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Kings tap Flyer connection again by signing Gagne

Saturday, 07.02.2011 / 5:57 PM / NHL Free Agency 2011

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Kings tap Flyer connection again by signing Gagne
The Los Angeles Kings, runners-up in the race to sign Brad Richards, wasted no time turning to Plan B by signing veteran forward Simon Gagne.
The Philadelphia-Los Angeles connection strikes again.

With a front office and coaching staff loaded with former Flyers and ex-Philadelphia captain Mike Richards on board after a trade last month, the Kings added another one-time Flyer when they signed forward Simon Gagne to a two-year, $7 million deal on Saturday.

The signing came just hours after the Kings found out that Brad Richards, their No. 1 free-agent target , had opted to sign with the New York Rangers.

Kings Insider on the team's website says it's a two-year, $7 million deal that will pay Gagne $4.5 million in 2011-12 season and $2.5 million in 2012-13 for a $3.5 million each season. Gagne has been cleared to play — he missed time last season with a sore neck but returned in the playoffs — so the signing is not contingent on him passing a physical.

With General Manager Dean Lombardi traveling back from Toronto after the talks that failed to get Richards, Assistant GM (and former Flyer) Ron Hextall said it was important to get a top-six forward under contract quickly.

"It was fairly important for us," he said. "We've looked at the trade market, and there's not a lot there. Quite frankly, after yesterday on the free-agent market there wasn't a ton there, but this was a guy we had our eye on from the start, if we didn't get Brad Richards. We moved as quickly as we could. Obviously the familiarity with people in our organization — Terry Murray, John Stevens, myself, Dean and, particularly, his relationship with Mike Richards, both on and off the ice — were factors in him coming to L.A.”

Murray, the Kings' coach, and Stevens, his assistant, both coached in Philadelphia -- Stevens actually coached Gagne during the 31-year-old forward's 10 seasons with Philadelphia before he was traded to Tampa Bay last summer.

Gagne had 17 goals and 40 points in 63 regular-season games this past season, then contributed 5 goals and 12 points in the playoffs, helping the Lightning advance to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to Boston.

The native of Saint-Foy, Que., has 276 goals and 564 points in 727 regular-season games, as well as 37 goals and 59 points in 105 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had back-to-back 40-goal seasons for the Flyers in 2005-06 and '06-07, and put up 34 goals as recently as 2008-09, one year after missing most of the season with concussion-related problems. He's also missed 43 games with injuries in the past two seasons.

Hextall said the Kings weren't worried about injury-related problems.

"There's risk with every player," he said. "You always analyze the risk vs. reward. Obviously with the amount of money that goes into it, and the cap space, you look at the injuries, and we felt that the reward was worth the risk. I think the one thing about Simon is that he's always been a big-game player. He has scored big goals at critical times. You look at his playoff numbers, and he played in some real big games and has played some of his best hockey. That's part of the reward that we look at.

"This is a pretty darn good player, and he's also a very good defensive player, a much better defensive player than people give him credit for. He can kill penalties, he can check and obviously with the offensive part of his game, he's got a track record of numbers there.”

Hextall also said there's not much new on the contract status of restricted free agent Drew Doughty, the Kings' other big concern this summer.

"There's nothing new there," he said. "Hopefully we'll get it done in the next little while. We'll be hammering away, I can tell you that much."

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