It took several years and a stop in New York and a more recent move to Columbus, but Marian Gaborik finally became a Los Angeles King.
Gaborik was interested in the Kings a long time ago, and Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi had toyed with the idea of bringing in the forward with game-breaking potential. Timing is everything and it all finally came together shortly before Wednesday's trade deadline. Lombardi acquired Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for underperforming forward Matt Frattin and conditional draft picks.
That was not the only move of the day for the surging Kings, just the biggest one. Earlier, they shored up their depth chart on the back end in a trade with the Sabres, sending two prospects — right wing Hudson Fasching and forward/defenseman Nick Deslauriers — to Buffalo for defenseman Brayden McNabb, right wing Jonathan Parker and second-round choices in 2014 and 2015.
McNabb, who was the focal point of the deal for the Kings, will report to their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H.
A bit of history: The Kings were in the lengthy rebuilding process when Gaborik was interested in Los Angeles.
"I didn't feel the timing was right," Lombardi said in a telephone interview. "I wanted to get other things done first. I think we're in a position now where we can feel good about taking him and he wants to be here. This isn't a [Thomas] Vanek situation, in my mind, where the player has already said: 'I want to go to July 1 to test free agency.'"
Gaborik and Vanek, who was traded from the New York Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens, will be unrestricted free agents. But Lombardi feels reassured about Gaborik's willingness to re-sign here.
"I'm looking forward to this new challenge," Gaborik said to the Canadian network TSN, on his way to the airport. "It's been a hectic day. But this a fresh start. ... All that [the injuries] is behind me. I'm looking forward to help the team as best I can."
The 32-year-old had 14 points in 22 games with Columbus this season and was out for 22 games because of a broken collarbone, which forced him to miss the Sochi Olympics for his native Slovakia.
The Blue Jackets will keep about 50% of Gaborik's pay, the maximum allowable under league rules. Also, the picks heading to Columbus are a second-round draft choice in 2014 or 2015 and a conditional third-rounder.
Frattin's tenure with the Kings was short and unsuccessful. He came to the Kings from the Maple Leafs in the Jonathan Bernier deal in the summer. He was practicing with his teammates in El Segundo when news of the trade surfaced. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter intercepted him as he came off the ice.
"It's a business and that's what happens," Frattin said. "It's going to be tough leaving this group of guys. At the same time, hopefully get a lot more ice time there. It's fresh start and they're a good team in the playoff hunt."
Frattin, who had six points in 40 games, had been a healthy scratch the last four games.
Kings center Mike Richards played against Gaborik frequently when Richards was in Philadelphia and Gaborik was with the Rangers. Gaborik had a 41-goal season with New York in 2011-12.
"It's not only his speed, but he can really make something out of nothing on a broken play, turn it into a goal," Richards said. "With his speed, he backs everybody off, making everyone aware of it. You don't want to get burned. He'll help us. We're probably a better team today than we were yesterday."
If Lombardi had brought Gaborik to Los Angeles in the 2009-10 season, the demands and expectations would have been different. Gaborik instead went from Minnesota to the Rangers and scored 42 goals that season.
"No offense — he has played on good teams — he really hasn't had a player like [Jeff] Carter or [Anze] Kopitar or [Drew] Doughty getting him the puck," Lombardi said. "It'll be interesting to see when he's got those resources.
"He doesn't have to come in here and be the man. That's what I like. You don't have to be the centerpiece. Just fit in and play. Everywhere he's gone, he's had to be the box-office guy.
"Our box office is winning. We have other top players where you just can fit in and not worry about the billboard stuff. A lot of players at his stage would welcome that."
When: 4 p.m. PST
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Etc.: Kings center Linden Vey was sent back to minor league Manchester (N.H.), primarily because of the salary-cap situation.
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