The Los Angeles Kings rented Marian Gaborik, and they liked him so much they bought him.
Less than a week from the start of free agency, where Gaborik would have been one of the hottest names out there, the Kings have re-signed the winger to a seven-year contract worth $34.125 million, good for a cap hit of $4.875 million. The original reports had the Kings discussing a three-year deal with Gaborik for between $5.5 million and $6 million per season, but ultimately they decided to go longer term and bring the cap hit down. Gaborik, now 32, will be 39 years old when this contract expires, likely meaning he’s going to finish his career as a King.
This is certainly a risk. Gaborik had a terrific run after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets and seems like a great fit with the Kings, but this is a guy who’s getting older and already has 13 NHL seasons on his body, as well as a lot of injuries. He’s started to lose a bit of a step, and that’ll likely continue throughout the course of this deal, and he’s already been up and down throughout his career. His tenure with the New York Rangers was a good example of that, where he also made a great first impression, scoring 42 goals and 44 assists in 76 games in his first season with the team in 2009-2010. The next season? 22 goals and 26 assists, and just a goal and an assist in five playoff games. Disappointing numbers even if he did just play 62 games. But the next season? 41 goals and 35 assists while playing all 82 games… but then he had just five goals and six assists in 20 playoff games, and scored just nine goals and 10 assists in 35 games with the Rangers the next season before seeming to wear out his welcome with then Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella with his Jekyll and Hyde act and getting traded to Columbus at the trade deadline, where he also underwhelmed and dealt with injury issues, playing in just 34 games over almost a full calendar year before being traded to the Kings at this year’s deadline, scoring just nine goals and 13 assists. While Gaborik seemed to revive his career with the Kings, this is still a risky guy to tie a contract of this term to.
On the other hand, he’s an immensely talented player. Gaborik has never had a centre as good as Anze Kopitar to play with, and Kopitar’s never had a winger as good as Gaborik to play with, and the two worked absolute wonders together. When on the ice together at five-on-five in the regular season and playoffs, the Kings outscored opponents 30-14 (thanks to @RobertJFTC for that one). The Kings averaged just 2.39 goals per game in the regular season, but in the 19 games with Gaborik in the lineup, it was 2.68. Over that span, Kopitar scored 10 goals and eight assists, while Gaborik had five goals and 11 assists. They averaged 3.38 goals per game in the playoffs. Kopitar had five goals and 21 assists for a playoff-leading 26 points in 26 games, while Gaborik had a playoff-leading 14 goals and eight assists. It’s safe to say the Kings don’t win the Stanley Cup without Gaborik this year, and they may very well not have gotten out of the first round, so of course I’m happy they’re keeping him. The length of the contract does bring the cap hit down, and because Gaborik isn’t 35 or older when he’s signing this contract, he can retire before the end of it without it hurting the Kings’ salary cap.
So, we’ll have to see how this plays out over the course of the deal. But at least in the short term, the Kings should be a much better team with Gaborik sticking around.
In other news, the Kings have also re-signed defenseman Matt Greene to a four-year contract worth $10 million. The cap hit of $2.5 million represents a bit of a pay-cut from his $2.95 million cap hit of the previous six years. The big 31-year-old right-handed shot who stands at 6’3″, 234 lbs is a veteran of nine NHL seasons, six with the Kings (for all of which he’s served as an alternate captain), but seemed to be on his way out. Between injuries and healthy scratches he played in just 38 of 82 games in the regular season and 20 of 26 games in the playoffs. However, you figure they’re not bringing a guy back on a four-year deal with a $2.5 million cap hit to sit in the press box, and I also don’t think they plan to pay Robyn Regehr $3 million to sit in the press box next year. So with Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin also in the fold, that seems to leave pending unrestricted free agent Willie Mitchell on the outside looking in. After missing all of the 2012-2013 season with a knee injury, Mitchell returned last season and was fine, playing in 76 games while recording 12 points and a plus-14 rating, but at 37 years of age, perhaps the Kings just don’t feel he has much left to offer. After re-signing Greene, I’d be surprised if Mitchell is also brought back.
But anyways, as for Greene, I’m not thrilled about his return. He’s contributes next to nothing offensively with 69 points in 504 NHL regular season games (13 goals, 56 assists), he’s bad with the puck and skates like a snail, which leads to him taking lots of bad penalties. He has 582 penalty minutes in those 504 games. This past season was pretty par for the course, with two goals, four assists, and 47 penalty minutes in 38 games.
The Kings unfortunately may have to deal with both Regehr and Greene in the lineup on a consistent basis next season, but at least they only have one more year of Regehr to suffer through. I can’t even begin to imagine why Dean Lombardi gave Greene four more years. I tell you, every time I start to think this guy is really smart, he goes and does something like sign Regehr or Greene to a multi-year contract.
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