Marian Gaborik was an integral part of the Los Angeles Kings’ run to a Stanley Cup title this season. While he didn’t arrive in LA until the trade deadline, Gaborik settled right in and went on to lead the NHL in postseason goals with 14. The 32-year-old forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but on Wednesday the team announced it had re-signed him to a big new deal.
Gaborik will be staying in Los Angeles thanks to a new seven-year, $34.3 million contract that will carry and average annual value of $4.9 million. That’s a huge savings against the cap for the Kings, since some teams were reportedly willing to give Gaborik as much as $7 million per year. The extra cap space will help Los Angeles as it attempts to re-sign defenseman Willie Mitchell.
But the big message of this deal is that Gaborik was willing to take less to stay with the Kings, a team that is as tightly-knit as any in hockey. The reason Los Angeles has been able to keep winning against all odds over the past three years is the close bond the players have. Gaborik clearly bought in to the team and to head coach Darryl Sutter’s system.
Gaborik was phenomenal once he got his feet wet with the Kings, and putting him on a line with Anze Kopitar proved to be a perfect fit. It’s scary to think what the two of them could do given a full season to work together.
The Kings may opt to allow Mitchell to walk and focus on grooming potential replacements, but the fact is they now have cap flexibility they wouldn’t have if Gaborik hadn’t taken a “hometown discount” to stay.
Stay-at-home defenseman and alternate captain Matt Greene has already re-signed on a four-year, $10 million contract that saw him taking a pay cut, and the team also announced it has no plans to buy out forward Mike Richards. Forward Dwight King is a restricted free agent but both sides seem to want to get a deal done. So the only loose end left at this point for the Stanley Cup champs appears to be Mitchell’s free agency.
The Kings have highly-touted defensive prospects Derek Forbort and Brayden McNabb waiting in the wings if Mitchell does decide to move on.