Marian Gaborik is looking at an extended stay in Los Angeles after keying the Kings’ successful Stanley Cup run with an NHL-best 14 playoff goals.
The Kings on Wednesday announced they had agreed to a seven-year contract with the Slovakian right-winger.
Fresh off his first NHL championship, he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Gaborik, 32, finished the post-season fourth in the league in points with 22 in 26 games, eight points shy of his 41-game regular-season total split between Columbus and the Kings.
The 14 goals were one shy of the Kings’ single playoff year record, set in 1993 by Wayne Gretzky. He tied for second in power-play goals (three) and tied for third in power-play points (eight).
Two of Gaborik’s more memorable goals of this year’s playoffs were game-tying markers in the third period in Games 2 and 5 of the Cup final against the New York Rangers and led to overtime victories for the Kings.
On March 5, Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi traded forward Matt Frattin and a 2014 second-round draft pick, plus a conditional third-rounder, to the Blue Jackets for the oft-injured Gaborik. The third-round pick turned into a second-rounder when the Kings won their first-round series against San Jose.
“If you’re looking at what you could add to the mix, I guess it’s fair to say it’s a player who can make something out of nothing with his speed and ability,” Lombardi said after acquiring Gaborik, a three-time NHL all-star. “You want to make sure your team has all the necessary weapons [to make a run at the Stanley Cup] and I think this is one weapon we were lacking.”
Some would say Gaborik was the most significant acquisition from this year’s trade deadline.
“From all our intel prior to the trade, he was a good person who was liked by his teammates,” Lombardi told CBCSports.ca hockey writer Mike Brophy in early May. “The expectation was for him to fit in with his teammates, learn to pay the price in the Western Conference and then let his talent take over.”
Gaborik just completed the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million US contract he signed with the New York Rangers before the 2009-10 season.
After joining the Kings, the six-foot-one, 204-pound forward clicked fairly quickly with top centre Anze Kopitar and racked up five goals and 16 points in 19 regular-season games. He had six goals and 14 points in 22 contests this season for Columbus this season.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Gaborik joins Claude Lemieux (Colorado, 1996-97) as the only players in NHL history to score more goals in the playoffs than the regular season.
On April 3, 2013, the Rangers dealt Gaborik to Columbus with defencemen Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle for forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett, defenceman John Moore and Columbus’ 6th round choice in this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia.
Gaborik has appeared in 810 NHL regular-season games with the Minnesota Wild, Rangers, Blue Jackets and Kings, scoring 347 goals and 357 assists for 704 points.
He has represented Slovakia several times, including the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. He was selected to his nation’s team for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia but was unable to play due to injury.
In his May 5 blog, Brophy wrote that Gabork had been a classic underachiever, a highly skilled player who rarely brought joy, or victories, to his team.
“He tempts you with his talent and then breaks your heart with his lack of passion,” wrote Brophy. “And yet, because of that skill and his undying potential, Gaborik has been handsomely compensated like someone who has actually lived up to their potential.”
That potential was reached, finally. All it took was a sniff of a potential Stanley Cup victory and looming free agency.