by Josh Brewster, Buffalo Sports Page NHL Expert
Tuesday night after a 7-4 blowout loss at Carolina, the Los Angeles Kings traded left wing Marian Gaborik and depth center Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Dion Phaneuf and veteran depth center Nate Thompson.
Gaborik arrived in LA after then-GM Dean Lombardi’s lopsided trade with Columbus which contributed mightily to the Kings’ second Stanley Cup win in 2014. Four years later, current-GM Rob Blake proved he was a good student, and with the deal lands a key defensive upgrade in return for a player of severely diminishing impact.
The 2014 Gaborik trade is likely the best deadline acquisition in NHL history since Butch Goring went from the same Kings to the Islanders just weeks prior to the start of their illustrious four-Cup run from 1980-83. Gaborik’s impact was immediate, as he tallied 14 goals and eight assists during the playoffs.
In return for Gaborik, the Kings sent Columbus RW Matt Frattin, whose NHL career lasted only 13 more games between the Jackets and Leafs, and who now plays in Switzerland. The Kings also coughed up a 2014 3rd round pick, which was later traded to Detroit (who chose Dominic Turgeon), and a 2nd rounder which was later traded to Toronto (who chose Travis Dermott).
How did you get Marian Gaborik? I asked then-assistant/now-GM Rob Blake. Did you call Santa Claus? (My exact words at the time)
“We didn’t think we could get him,” laughed Blake.
The conversation took place during a memorable second-round, seven-game Kings/Ducks series. The Kings would then topple the Blackhawks in another seven-game series, finally crushing the Rangers in five, winning it all. Gaborik was lethal and oddly reminiscent of the 2012 Jeff Carter deal, in which the Kings sent D Jack Johnson to Columbus. Carter became a nucleus player and one of the best shooters in the game. Another Dean Lombardi steal.
Is Phaneuf Enough?
There is no question that the Kings will get good value from Phaneuf for the rest of his term. But what does Ottawa get in Gaborik? Gaborik scored 333 goals over his first twelve seasons with the Wild and the Rangers, including four 30-plus-goal seasons and two more with over 40. The decline is in full swing, however, as Gaborik has scored just 70 goals over the past six seasons with the Jackets and Kings.
Gaborik also missed quite a bit of time due to injuries during his stint with the Kings. In 2014-15, he missed 13, then 28 and 26 in the following two seasons. This year, he’s played 29 of the team’s 56 games. With Columbus, he appeared in only 34 of a potential 164 games over two seasons. Gaborik’s seven-year, $34.1M deal with the Kings struck shortly after the 2014 Cup win had been an albatross for the Kings.
With the trade, the Kings dump more than $15M of Gaborik’s contract ($4.875M per annum), which has three years remaining after this season. Ottawa also pays a quarter of Phaneuf’s salary ($1.75M per year of of $7M) over the remaining three seasons.
So, for roughly the same money as they were paying Gaborik for diminished production, the Kings receive a top-four (or top-two) defenseman for the same term, who’s three years younger than Gaborik.
The Senators save some dough by dumping Thompson’s 1.65M deal, which has two more seasons after this one. They save another million or more by dispensing with Phaneuf even with the money they retained. They’ll need every penny if they intend to re-sign Erik Karlsson.
Happy birthday Marian Gaborik, who turns 36 today. You’re off to Ottawa for a rebuild.