LA Kings agree to terms with Simon Gagne

Although the Los Angeles Kings lost the Brad Richards

sweepstakes, they got a nifty consolation prize a few hours

later.

Left wing Simon Gagne agreed to terms Saturday on a two-year, $7

million deal with the Kings, adding much-needed scoring punch to

Los Angeles’ lineup.

Gagne is a seven-time 20-goal scorer who spent his first 10 NHL

seasons with Philadelphia, scoring a career-high 47 goals during

the 2005-06 season, before reaching the Eastern Conference finals

last season with Tampa Bay.

The Kings quickly signed Gagne after failing to land Richards,

who agreed to a nine-year deal with the New York Rangers. Gagne

didn’t mind being most teams’ second choice in that free-agent

derby, and he chose the Kings partly on his familiarity with

forwards Mike Richards and Justin Williams, his friends and former

teammates with the Flyers.

”I’ve got a couple of buddies there, and everybody knows that I

had great success playing with Mike,” Gagne said. ”It’s almost

like Philadelphia on the West Coast, so it was definitely a place

where I know they were looking to get me, even last year when I was

willing to waive my no-trade clause.”

The two-time All-Star rejoins Mike Richards, the former

Philadelphia captain who was acquired by Los Angeles in a trade

late last month, and Williams, who came up in the Flyers’ system

alongside Gagne. Richards and Gagne usually played on the same line

to devastating effect during Gagne’s final three years with the

Flyers, and the tandem played a major role in Philadelphia’s run to

the Stanley Cup finals in 2010.

Kings coach Terry Murray also is familiar to Gagne after

spending four years with the Flyers as an assistant coach, while

Kings assistant coach John Stevens was Gagne’s head coach in

Philadelphia.

”I had some really great seasons with those two coaches,”

Gagne said. ”John was the head coach in Philly for two years, so

it’s good. When you change teams, sometimes you need to adjust to

the coach, and I feel that I know those guys already.”

The Flyers traded Gagne last summer, and he had 17 goals and 23

assists with the Lightning, who reached Game 7 of the conference

finals against Boston. Gagne also excelled in the postseason with

five goals and seven assists, but said Tampa Bay made almost no

attempt to re-sign him,

The two-time Canadian Olympian has struggled with injuries in

recent seasons, sitting out with several concussions, a serious

groin injury and a neck injury. Those injuries might have pushed

down Gagne’s price in free agency, but the Kings professed no

doubts about his skills.

”We’re really close together, very tight,” Gagne said of

Richards and Williams. ”We kept in touch all last year. (Williams)

texted me last night that I look to be a good fit. He was kind of

pushing for me to sign in L.A. It’s always fun to hear stuff like

that, and I had a chance to talk to Mike Richards this morning, and

we’re excited to play on the same line again and do the old stuff

that we did in Philly.”

The Kings have overhauled their front line in the past two

weeks, most notably shipping Wayne Simmonds and top prospect

Brayden Schenn to Philadelphia for Richards. Los Angeles also

traded Ryan Smyth to Edmonton after the veteran center demanded to

be sent back to Alberta, and the Kings allowed forwards Michal

Handzus (San Jose) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (Carolina) to leave as

free agents.

Los Angeles is making moves to score more goals. With an

outstanding defensive team built around goalie Jonathan Quick and

young defensemen Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, the Kings’ biggest

need is offense: Among last spring’s 16 playoff teams, only

Montreal scored fewer goals than the Kings’ 219.

General manager Dean Lombardi has been working to fill the

talent gap, courting Ilya Kovalchuk for two months last summer and

trading for power forward Dustin Penner last spring.

Lombardi patiently built the Kings’ core with homegrown talent,

but giving up top youngsters Simmonds and Schenn showed the Kings

intend to join the Western Conference’s elite immediately – and

they might not be done.

Los Angeles still has ample salary cap room even after signing

Gagne. The Kings’ West Coast travel schedule apparently turns off

some free agents, and their low-scoring system also probably

doesn’t help – but Los Angeles still seems poised to be among the

West’s top teams in the fall.

”If you look at the last two years, they’re a really good

team,” Gagne said. ”They’re a young team, but those guys play

like veterans already. Adding veterans like myself and Mike

Richards will really help us to get to the next level. … When I

had some choice, the Kings were at the top of the list, because I

know good things are going to happen for the next couple of

years.”