CaliSports News

My Two Cents : The Kings Trade Gaborik, Shore to Ottawa for Phaneuf, Thompson

*(Featured photo by Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

I like it! The end. Thanks for reading!

No, okay, I wouldn’t do that do you. I’m just playing around, but what a difference a few hours can make to change one’s mood, and what a great topic to debut my new column, “My Two Cents!” So here it is!

After a horrible, debacle of a ‘game’ that the Los Angeles Kings suffered in a 7-3 ass kicking to the Carolina Hurricanes, the team was in need of some good news. It was a game that the Kings were completely dominated in, from shots, hustle, puck possession, stellar goaltending, turnovers, making toast, playing checkers, you name it, the ‘Canes were better at it. And this is a ‘Canes’ team that in theory, is supposed to be inferior to our Kings, (except in puck possession. Oh that wily Justin Williams! Damn it I miss him!) So I’m sure everyone in the Kingdom was feeling the same anger, frustration and disappointment that I did at how badly the Kings’ choked in this game, (like when was the last time you saw someone score two backhand goals against us in the same game? Like TWO backhanders! What is this, 1997???) On a day too where the Anaheim Ducks AND the Calgary Flames both lost in regulation and the Kings could have created some much-needed space in the standings. As Alec Martinez put it after the game, “It’s embarrassing.” Amen brother.

Then it happened. As I was preparing my notes as we were about to go LIVE on the air for LA Kings Road Talk Radio, I received a message from my good friend Theo Marine, of a screenshot of a tweet from Hockey Night in Canada’s (and Sportsnet’s) Elliotte Friedman, that the Kings’ had traded Marian Gaborik (along with his expensive contract), and Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators for … and get this … defensemen Dion Phaneuf and center (and former Duck) Nate Thompson!

Friedman, who has always kept a close eye on the Kings, is one of two hockey journalists out there that if I hear from them that a trade has been made, then it might as well have come from the lips of the Hockey Gods themselves because a trade had been made. Bob McKenzie of TSN is the other one. So I was floored, then I processed it, before being very happy with it.

(With Elliotte Friedman and former LA King Eddie Olczyk at the 2016 Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh, PA)

Yes, I like it. Here’s why? First, if someone had bet me that rookie GM Rob Blake would be able to pull off a trade to get rid of the fading and injury prone Gaborik, I would not have taken that bet. Why would someone from a team in their right mind, take a 36 (his birthday is today) year old, worn out and injury prone Gaborik, who has a cap eating AAV of $4,875,000 until 2021? Then I saw that it was Ottawa, and it made sense. That organization has always been nuts. I will always be thankful to ‘Gabbo’ for the 14 goals he scored (that led the playoffs), and the 22 points he got which helped the Kings win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. He turned out to be the best acquisition from that 2014 trade deadline, (forget Thomas Vanek. What has he done?) Heck, he was the one that tied game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against his former team the New York Rangers, 2-2, that led to Martinez’ historic, Cup-winning goal in double overtime! “Gabbo” played a huge part in that epic 2014 Cup run and victory. Sadly, Gaborik isn’t the player that he was in 2014, and at this age in the modern game, and after ALL of those injuries that he has suffered, he never will be. So Blake finding a partner to trade Gaborik to, was just pure brilliance. The fact he added the underachieving Nick Shore was just the salad dressing on top.

(We could not have won that Cup without you ‘Gabbo!’)

Now hold on, you say. Doesn’t Phaneuf have a cap hit around $7 million until 2021? Yes, he does, but Ottawa is retaining 25% of his cap hit, right until the completion of his contract. (I’m telling you, they’re bonkers!) So really the Kings are only taking on a $5,250,000 AAV. Sure that is more than Gaborik’s hit, but the difference is you will get something in return on the ice from Phaneuf then anything the Kings had been receiving from Gaborik in the last three or so years. At 32 years old, Dion can still play top level hockey for a few more years, and I always thought he would be better suited to play in a market like LA, then in the fanatic, pressure cooking, fishbowl of playing in Canada. In LA, Phaneuf doesn’t have the pressure of being the number 1 guy. he doesn’t need to be a leader or have a letter on his jersey. He and his wife, actress Elisha Cuthbert (of ’24’, ‘Old-School’ and ‘The Girl Next Door’ fame,”) will be living on the beach by the ocean, and not have to stress about anything than playing his game for the Kings. (Heck, even Elisha can try and get another acting gig if she wants?)

(I don’t care what Sean Avery says. They are just so damn cute together! – photo credit to

Remember, this was a guy that was one of the top defensive junior prospects in the world back in the mid-2000’s when he was playing and dominating with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. He also stood out on a team of future NHL All-Stars and Stanley Cup Champions on a loaded Team Canada that won the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship Gold Medal. A team that included Jeff Carter, Mike Richards (who was Captain), Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Brent Seabrook and even Colin Fraser! That is 15 Stanley Cup victories right there between them and Phaneuf stood out! He then played lights out hockey as a member of the Calgary Flames, crushing anything that moved and getting seasons of scoring 50 and 60 points. Then it all went to hell because of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was during his time in Toronto where Phaneuf gets his stigma of not being a good player.

