The Vegas Golden Knights completed a trade for defenseman Alec Martinez from the LA Kings on Wednesday, giving up two second round picks, one each in 2020 and 2021. Martinez, age 32, has one year remaining on his $4 million AAV contract after this season, which means this is not a strict deadline deal.
Some may say this is already looking like a good deal, as Martinez had a goal and an assist in Vegas’ 5-3 win over Tampa Bay last night.
But that was one game. A hell of a game arguably, but still just one game. What can Martinez bring to Vegas for this final stretch of games in the regular season?
Martinez most likely completes the Vegas Golden Knights’ top four, a spot they’ve been looking to shore up since the departure of Colin Miller during the offseason. Martinez isn’t quite the same player as Miller, however, with now two goals and eight assists so far this season and 4-14—18 in 60 games last season, he’s fallen off his peak of 9-30—39 in 2016-17.
He also comes in with valuable playoff experience, having won two Stanley Cup Championships with the Kings, including 10 points in the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup run. Martinez had a hand in the two most important games in those playoffs, Game 7 overtime against the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final and the double overtime goal against the Rangers to win the Cup.
However, the current season will be six years removed from that run and Martinez is likely not the same player. But that doesn’t mean he’s bad. He’s played the second-most time as the Los Angeles Kings’ power-play quarterback, scoring the most goals per 60 as Drew Doughty, and not allowing a shorthanded goal against.
Martinez has been used in an incredibly defensive-focused role this season for the Kings. Shea Theodore could use a partner like Martinez, who can help him in his own end and form an ideal shutdown unit, one that can move the puck back out of the zone and back onto the attack with speed.
Martinez’s skill and history in the playoffs is also something somebody like Theodore can learn from, as Theodore has seen exponential growth in the postseason so far in his Vegas career, but a mentor like Martinez who’s been there and done that could help him even further.
Not that Theodore needs the help, as he leads the Golden Knights by a wide margin with 9.3 expected goals above replacement and that is good for 12th among defensemen this season, ahead of John Carlson and Quinn Hughes.
But somebody needs to play with Shea, somebody who should, ideally, be able to help him and allow Theodore the chance to play up to his potential role as a number one defenseman. Martinez may be the closest the Vegas Golden Knights have come to that player.
Two second round picks could lead to players who can help the Golden Knights down the road, but with five in the next two drafts before the trade, they had picks to spare. If the belief is that Vegas has a chance at not just contention, but being a legitimate Stanley Cup threat this season, and with the way everything but goaltending has performed this season, that belief should exist, getting a player like Martinez was necessary.
Now, it’s time to see whether that move pays off. For one game, so far so good. In case you missed it, here is Martinez starting his debut with a bang as he scores a goal in the first period against the Lightning.
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