Jeff Halpern and Freddy Modin will bring a veteran presence to the Kings dressing room. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
“And the winner of the ‘2010 NHL Western Conference Trade Deadline Frenzy That Helped His Team The Most Award’ is (drum roll, please): Los Angeles Kings GM, Dean Lombardi!”
Bet that got your attention.
Let the vitriolic comments commence. However, from my perspective, Lombardi turned in an outstanding performance last Wednesday.
The Kings acquired center Jeff Halpern from the Lightning for right winger Teddy Purcell and a third round pick in 2010 and obtained left winger Fredrik Modin from Columbus for a 2010 seventh round selection. Nothing sexy; nothing splashy. However, without trading away a significant piece of his club, Lombardi put his team in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and do some damage once its gets there. All things considered, not a bad day.
Having had the pleasure of working with both Modin and Halpern, I can tell you the Kings are bringing two first-class citizens into their dressing room. No need to worry about team chemistry with either of those players. Both are ‘team first’ guys committed to winning and playing the system. Coach Terry Murray won’t have to wonder how to assimilate them into the lineup. They’ll do whatever he asks, play whatever style he wants and try to ‘fit in’ with their new teammates.
At the same time, if they can stay healthy, both will contribute big time to the Kings’ playoff push. When I acquired Halpern from Dallas as part of the Brad Richards trade in 2008, he came in and averaged almost a point per game down the stretch. In the 19 games we played following that deal, Halpern scored 10 goals – including three on the power play – and recorded 18 points.
Just as importantly, Halpern consistently wins better than 50 percent of his draws and is a very solid penalty killer. A versatile right-handed shot, Halpern can play either wing if needed. He’s also a natural leader; he captained his team in Washington and quickly became one of the veteran voices within the Lightning dressing room. Imagine if he immediately contributes offensively in L.A. as he did in Tampa in 2008.
Modin was a key member of our 2004 Stanley Cup team. Clearly, he is no longer the same player after multiple injuries, particularly over the past three seasons. Nonetheless, Modin is still one of the league’s strongest players on the puck and in the corners. A big, physical presence, Modin is a master at cycling and protecting the puck in the offensive zone.
A former 30-goal scorer, he also knows how to get into open ice to unload his cannon of a shot. Modin is still a player capable of keeping the puck away from the opposition and drawing penalties or wearing down opposing defensemen. During our 2004 Cup run, Modin played in 23 games, scored eight goals – including three on the power play and two game-winners – and notched 19 points with a plus-6 rating.
Will these two players help L.A. win the Stanley Cup this year? No. But winning the Cup this year isn’t a realistic goal for the Kings. This is about continuing to build a foundation. The next step for this group is making the playoffs and doing so with home ice advantage in the first round. It is about trying to win a round or two and getting the young Kings serious NHL post-season experience – teaching them how to win.
Against that backdrop – and with due respect to Don Maloney in Phoenix – Dean Lombardi had a great day Wednesday.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.