Most everybody has heard by now of yesterday’s trade that saw the St. Louis Blues send enforcer D.J. King to Washington in exchange for forward prospect Stefan Della Rovere. It’s a relatively minor trade – a role player on one team for a depth prospect on another – but there were a few things about it I wanted to comment on.

First, some might object to my description of Della Rovere as a depth prospect, given that he’s twice represented Canada at the World Juniors and is just about as famous as a seventh round pick without an NHL game to his credit can be. The reality though is that while Della Rovere brings some things that don’t show up on the stats sheet – at the junior level he’s a premiere agitator – he is a small player who is going to struggle to generate offence as a professional. How bad is his offence, since he’s generally projected to be a Matt Cooke-type player? Well, let’s put it this way: in his draft year, Cooke scored 45 goals and recorded 91 points. In the two years since his draft year, Della Rovere has scored 45 goals and recorded 92 points. This is a player who projects in the sub-20 point range at the NHL level right now, and he desperately needs an offensive breakthrough as a professional – in either the AHL or possibly even the ECHL 0 if he wants to stay on NHL radar screens.

D.J. King has had some injury trouble and has just four goals and nine points in 101 NHL games, but he’s a pretty successful big league scrapper, with a career record of 18-4-5 according to hockeyfights.com.

This is a pretty good example of the way the trade route can occasionally be more efficient for NHL general managers than free agency. We observed other heavyweights (Jody Shelley and Derek Boogaard) get big money in free agency, and even if I believed an enforcer was an absolute must I’d have difficulty justifying the kind of money paid to those two when I could just flip a fringe prospect for a legitimate heavyweight.

This is also a good example of why it’s a bad idea to waste draft picks on heavyweight fighters – they always seem to be available for the equivalent of a late round pick, so blowing a third round pick on a guy who might one day develop into a player anyone can acquire for a fifth round pick doesn’t make any sense at all.

This is basically a no-lose move for St. Louis; as St. Louis Today writer Dan O’Neill points out, the team still has Cam Janssen and there aren’t many scenarios where it makes sense to dress two players with such specific roles. Ultimately, King’s health meant that he was the one deemed expendable.

I can understand the desire of some Capitals fans to have an enforcer on the team once again, and given that the team should run away with the Southeast I’d say they can more afford to spend a roster spot on a guy like King than most teams, but I had to laugh at some of the reactions. From On Frozen Blog:

The era of peacenik puck in D.C. has ended.
Mercifully. And emphatically.
Good riddance.
May it never return.
Here’s its tally sheet: zero Cups won, one playoff series won (barely), zero opponents intimidated. (Ever.)

I laugh because this was a regular-season move, not one made with the playoffs in mind. Virtually every team in the league slashed the ice-time for its enforcers once the games started really mattering, and while there were still fights they were more often between middleweights and more rounded players with some edge. The league’s playoff fight leader was Justin Abdelkader, who recorded two of his three career fights in the playoffs – and given that he has yet to win an NHL fight, he’s not going to be claiming a heavyweight crown any time soon.

Just because this was a regular season move doesn’t automatically make it a bad one, but the idea that a lack of enforcers is what was keeping Washington from playoff wins is pretty funny.

Fun coincidence: despite those 101 games, King has never played against the Washington Capitals.