First, all the blame goes to the GM and coach at the time, Brian Burke, and Ron Wilson. Before Phaneuf even stepped out of the plane to join the Leafs, they slapped a ‘C’ on his chest before he had a chance to earn it. To his credit, he accepted his new responsibility and did the best he could. But in the end, it was a disaster. Playing in Toronto, or Montreal or Ottawa isn’t easy, especially if you’re the Captain, (just ask the ‘Habs’ Captain Max Pacioretty, or even Phil Kessel). It changes you and it’s a heavy burden to carry. There are some that thrive in that type of environment, like a Doug Gilmour, or a Patrick Roy, but there are some that are ruined by it. (Just google the sad story of Doug Wickenheiser). First, you have the media all over you, all day, every day. Then you have the fans all over you, all day, every day and it never ends, including during the off-season. Everything you do, whether on or off the ice is accessed, dissected and then judged. If things don’t go well, or to their liking, and they didn’t for Phaneuf, they all turn on you. And if you keep hearing every day for years that you suck, then eventually you are going to believe that you suck, and you are going to play like you suck, and that’s what happened to Dion. The magic and fire that he possessed in his early years were completely beaten out of him in Toronto until he was only a shadow of what he used to be. Phaneuf wasn’t suited to be ‘THE MAN’ in that type of environment like that, and that’s okay. Not everyone is, but to be fair, he wasn’t even ready for it. He should not have been made the “Captain” right off the hop, instead of just easing his way in with his new team, teammates, and home, and then building from that. Burke and Wilson never gave him that chance and did him no service by throwing him into the fire on day one.

(Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Once Phaneuf left Toronto for Ottawa, he already was improving, as Erik Karlsson was the main man there, so Phaneuf was able to finally relax and just play his game. He helped Ottawa to be within one game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and that excitement was therapeutic for him. Now the only problem was that the Ottawa team had collapsed this season and is now one of the worst teams in the NHL. Karlsson is playing like he checked out a long time ago and is just waiting for free agency to come for him. Can’t blame him as Ottawa is now going for a full rebuild, all the while they are still (always) under the microscope of the press and fans, which is not good for Phaneuf. That’s no longer a problem for him in LA.

The pressure is on Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter. Phaneuf is in the clear to just play and to play for a contender too. And if he does play to his potential and fully regain his confidence, then the Kings have just solidified their defense. With Doughty and Muzzin as the top pairing, and Forbort and Ladue, or any other combination in the third pairing, can now free up Alec Martinez to play with Phaneuf as the second pairing. That’s a solid top 4 defensive unit right there. Coach John Stevens can even place Phaneuf with Doughty together on the power-play if he chooses, as Dion can provide offense as well. Sure he has only scored 3 goals this year but remember, that was with a poor Ottawa team. Just last season he scored 9 goals, so he is still capable of scoring. I will admit that Phaneuf isn’t the best defensively, but he can be mean-spirited, and can lay a boom of a bodycheck that could break a man’s soul, which is something the Kings have been missing since Brayden McNabb was chosen in the expansion draft to go play with Vegas. If all goes as planned then he will a beast for the Kings, and a hungry one at that. Then the Kings can trade him in about two seasons or so, while he still has value, (especially if he makes a huge comeback in LA), and still get something in return. The Kings do not want to be stuck with his contract for any more than that or they’ll be stuck with another Gaborik situation. If he fails then you trade him next season around the trade deadline. If Blake can trade away Gaborik and his contract, then he can trade Phaneuf, but I think Dion is going to be more then okay here.

(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

Nate Thompson is another fantastic addition to the Kings as well. He gives you experience and a very had a work ethic. He’s already familiar with playing and living in SoCal thanks to his time with the Ducks and the San Diego Gulls. He can play center or left wing, adds a lot more toughness, and is actually quite good in the face-off circle. He is also 33 years old but is an upgrade from the younger Nick Shore. Like Phaneuf, there is no pressure on him, (though I’m confident Thompson can thrive in any pressure type situation), and adding Thompson provides more depth to the Kings’ bottom six, especially after Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis return from injury. That’s not a bad problem to have.

This trade isn’t a long-term fix, just a short one, but it has already improved the Kings with a giant leap, and after that Carolina game, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

But what do I know? That is just My Two Cents.


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  1. Hockeyjockey24

    February 14, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    TY Jeff!
    I needed to read something’s my Exactly like this.
    While I am such a Loyalist, I Never take trades well, I have gotten a bit better if they make sense.
    Yes agree with you regarding Gabby, and Shore.
    Even was able to tell my Shark loving😕 Mailman same, but not a Phaneuf fan.
    I will try to be optimistic, and take into consideration the background history you have provided. Not being Canadian, I forget they are more fanatical then me.
    I am hoping Dion proves me wrong, just as Colin Fraser did..passing this on to my Peeps and saving to re read when necessary. Keep up the Fabulous Work!👍🏻

    • Jeff Duarte

      February 15, 2018 at 10:36 am

      Thank you so much! Go Kings Go!!!

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