COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings, hoping to mirror the success they had from their last big trade-deadline deal with Columbus, bolstered their offense by acquiring former scoring whiz Marian Gaborik from the Blue Jackets on Wednesday.
The Blue Jackets got right wing Matt Frattin and two conditional picks, most likely a second-round pick and also a third-rounder if the Kings win their first-round playoff series or re-sign Gaborik.
Gaborik, who turned 32 on Feb. 24, will be a free agent after the season. He was making $7.5 million a year for the Blue Jackets, who are expected to pick up a portion of his $1.9 million in remaining salary.
He has missed games with a sprained knee and a broken collarbone this season, limiting him to just 22 games, but is healthy for the stretch run.
Gaborik has scored at least 40 goals in a season three times and 30 or more seven times.
Frattin, 26, has two goals and four assists in 40 games. He has been a healthy scratch by the Kings in eight of the last 10 games. His last appearance was on Feb. 6 — against the Blue Jackets.
Both clubs are currently in the playoff picture.
The Kings, as was the case when they acquired Jeff Carter from Columbus two years ago, were seeking more goals. The Blue Jackets, down two of their top defensemen, needed cap space to possibly make more deals, and to unload a player who could leave without any return compensation after the season.
On Feb. 23, 2012, the Kings picked up Carter for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick in the 2013 draft. With Carter adding a jolt of offense, the Kings went on to barely make the postseason but then swept through the playoffs to win their first Stanley Cup.
Gaborik was acquired by the Blue Jackets from the New York Rangers in a draft-deadline deal a year ago. He was the highest-paid Blue Jacket and the sides had not really discussed a new contract, with Gaborik hurt most of the season and the Blue Jackets holding out that he might come on strong late in the year.
Gaborik, who has missed 39 games this season, had five goals and six assists in the first 17 games before missing the next 17 with a sprained left knee. Then, four shifts into his return, he was hit simultaneously by two Philadelphia players and his collarbone was broken. That resulted in him missing his third Olympics with his native Slovakia as he sat out the next 22 Columbus games.
He returned to the club on Feb. 27, immediately after the Olympic hiatus. In 22 games this season for the Blue Jackets, Gaborik has six goals and eight assists.
In his younger days, Gaborik was considered an elite sniper. In 791 career games with Minnesota, the New York Rangers and the Blue Jackets, he has 342 goals and 346 assists.
Gaborik signed as a free agent with the Rangers in July 2009, then was traded to Columbus along with two minor-leaguers for center Derick Brassard, winger Derek Dorsett and defenseman John Moore along with a sixth-round draft selection in 2014.
Frattin was a disappointment in his only season with Los Angeles. The Kings acquired him along with goalie Ben Scrivens from Toronto in the offseason in a trade for touted goalie Jonathan Bernier, but Frattin never fit into coach Darryl Sutter’s defense-minded system.
The Kings are the NHL’s best defensive team, allowing just 134 goals all season, but their offense was even more stagnant than usual before the Olympic break, managing just 21 goals in the final 14 games. General manager Dean Lombardi considered several short-term rentals of offensive players due to be unrestricted free agents, holding numerous discussions about Buffalo’s Matt Moulson before deciding on Gaborik.
Los Angeles has solidified its playoff position with five straight wins heading into a three-game road trip starting with Thursday’s game at Winnipeg. The Kings enter that game in third place by seven points over Phoenix in the Pacific Division. They have scored fewer goals (152) than all but three teams in the West.
Heading into Wednesday’s games, the Blue Jackets are tied for third in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division with 69 points (32-25-5) and hold the final playoff qualifying spot.