Ever since Dean Lombardi took the helm of the Kings in April, 2006, it would seem as if he and Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren have had one another on speed dial, having completed quite a number of trades over the years. On Tuesday, the two executed yet another deal, as Los Angeles sent struggling left winger Simon Gagne back to the city where he electrified crowds for twelve seasons, potting 259 goals in 664 games.
Neither Gagne nor the Kings could have been particularly happy with his production this year (no goals, five assists), underscored by his drastically diminished ice time (12:14 in the February 17th game against Chicago, followed by four healthy scratches). However, Gagne did not make demands of any type, and expressed gratitude as to how professionally the team handled the situation. “They just did it on their own,” he said. “It just shows you the class those guys have. Even if it’s hard getting traded in the middle of the season, going to Philly – and they told me it was the best place for me to go – they’re really gentlemen to do that to me this year.”
In his comments about the deal, Lombardi also indicated his deep respect for the left winger, whom he knew from his days with the Flyers organization. “This is a good player that I’ve known a long time, and I know that if he would have wanted to go anywhere, that would be the place he wanted to go,” he stated. “Given that we had to do this, if we can, I would certainly put him someplace I know he’d be happy.”
Details and benefits of the trade
The Flyers will send a conditional draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for Gagne. If the Flyers (10-11-1, 8th in the East) make the playoffs, the Kings receive a third round pick. If they miss the playoffs, they get a fourth rounder. For Los Angeles (10-6-2), the deal may have been as much about finding more ice time for younger players like speedy center/winger Trevor Lewis or possibly the promotion of top prospect Tyler Toffoli as it was about collecting draft picks, which Lombardi is historically adept at doing. The other possibility is that it sets the table for another deal prior to the trade deadline.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, gets to celebrate the return of a hometown favorite who has speed, outstanding hockey sense and a quick wrist shot. “He improves our depth up front automatically,” said Holmgren, assessing the benefits of the deal. “He is a good two-way player that can skate. (Our) Coaches have watched tape of him playing, so we feel comfortable that he is fine. He seems excited to be coming back, and looks forward to an opportunity to play and help us.”
Where Gagne will fit in the Flyers’ lineup is yet to be fully determined, but it seems likely that he will shift between the third and second lines as the situation warrants.
The results of the first game after the trade for each team
Gagne played Thursday night against the Washington Capitals and logged 16:00 of ice time — his second highest total of the season. Fittingly, he christened his return by scoring his first goal of the season on a wrister from the low slot, as seen here:
Meanwhile, Trevor Lewis’ promotion to occasional second-line duty earned him his fifth point in the past five games, as he assisted on Anze Kopitar’s third period game winning goal. Always a good defensive player, he blocked two shots, threw two hits, and recorded one of the Kings’ five takeaways in the game.
The Kings and the impending trade deadline
Los Angeles appears to have shaken off the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, having posted five straight wins. Despite the fact that Lewis appears to be getting a “test drive” with more important minutes and time on the second line, it would seem more likely that Lombardi has another card or two up his sleeve which have yet to be played. With the NHL trade deadline coming on March 3rd, look for Lombardi to be active in adding players to help defend the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship. Certainly, the defense could use a shutdown-type to replace Matt Greene, not to mention the losses of Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez.
Regardless, the lure of more certain scoring from the left wing has to be on Lombardi’s mind as the clock continues to tick. Stay tuned.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.