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Sorry, Rick Nash: Dustin Brown just became the pretty girl at NHL trade deadline dance

Greg Wyshynski
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He's a 27-year-old forward averaged 27 goals over the last four seasons. He's been a leader on his team for several seasons, earning the captaincy. He's a physical presence, among the League leaders in hits each season.

No, Dustin Brown isn't Rick Nash. He's not a franchise-redefining offensive force, one that could challenge for the Richard Trophy if paired with the right centerman named Joe Thornton.

But if he's available -- and his sudden addition to the trading block does have a whiff of "motivational scare tactics", along with transactional logic -- Brown doesn't have way to veto a trade; and he's affordable, with $3.175 million cap hit and a contract that only runs two more seasons.

In the wake of the Jeff Carter trade, Dustin Brown suddenly become the hottest commodity of the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline.

But why would the Los Angeles Kings cut bait on their captain?

Bob McKenzie of TSN broke the news that Brown was available on Thursday night, stating that "Brown's potential availability is 'bigger' deal than Rick Nash in sense of how many more top teams involved."

The teams he's hearing: The Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks.

A few of those teams are in the Nash Derby, where the reported price tag is a roster player, two top-level prospects and a first-round draft choice, on top of the $7.8 million cap hit on the books through 2018.

Brown, obviously, is the cheaper model, in every sense.

If his captain is available, it's an indication that GM Dean Lombardi saw stagnation from his core at a time when games needed to start elevating to championship levels. Out goes Jack Johnson, their No. 2 cornerstone defenseman, for Jeff Carter. Now it's Brown that's on the block, potentially.

Coach Darryl Sutter called out Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown this week, in what might have been a harbinger of things to come for one of them. Sutter on Brown, whose partnership with Kopitar he called "stale":

As for Brown, Sutter shouldered some of the responsibility, noting Brown had scored once after moving to left wing about a month ago.

"He's a straight-line, up-and-down, go-to-the-net, shoot-the-puck, run-over-people player," Sutter said. "So just break it down. If he's doing those four or five things, he's effective. If he's not doing all those things, he's not effective."

Brown's availability was a stunner, no doubt, but conditions have changed for the Kings. They've regressed as a contender, forcing Lombardi to make dramatic moves behind the bench and through a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They also added a significant leader in Mike Richards last summer; and as Richards can tell you from his days in Philly, multiple captains in the same locker room usually means one will eventually pack up and vacate that room.

From Bobby Scribe, Kings blogger:

Dustin Brown is average, at best, defensively. He can hit. He is not mean. He is not edgy. He is smash mouth in his hitting only. He cannot fight. He is good for 15-25 goals per season and is wildly inconsistent from week to week. His hockey IQ is questionable.

Is he the L.A. Kings' intended identity? I don't believe so. I don't believe Dustin Brown represents what Dean Lombardi wants this team to become. That is not to say Lombardi is right but don't think for a second Mike Richards' arrival here was a happy accident. Richards is exactly what Dean wants. The player who is to the Kings what the Leonidas character was to the Spartans in the movie 300.

… if Dean Lombardi is still the L.A. Kings GM after this season, Dustin Brown will be playing elsewhere by the start of next season. I am not stating I agree with it but it is what I believe will occur.

So if his isn't just a fire lit under the captains posterior, perhaps a change in venue is in order for both parties. The Kings transition their roster further to FlyersWest, and Brown brings his physical game to another contender.

With due respect to Rick Nash, Brown may now be the most coveted forward available at the deadline. Acquiring him might not have the same dramatic impact, but it certainly won't have the same potential repercussions, either.

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