Dean Lombardi has been sniffing around Marian Gaborik for around six years. But the Los Angeles Kings weren’t yet built to accept an all-offense winger, and Gaborik’s price tag was too high both in acquiring him or signing him.
The stars finally aligned on Wednesday: Gaborik was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Matt Frattin, a conditional 2nd-round pick and a 3rd-round pick. The Jackets will pay a portion of Gaborik's remaining salary this season, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
One year ago, Gaborik was a trade deadline stunner: Dealt from the New York Rangers to the Blue Jackets for forward Derek Dorsett, center Derick Brasssard and defenseman John Moore. He had fallen out of favor with Coach John Tortorella, and had been dropped to the fourth line, carrying a $7.5 million cap hit through Summer 2014.
This time, it was Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen that was unhappy with Gaborik. He couldn’t stay healthy, missing 22 games and the Sochi Olympics this season with a broken collarbone. But more than that, Kekalainen challenged Gaborik to be a more meaningful player on and off the ice for the Jackets this season, in advance of his unrestricted free agency and for a new contract.
Gaborik, it seems, didn’t meet the standard. Nor did he fit the lineup, as Aaron Portzline explained:
When he did play, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards had trouble finding linemates who could click with Gaborik. You might say Gaborik was an East-to-West player trying to fit with a North-South team.
In 22 games this season, he had six goals, eight assists and an even rating, but there were many games where he appeared disinterested or detached from the rest of the group.
Which brings us to the Kings, and a change in scenery.
Look, Gaborik’s struggles predate his time in Columbus. But with the Kings, he’ll be expected to score. Just score. Burn speed in a lineup that lacks it and be an offensive force. Forget the expectations or the contract status or anything else. He’s part of a machine that’s two years removed from the Cup.
If Gaborik’s decline isn’t about losing a step, and if he can stay healthier than he was in Columbus, the LA Kings just bolstered an offense that needed it.
And besides, the last time they acquired a struggling forward from the Blue Jackets it worked out OK.
So, on the Milbury Scale …
One Milbury. The Jackets didn’t want Gabby. Gabby might help the Kings, and they don't have to pay his full salary. The Jackets got something for him. Group hug!