Marian Gaborik slipped effortlessly into the Kings’ lineup after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He clicked almost instantly with center Anze Kopitar and began producing at nearly a point-per-game pace.
Gaborik scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 regular-season games and he had 21 points, including a playoff-leading 13 goals, in 24 contests before the Kings faced the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
Now the question is how quickly will the Kings move to re-sign the 32-year-old Slovakian?The price could be steep since Gaborik’s last contract, a five-year deal he signed with the Rangers before the 2009-10 season, paid him an average of $7.5 million per season.
Gaborik certainly has proved to be worth every penny of a pro-rated deal that required Columbus to pick up 50 percent of his salary for the final one-quarter of 2013-14 after Kings general manager Dean Lombardi acquired him for Matt Frattin and two draft picks at the deadline.
“You want to be a complete army,” Lombardi said.
The Kings needed scoring.
They went into the playoffs as the lowest-scoring team of the 16 postseason qualifiers, averaging a meager total of 2.42. Thanks in part to Gaborik, they upped their average to a playoff-leading 3.50 going into Game 4 of the Final at Madison Square Garden.
Best of all, as far as the Kings are concerned, Gaborik and Kopitar have formed the dynamic scoring combination that was glaringly absent in what was a popgun offense before the trade. They have played together since Gaborik joined the team for a March 6 game against Winnipeg.
“Darryl stuck with us every since he got with us,” Kopitar said, referring to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “It is a process, but it seemed like we clicked fairly good and fairly fast. Now it’s time to really bring it, obviously. He’s a big-time player.
“I’m sure it’s hard to come to a different team with different systems and different styles of play. You have to fit in really quick, and I just think everybody helping him out, you try to be in his ear, but at the same time you kind of want to lay off and have him do his thing. I think he’s done a really good job.”