Kings feel they have a bigger shot after getting forward Milan Lucic
Doesn’t the modern-day sports star go to Disneyland after something significant unfolds, not before?
Boston Bruins power forward Milan Lucic returned to his summer home in Canada from the park visit and found out one day later that his job skills were being transferred to Southern California.
On Friday, the Kings got a bit bigger and more physical, acquiring the 6-foot-4, 235-pound left wing in a trade with the Bruins. Boston received the Kings’ top draft choice (No. 13 overall), backup goalie Martin Jones and minor league defenseman Colin Miller.
The trade came several hours before the NHL’s entry draft in Sunrise, Fla., and, as expected, Connor McDavid went to the Edmonton Oilers at No. 1 and the Buffalo Sabres took Jack Eichel at No. 2. Anaheim selected Swedish defenseman Jacob Larsson at No. 27 and hired former Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins to coach the Ducks’ minor league team in San Diego.
After their first-round selection, the Ducks traded veteran forward Kyle Palmieri to New Jersey in exchange for the Devils’ second-round pick (No. 41) this year and third-round selection in 2016. For Palmieri, a New Jersey native who spent his entire NHL career with Anaheim, it represents a homecoming.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi’s big moment came away from the draft floor with the Lucic trade.
“I do think every player on our team just grew three inches and put on 10 pounds of muscle,” Lombardi said Friday on a conference call. “So that don’t hurt.”
The Bruins also will pick up $2.75 million of Lucic’s $6-million salary for next season, no small issue in a world constrained by salary caps. Boston drafted Lucic, and he won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 but realized his days with the rebuilding organization were numbered when he started hearing trade rumors.
“I had a lot of mixed emotions in the last 48 hours,” Lucic said in a telephone call from Kelowna, British Columbia. “I kind of had that nervous, anxious, excited, sad, all-in-one feeling, going on in my stomach this morning. Like something big was going to happen.”
Lombardi, whose team missed the playoffs this past season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, looked at his organizational charts and boxes and seized the chance to check the power-forward/left wing box.
“It’s the Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy-type trio that most people think is the ultimate-type line,” Lombardi said of the Islanders icons. “We also wondered whether Gabby [Marian Gaborik] was better on the right [wing].
“To get a player like Clark Gillies, there’s not many like this in the league, that can play with top players and bring that element.”
It’s a big price for the Kings to pay for a player who will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. Lucic’s production was down this past season with the struggling Bruins, a 15-point drop from the previous campaign.
But the chance to work with a playmaking center like the Kings’ Anze Kopitar and the speedy Gaborik could spark a reversal for the 27-year-old. That, and the big picture of joining the two-time Stanley Cup champions and trying to help them win another one. Lucic scored his first NHL goal, against the Kings, in 2007 and even thought Los Angeles might end up drafting him in 2006.
“I get to move on to a team that already knows how to win,” Lucic said. “They’re not a team that’s learning how to win or trying to make that step to win a Stanley Cup. They already know how to do that.
“If you look at the roster, I’d say we’re definitely in the top two or three teams in the league as contenders.”
If the trade had happened a day earlier, Lucic could have stayed in the area after his Disneyland visit to check out some real estate.
“I was just down there with my oldest daughter, enjoying taking her for her first time to Disneyland,” he said. “It would have been nice to have gotten the news while I was down there so I could stay down there and enjoy the start of being a King a little bit more.”
Now the park is a little closer.
“I guess I’ve got to get an annual pass now,” Lucic said.
The Kings also took care of more business in the morning, reaching a two-year contract extension with forward Tyler Toffoli worth $6.5 million. He will make $2.6 million next season and $3.9 million in 2016-2017.
“It’s still a good deal for him, but in no way did he say, ‘I’m going to hold anyone hostage,’” Lombardi said. “If Tyler Toffoli doesn’t step up and do this, we can’t do this [Lucic] deal because then we would have exposed ourselves to an offer sheet.
“It’s just exemplary for a young player to realize his time will come and take a good deal but not try and shoot for the moon. So the team is allowed to go out and make itself better.”
There will be other changes for the Kings. Soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent forward Justin Williams looks to be moving on, almost sure to receive multiple offers next week, and the Kings, finding no takers for the contract of Mike Richards, will confront the buyout issue again.
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