NEWS/ANALYSIS: The Los Angeles Kings made quite the splash on Trade Deadline Day 2014, with the acquisition of high-powered sniper Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Was this a good trade for the Kings? A bad one? Does it push them ahead of the pack of legitimate Stanley Cup contenders? For answers to these questions, and for comments on the deal from Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, read on…
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Now former Los Angeles Kings right wing Matt Frattin was skating during the Kings’ March 5 practice when the news broke that he had been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with a 2014 or 2015 second round draft pick (obtained from Toronto in the June 23, 2013 trade that sent goaltender Jonathan Bernier to Toronto, in exchange for Frattin, and goaltender Ben Scrivens; Toronto has the option on the year), and a conditional third round draft pick, in exchange for oft-injured sniper Marian Gaborik.
Frattin stayed on the ice for some extra work after practice had ended. But as players began to head to the dressing room, head coach Darryl Sutter emerged—a highly unusual sight after practice—to deliver the news the moment Frattin stepped off the ice.
“It’s a business, and that’s what happens,” said the 26-year-old, 6-0, 205-pound native of Edmonton, Alberta. “It’s going to be tough leaving this group of guys, but hopefully, I’ll get more ice time there. It’s a fresh start, and they’re a good team that’s in the playoff hunt.”
Frattin was mildly surprised at the news.
“I haven’t played in five games, so I’m sure something was going on,” he noted. “Every trade is a surprise. You don’t expect it, but if it happens, you’ve just got to move on.”
“[The Kings are] really good, really deep,” he added. “They’ve got a lot of young guys, and they’re going for that playoff push. All the best to them. Same with Columbus. They’re in the playoff hunt. They need wins, too, to make the playoffs. That’s something I want to contribute [to].”
Frattin, who scored just two goals with four assists for six points in forty games with the Kings this season, was never able to get untracked after coming over from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer.
“The Western Conference is different [from the] Eastern Conference, [in terms of] the strategies they play, and how [good] the teams are here,” Frattin noted. “There’s also good teams in the Eastern Conference.”
“Matt’s a great guy, a good player,” said veteran defenseman Matt Greene. “It’s tough. Coming here, he just never could find a good fit. But he worked extremely hard. He came with a good attitude every day. I think he’ll be a good fit in Columbus. They’re a hard-working team there, and he can fit into that.”
Despite his struggles, Frattin indicated that he enjoyed his time with the Kings.
“The guys welcomed me pretty quick in August, when I came down,” he said. “They’ve been great. I’m definitely going to miss the guys here.”
“[Playing for the Kings] was awesome,” he added. “Living here is great, the team is great. [There is] not as much media [as in Toronto]. It was fun. [I’m] sad to leave, but it’s a business, and you’ve got to move on.”
Moving on is exactly what the Kings did shortly thereafter…literally, as they flew to Winnipeg about one hour after practice ended.
Gaborik is expected meet the Kings in Winnipeg, where they skate against the Jets tonight (4:00 PM PST).
“High-level speed,” Greene said about Gaborik. “A scorer. He gives us an option on the wing. It’s going to be fun to see him play. We’ll see what happens.”
“You need scoring, so you go out and get a scorer,” Greene added. “It shows a lot [about] what [Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi is] trying to do here. He’s trying to fill needs that we have, and to go out and be active on trade deadline day, it’s a good thing.”
“To get a guy to come in and help us with scoring, it’s going to be a big boost.”
That boost is exactly what Lombardi had in mind.
“He is a player who brings an element that we thought we’d like to add to our mix,” said Lombardi. “There’s very few players who are capable of doing what he does in his game, so it was a very short list for us. One of the reasons we initiated discussions was because I thought this was the only guy who might be available who had these dimensions.”
“I think we all know what he’s capable of bringing,” added Lombardi. “One is, hopefully, he’s healthy. He’s going to have to catch-up after having been off for so long. He’s going to have to work his way through. But we’re a very good team. If you were looking for what you could add to the mix, it’s fair to say that he’s a player who can make something out of nothing with his speed and ability.”
Talks with the Blue Jackets began right around January 1.
“I inquired about him, I believe, right after New Year’s,” Lombardi noted. “That’s kind of when we started the process, and then, it filters out from there, with his injury, and whether they move him.”
“[The process] picked up about two weeks ago, and then, as usual, it goes to 11:00 last night, and it starts again at 5:00 this morning, and it goes right down to the end,” Lombardi added.
To get the deal done, the Blue Jackets had to agree to retain a portion of Gaborik’s salary.
“For us to get in under the [salary] cap, they had to [retain] fifty percent—there’s not as much, obviously, since you’ve only got [19 games] left,” Lombardi explained. “That’s the only reason we had to send Linden Vey down. We wanted to keep Linden here, but I had to move a guy down to get under with Gaborik at fifty percent.”
Lombardi also explained how the third round conditional picks works.
“We pay the third if we re-sign him, or if we win the first round [of the playoffs],” he said. “We don’t pay anything if one of those two things don’t happen.”
Lombardi stressed that Gaborik will be expected to give the Kings a goal-scoring lift, while fitting in with the way the team plays.
“You want to make sure your team has all the weapons necessary,” said Lombardi. “I think this was one weapon that we were lacking. But the key for us in this—it’s why I stayed away from some other deals—because I don’t want to lose our identity.”
“The challenge for Marian is going to be, one, that this is a very different conference,” added Lombardi. “We know how physical—we’ve all seen with St. Louis and San Jose—those [are the kinds of playoff] series that make you sore just watching them. There’s not a lot of space, so that’s going to be an adjustment too.”
