Did the Kings do enough in the offseason to stay on top?
General manager Dean Lombardi showed his faith in his roster by keeping it intact. Lombardi didn’t wish to mess with success. He did not sign any outside free agents, but did retain the services of veteran winger Marian Gaborik. Lombardi rewarded Gaborik, the Kings’ leading goal-scorer in the playoffs with 14, with a new seven-season contract worth more than $34 million. Lombardi also allowed veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell to depart as a free agent. Mitchell signed a new contract with the Florida Panthers in the summer. Lombardi did not make any trades.
Meanwhile, opposing teams in the Western Conference bulked up in the summer.
The Ducks, smarting from a second-round playoff loss to the Kings, added size and grit by trading for center Ryan Kesler and signing defenseman Clayton Stoner. They also took a chance on former 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley, hoping he could jump-start his career in Orange County.
The Chicago Blackhawks signed former New York Rangers veteran Brad Richards for the same reason the Ducks signed Kesler. The Blackhawks, who lost to the Kings in the conference finals, coveted a stronger, more experienced second-line center to compete with their rivals.
The Dallas Stars, eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs by the Ducks, acquired former Ottawa Senators standout Jason Spezza in order to get deeper and more experienced at the center position. Spezza was No. 2 behind Kesler on the Ducks’ offseason wish list.
The St. Louis Blues added Paul Stastny from the Colorado Avalanche, a rising superstar in the NHL who plays, wait for it, center. The Blues were still smarting from their first-round exit at the hands of the Blackhawks last spring when they made the move.