TRADE: Also includes post-game audio interviews from Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings game on December 11, 2010.
LOS ANGELES — If anything has been crystal-clear about the Los Angeles Kings over the last couple of seasons, it is that they have a gaping hole in their lineup at left wing on their first line.
President/General Manager Dean Lombardi tried to fill that hole during the summer by going after then-unrestricted free agent superstar left wing Ilya Kovachuk. But he signed with the New Jersey Devils and has led them to the second-worst record in the National Hockey League this season as of this writing.
Lombardi was totally focused on acquiring Kovalchuk and apparently did not have a backup plan, as other options were gone by the time the Kings walked away from the fiasco that was Ilya Kovalchuk this past summer.
Since that time, Lombardi has been looking for the right player to fill that hole, and he still is, despite the December 11 acquisition of left wing Marco Sturm from the Boston Bruins in exchange for future considerations.
The 32-year-old native of Dingolfing, Germany scored 22 goals and added 15 assists for 37 points with thirty penalty minutes and earned a +14 plus/minus rating in 76 regular season games last season with the Bruins. He also appeared in seven playoff games last season.
The 6-0, 194-pound left wing has spent the last five seasons with the Bruins, scoring 106 goals and tallying 87 assists for 193 points with 156 penalty minutes and a +24 rating. He also served as an alternate captain.
Sturm, who has scored twenty goals in each of his last seven full seasons (2001-02 through 2007-08 and 2009-10; he missed most of 2008-09 season with a knee injury), was originally selected in the first round (21st overall) by the San Jose Sharks in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, when Lombardi was the Sharks’ general manager.
In 855 career regular season games with the Bruins and Sharks, Sturm has scored 234 goals and has contributed 232 assists for 466 points with 398 penalty minutes and has earned a +66 rating. In 52 career playoff games with the Bruins and Sharks, he has scored eight goals with eleven assists for 19 points with 22 penalty minutes.
Sturm, who was named to the 1999 NHL All-Star Team, set career highs with 29 goals and 59 points in 2005-06, when he split time with the Sharks and Bruins. He was traded to Boston with defenseman Brad Stuart and forward Wayne Primeau in exchange for center Joe Thornton on November 30, 2005.
Sturm has not played this season due to a knee injury suffered during Game One of the Bruins/Philadelphia Flyers Eastern Conference Semifinal series on May 1, 2010. As such, the trade is contingent upon him passing a physical examination and other tests.
“It’s still very much contingent upon the physical,” said Lombardi. “Usually, when you say it’s a physical, it’s a formality. But this is real. It’s why there’s been an extended time period on this one. There’s still a significant hurdle here.”
Sturm will fly to Los Angeles on December 12 and, on December 13, will undergo more than just a routine physical.
Indeed, the Kings will not rely on reports and other materials from the Bruins’ medical staff.
“The doctors can talk and exchange videos and everything, but there’s no substitute for our own doctors,” Lombardi explained. “So he’s flying here tomorrow. You’ve got to look at everything from an MRI [magnetic resource imaging test], strength test and everything else. He’s got to be put through the rigors.”
“The MRI, because it was a knee injury in the past,” Lombardi elaborated. “The old [knee injury] didn’t effect him when he played in the playoffs last year, but you’ve got to look at both of them.”
Assuming he passes medical muster, Sturm’s offensive ability should put him on the Kings’ first and/or second lines.
“I played against him a bit when he was in San Jose, early in my career, so I don’t know a whole lot about him,” said Kings right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “Reading about him, he provides a bit of a scoring touch, [and] when you’re concerned about scoring, every little bit helps.”
“He’s been in the league for awhile—that’s always a positive,” Brown added. “I don’t know his health situation, but if he can be a strong, two-way, second line or first line guy—that’s kind of what we’re juggling with right now, trying to find a person to fill that void, and he might be that guy.”
“[Sturm’s] resume is pretty good,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray. “When you look at it, on the offensive part of the game, he has put some pretty good numbers up in his career. He’s a well-rounded player who can play both ends. He’s a north-south player, he plays in all situations. [He has] speed, a lot of quickness. He’s going to put a lot of pressure on defensemen with wide attacks, and he’s a character guy, so we’re excited to bring him in.”
Lombardi said that he has been looking to add a player for the last month or so, especially after they lost forward Scott Parse for three or four months—perhaps much longer than that—to a hip labrum injury.
“When we found out Parse was going to be done—I’ve been looking at something since we found out about [him],” said Lombardi, who also explained that with so many teams still in the hunt at this point in the season, teams are not keen on making big trades.
“It’s really hard to find deals early in the year, there’s just not a lot happening out there,” he explained. “We started looking at this four weeks ago as a possibility, as well as looking at our other options. This was clearly our best option, and I think it’s a good option.”
“He’s a solid guy, he can play with good players,” he elaborated. “Assuming the knees are good, we know he brings a lot of speed, and he plays hard, so I think he can do a lot of things for us. This is a very strong option for us.”
For the Bruins, dealing Sturm was strictly for salary cap relief.
“He’s obviously a really good person and…when I was an agent, I actually co-represented him, so there’s a relationship there, too,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “But it helps us with our cap situation and as far as what we got in return, it was classified as future considerations, but really, it’s nothing.”
“Part of that speaks to the trading him now, versus trading him later on in the year, which we could have done also,” added Chiarelli. “But in fairness to Marco, it’d be good to allow him to begin his journey, so to speak, at a place that is a good landing spot for him.”
In Chiarelli’s view, the trade was a good one for both teams.
“Here’s a team where there is a prior relationship with Marco, and they got him for cheap and they wanted to do it now,” he said. “So there were a lot of positive factors in this circumstance that we felt that we had to act on.”
“I’m not trying to justify trading him for nothing. Of course you’d like to get a return for a good player, but that’s reality of the being able to do it now versus later, it helps both sides.”
The acquisition of Sturm, who is earning $3.5 million this season, the final year of his contract, will not prevent Lombardi from looking at other deals down the road.
“The [deal] keeps our flexibility,” Lombardi stressed. “His contract doesn’t take us out of pursuing other things at the trade deadline, as well as keeping all our options open next year, depending on how well all this works out. It works from a player standpoint, the character’s standpoint, and a contract standpoint.”
Again, assuming that he passes the physical tests, the Kings do not expect Sturm to be able to play until around Christmas.
“I think it’s probably safe to say closer to Christmas,” said Lombardi. “Until our doctors see him, I don’’t know if it makes much sense to guess. With what we’ve seen up to this point, it’s a reasonable assumption that if what we’ve seen matches what we find out Monday and Tuesday, he could play before Christmas.”
Once he hits the ice for the Kings—if he ever does—the big question is: with Sturm coming off a knee injury, how effective will he be, given that so many players coming off knee injuries take at least one year to get back to full speed and effectiveness?
Only time will tell. But even if he is not able to help the Kings because of the recovery time needed for knee injuries, at the very least, he will not cost the Kings anything of consequence—maybe not anything at all, other than his salary. Add to that the fact that Sturm is in the final year of his contract, the deal comes with virtually no risk.
Of course, then there’s that whole thing about not getting much in return without risk…
Raw audio interview with Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi
(4:36; edited to remove extraneous material and dead air)
Raw post-game audio interviews following Kings 3-2 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild at Staples Center on December 11:
Jonathan Quick (1:37)
Dustin Brown (5:14)
Terry Murray (8:09)
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