EL SEGUNDO, CA — Twelve days after winning the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship, the Los Angeles Kings made another big splash by signing veteran left wing Marian Gaborik to a new, seven-year contract that is reported to be worth $34.13 million.
According to several reports, the deal is a front-loaded contract that pays Gaborik $6.075 million in each of the first three years, $5.075 million in the fourth year, $4.575 in the fifth year, $3.175 million in the sixth year and $3.075 in the final year. That adds up to an annual average value (salary cap hit) of $4.875 million per season.
The new contract does not contain a no-movement or no-trade clause.
Gaborik, 32, led the National Hockey League with 14 playoff goals this past season, helping lead the Kings to the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship.
The 6-1, 204-pound native of Trencin, Slovakia was fourth in playoff scoring with 22 points, tied for second in playoff power play goals (three), and was tied for third in playoff power play points (eight), in 26 playoff games.
Gaborik was acquired by the Kings on March 5, 2014 from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, a second round draft selection in the 2014 or 2015 NHL Draft (Anaheim’s option) and a third round draft selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.
The second round pick in 2014 or 2015 going to Columbus was previously acquired by the Kings in the Jonathan Bernier deal with Toronto on June 23, 2013.
In a media conference call, Gaborik emphasized that his goal was to remain with the Kings.
“I wanted to stay here,” he said. “By winning the Cup and being with this group and this organization made me feel really feel at home. That, and the winning tradition really made the difference.”
“When I got here, right away, [it was] a great group of guys, great fans, and a great environment, in terms of lifestyle and everything,” he added. “That made a lot of sense for me. The number one thing, winning a [Stanley] Cup and getting a chance [to do that] year after year—to have a chance to win every game [also] made a lot of sense for me.”
Fitting in so quickly was also a factor in his decision.
“First thing after I got here, the guys welcomed me very warmly,” Gaborik noted. “They were great. Right away, I felt comfortable. That’s very important—to feel comfortable off the ice and have that [transfer] to play on the ice.”
Gaborik could have easily gotten a more lucrative contract from another team if he waited until unrestricted free agency begin on July 1. But money was secondary.
“I know I could’ve gotten more money if I had gone to [unrestricted free agency], but it wasn’t about money,” said Gaborik. “I wanted to stay here and be part of a great team.”
“It gives me some security, but at the same time, I wanted around six years,” added Gaborik. “We agreed on seven and I’m very happy about that. Security was important. But at the same time, to be with this organization was more important.”
“I wanted to stay here. If it didn’t go the way that it did, I would’ve, maybe, tried [unrestricted free agency]. But all along, I wanted to stay here. The organization knew it, the players knew it, everybody knew it, my agent knew it. That was my number one priority, to try to get a deal done here. I believed we could get it done, we did it, and I’m very happy about that.”
A seven-year deal is considerably longer than expected for Gaborik. But as he indicated, the Kings were looking to spread out his salary and lower the cap hit to an amount that will leave them with at least some flexibility with several players who must be signed to contract extensions this summer, including left wing Dwight King and most notably, defenseman Willie Mitchell.
The problem is that even with Gaborik accepting less money to play for the Kings, the team still has only $5.658 million left under the salary cap, assuming it reaches $71,000,000 next season. The Kings also have four key prospects (Andy Andreoff, Jean-Francois Berube, Brayden McNabb and Linden Vey), along with several others who need contract extensions this summer, and if the plan is have any of them play with the big club next season, that $5.658 million will not go very far. As such, the next player personnel moves for President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, outside of drafting young prospects this weekend, will be very, very interesting. In fact, even though he could still be with the Kings next season, don’t be surprised if Mitchell opts for unrestricted free agency.
Despite all that, this was a move that Lombardi had to make. He could not afford to allow Gaborik to get away, not after what he did during the playoffs. Gaborik was the elite sniper and playmaker the Kings needed, exactly what the doctor ordered.
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