“It’s buying into the way this team performs, not changing your game, but knowing you have to do those little things and then go do with those God given gifts you have that very few people have. But you have to take the first step first. All those little things that I’m talking about are, essentially, just being a teammate.”
To be sure, Gaborik’s persona will not be able to overpower that of the current leadership group in the Kings’ dressing room.
“Everybody’s got to pay a price and that’s why this team has had success,” Lombardi explained. “The high-end guys like [Anze] Kopitar, [Jeff] Carter, [Drew] Doughty—all these guys have never lost sight of the fact that there’s a price to be paid, now go do your thing. That’s what we’re expecting from him—meshing with that team and then bring to this team what it does not have in its arsenal—an explosive player that can make something out of nothing.”
“It’s interesting too…like [assistant general manager Rob Blake] said, and [veteran defenseman] Robyn Regehr had told Darryl this,” Lombardi elaborated. “This guy, when he’s on, is one of the hardest players in the league to play against. Not in a physical sense, but he’s very difficult to defend. You have to be cognizant of him on the rink all the time.”
“Again, it’s a weapon that I’ve felt we would like to add to the mix here to throw a little bit of everything at you, but not at the expense of what this team stands for.”
Although conventional wisdom suggests that Gaborik will be a playoff-run rental for the Kings, there is a good chance that he could sign a contract extension with them.
“You know how I feel about mercenaries,” said Lombardi. “The other thing I liked about this…Columbus gave us permission to talk to his agent. Marian wanted to come here before, don’t forget, before he went to New York. But I didn’t think it was the right time. He was very interested in playing here, but I thought where our franchise was at, it wasn’t the right time. I thought we needed to put other things in place first before you added a player like this. But that kind of dovetails. If he wanted to be here then, and now, OK, he’s coming here. He’s talked to his agent. He clearly wanted to come here. He’d like to stay here. I like that he’s coming here with the purpose of staying here versus some of things you saw out there with some of the free agents where the player says, ‘I’m going to July 1.’”
“I have a hard time thinking somebody’s going to go get his head smashed in St. Louis or San Jose when he’s already talking about going July 1,” added Lombardi. “So that’s the other factor, he wants to be part of the fabric of this team, versus somebody who’s already told you, ‘I want to go to July 1.’”
“To me, it’s too hard in the playoffs. It’s too hard not to be completely invested in that process. [If a player is thinking], ‘well, my goal is to go to July 1, and I have no interest, well I might have interest, but I want to see what else is out there,’ I don’t know if that’s going to cut it when you’ve got [St. Louis Blues players Roman] Polak and [Barrett] Jackman out there staring you down. That’s the other thing that we’ve checked out here, in terms of his attitude in coming here. His agent, who’s here in L.A., was very clear that he’s hoping it works out so he can stay here and I’m comfortable with that situation.”
Good Deal? Bad? Mediocre?
On the surface, either for a rental, or if Gaborik re-signs, Lombardi got a potential sniper who has scored thirty or more goals eight times in his 15-year National Hockey League career. As he noted, the 6-1, 204-pound native of Trencin, Slovakia has speed and is a true sniper when it comes to scoring goals.
That said, Gaborik is no spring chicken at 32 years of age, and has been plagued by injuries throughout his NHL career. In fact, since he began his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild in 2000-01, he has played a full season just once, in 2011-12 with the New York Rangers. He came close in 2002-03 with the Wild, when he missed just one regular season game. He also had 77 and 78-game seasons with Minnesota.
Other than that, Gaborik has missed ten or more regular season games in seven of his 15 NHL seasons, and this season, due to a broken collarbone, he has played in just 22 games for the Blue Jackets, scoring six goals and adding eight assists for 14 points.
In other words, Gaborik has been a M*A*S*H unit on skates. But if he can somehow break the curse and remain healthy for an extended period, he could give the Kings the added dimension that Lombardi mentioned—a game breaker who can create something out of nothing.
If Gaborik can give the Kings some added scoring punch, or open things up for his teammates just by being on the ice, the trade will be a good one for them, even if he ends up being a playoff rental. However, no one should get too excited about this deal, as the addition of Gaborik alone does not push the Kings ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks in terms of being a favorite to win the Stanley Cup this season.
Trade Deadline Wrap-Up
The Kings were also involved in a roster move, a contract signing, and two other trades on deadline day:
- As mentioned earlier, in what Lombardi described as move made “…purely because of [a lack of salary] cap space,” forward Linden Vey was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate.
- Signed goaltending prospect Patrik Bartosak to a three-year, entry level deal.
- Acquired forward James Livingston from the San Jose Sharks for a conditional seventh round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. Livingston, 24, has scored four goals and has tallied eleven assists for 15 points with 22 penalty minutes in 53 games with the Worcester Sharks of the AHL this season. He was originally selected by the Blues in the third round (70th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Livingston is expected to report to the Monarchs.
- Acquired defenseman Brayden McNabb, right wing Jonathan Parker, and second round picks in the 2014 and 2015 NHL Drafts from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forward/defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers and right wing Hudson Fasching. Parker, 22, who has split time between the Rochester Americans of the AHL and the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. The 5-10, 195-pound native of Solana Beach, California, had a breakout season in 2010-11 with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, scoring 45 goals and adding 41 assists for 86 points in 71 regular season games, but has not come close to that kind of success at the ECHL or AHL level.
For more on the McNabb deal, check out: LA Kings Trade For Defenseman Brayden McNabb Likely More Important Than Gaborik Deal
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.