
Some trades to date have been change-of-scenery deals, such as the Chicago Blackhawks sending defenseman Trevor Daley to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Rob Scuderi, the New York Rangers sending Emerson Etem to the Vancouver Canucks for Nicklas Jensen and a draft pick, and the Ducks swapping Carl Hagelin to Pittsburgh for David Perron and Adam Clendening. The Ducks also sent Jiri Sekac, who couldn't win a top-six job, to Chicago for abrasive Ryan Garbutt. Perron had a point in each of his first three games with the Ducks.
In another high-profile deal, the defense-rich Nashville Predators sent Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen, who had run afoul of Coach John Tortorella. The Predators wanted a No. 1 center and Johansen has fit the bill, with three goals and nine points in his first eight games. The Blue Jackets, eager for a leader on defense, have played Jones an average of 24:31, almost five minutes more than his ice time with the Predators. It's a win-win situation.
Also, the Minnesota Wild's waiver pickup of Stoll from the Rangers has begun to pay off. He had two goals in three games before Minnesota faced the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and has fit in as a third- or fourth-line center, penalty killer and voice of experience.
"I think it's a really good fit," said Stoll, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Kings. "It's a Western Conference team that plays tight. They have some skill and quickness. It's nice to be wanted and have a role for you on the team and I'm just trying to take advantage of it."
Coach Mike Yeo said he knew Stoll was hard to play against. "What I didn't quite realize is what a great pro he is as far as on the bench, the things he's able to relay and the messages he has for the guys," Yeo said. "He's just been in so many of these games. Up a goal, down a goal, at the biggest moments he just has the right things to say."
Still at an impasse
Suspended Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin is working out in Montreal while waiting for his trade request to be granted.
After playing seven games for Syracuse of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment, Drouin asked to sit out two games because he didn't want to risk being injured before a trade was completed. General Manager Steve Yzerman instead suspended him, leaving the situation at a stalemate.
Understandably, Yzerman doesn't want to give Drouin away, but he doesn't seem to fit Tampa Bay's style or plans. The longer Drouin sits, the more his trade value diminishes. The market should become active soon, as teams decide if they're buyers or sellers, and it's best for Drouin to be traded so both sides can move on.
• Congrats to Boston College Coach Jerry York on his 1,000th career victory. York, who coached at Clarkson and Bowling Green before taking over at his alma mater in 1994, has won five NCAA Division I titles and has the most coaching wins in NCAA hockey history.
He has sent 65 players to the NHL, including retired players Dave Taylor, George McPhee and Rob Blake and current players Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Nathan Gerbe of the Carolina Hurricanes, Brian Gionta of the Buffalo Sabres, Jimmy Hayes of the Boston Bruins, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider of the Rangers, Brooks Orpik of the Washington Capitals and Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils. York won the NHL's Lester Patrick award in 2010 for his contributions to hockey in the United States.
• Dave Keon, 75, ended a decades-long feud with the Toronto Maple Leafs and agreed to let the team put a statue of him in its Legends Row display. Also to be honored are two fellow Hall of Famers, the late defenseman Tim Horton and the late goaltender Turk Broda.
• Hockey players dish out assists off the ice too. A Washington TV reporter, interviewing people at a gas station about their preparations for last weekend's snowstorm, found Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin at the pump filling a container so he could use his snowblower to help neighbors dig out. In New York, Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss used his truck and tow line to pull stranded drivers out of the snow.