In the week leading up to July 1st, many speculated that if the Kings were to lose out on Brad Richards, they would target Simon Gagne as a potential winger.
The fit made sense in Los Angeles. Gagne could come in and play with his ex-teammate Mike Richards and have a real chance at challenging for the Stanley Cup. In Philadelphia, Richards and Gagne had great chemistry and on-ice awareness.
Los Angeles Kings Insider, Rich Hammond, quoted Terry Murray talking about the potential to have the two play together:
"I've seen it work. There's good chemistry there. They play off each other, read off each other very well. It's just a knack. Those things are called chemistry. You wonder why chemistry works sometimes, and how it works and how it happens and why it happens, but that type of chemistry fell in place when they did play together, and they had good success together. That won't be too far away from my mind when I'm putting down some lines and starting to put things together in my mind for training camp."
Hammond's article discusses Gagne's excitement to be playing in Hollywood. While the Kings had Gagne at the top of their list, it's clear that the Kings were at the top of Gagne's: "It was definitely a place where I know they were looking to get me. Even last year, when I was ready to move my no-trade clause, that was one of the teams that was really pushing to get me, so I know that it was a great fit for me."
Gagne's obvious excitement is a nice thing to see for a team that has struggled to land top-tier free agents in the past. After losing out on Kovalchuk last year and Brad Richards this year, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi knew that things had to change.
In the span of one week he completely changed the culture of the team by bringing in two All-Star forwards to bolster the team's offense.
At the age of 31, Gagne still has many good years left in him. Combine his young age with the fact that he has struggled to stay healthy over the past few years, and you have a player who is dying to produce at a high level. This desire is incredibly evident in his playoff performances in which he has tallied 37 goals in 105 games.
With a healthy Gagne, a hungry Mike Richards and a talented young core, there is a good chance that the Kings will be a strong competitor in the Western Conference. Finally, after years of drafting and development, top players have the desire to play in Los Angeles. It's a welcome change for a franchise that has lacked the ability to lure free agents over the past few seasons.
Hammond also quoted Gagne talking about the opportunity that he sees in Los Angeles. "I believe that the Kings are just getting better and better every year," Gagne said. "And those young guys are just getting better and better too. So that's why, when I had some choices between teams, that the Kings were at the top of the list, because they're a team where I know good stuff is going to happen for the next two years."
Let's hope he's right and the next two years bring great success to the Kings.
The team is on the prowl for the Stanley Cup, and this season is shaping up to be a great one. For the first time in years, there is a huge sense of anticipation surrounding this team., It's exciting, invigorating and really fun to be a part of.
Enjoy the ride, Kings fans!
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