With the NHL trade deadline coming and going, fans in Los Angeles sat waiting intently while wondering if their beloved Kings would make some sort of a deal to push them over the edge and into the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
With such a huge flurry of activity throughout the month of February, Kings fans had a reason to be worried. With all the blockbuster deals that had been made so early before the deadline, there weren't a lot of options left for the Kings, who were in desperate need of someone to boost their scoring potential.
About 20 minutes before the trade deadline, the Kings got their answer: Dustin Penner.
Dustin Penner has just about everything the Kings could have wanted in their pickup. He's a big body standing at 6'4" and weighing 245 lbs. He has six years of NHL experience at the young age of 28. He has playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup to his name in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.
But, most importantly to the Kings, he has a proven scoring touch, having netted 21 goals and 39 points this season with the lowly Oilers. Those numbers will be welcomed by the Kings, with the 18th-ranked offense that currently scores a rather anemic 2.69 goals per game on an average of 29.2 shots on goal per game (22nd in the NHL).
The Kings, however, did have to surrender some significant assets to pick up the Winkler, Manitoba native. In exchange for Penner, the Kings sent their first-round pick in this summer's draft, a conditional second-round pick in next summer's draft, and Colten Teubert, a defensive prospect and the Kings' first-overall pick in 2008.
This demonstrates a significant shift in the Los Angeles Kings' thinking and strategy. No longer are the Kings concentrating on stockpiling draft picks, maintaining a high amount of cap space and relying on thinking about the future.
With this trade, the Kings have sent a message that the future is now; they're here and they're ready to contend for a Stanley Cup over the next couple of seasons.
Penner brings in a $4.25 million cap hit, making him the third-highest-paid forward in the Kings lineup, behind only Ryan Smyth and Anze Kopitar. He's on contract for one more season after this, meaning if he becomes a great pickup for the Kings, they'll have to face the ordeal of re-signing him.
That could be more difficult now with only $3.786 million in free cap space and players like Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Michal Handzus in contract years.
So did the Kings do enough?
In my opinion, they did. They've got a strong defense already that's allowing the second-fewest shots against per game (27.6), and they brought in a proven scoring talent that will fill in the offensive gaps where guys like Handzus, Doughty and Kopitar have been unable to score this year.
As a Ducks fan it pains me to see a player I absolutely loved in Anaheim now wearing the black and purple, but Penner will likely thrive in LA and be a central part to the Kings as the NHL enters its final stretch.
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