Deep into his second decade as an NHL winger, Ethan Moreau is starting over. New division, new coach, new teammates and a new system to learn in short order.
With his 36th birthday just a month away, Moreau certainly didn’t need a new, significant challenge in his career. Except, in a way, he did.
By signing a one-year contract with the Kings on Tuesday, Moreau is seeking to fill the one notable line missing from his strong resume.
"I had a conversation with him two days ago," Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall said, "and his whole motivation, the only thing he talked about, was winning the Cup. Here's a guy who has played a long time, and he has been close, and his full motivation is to win the Cup."
Moreau can play either wing, but won’t be counted on as a top scorer.
Instead, it’s the "intangibles" -- a word Hextall used multiple times in describing Moreau’s value -- that attracted the Kings as they look to establish themselves as Cup contenders.
"From the outside looking in, before I was part of the organization, everybody knows that L.A. has a very, very good roster and that they're going to be challenging for the top spot in the Pacific and in the West," Moreau said. "I think that's a pretty common opinion around the league. That's just not coming from a guy that just signed here.
"At this stage of my career, I've been to Game 7 of the Finals and lost, and I've been on some teams that haven't done well and haven't made the playoffs. That was one thing I wanted to stay away from. I didn't want to go to a young team and have to be the older guy on a young, not very good team. I wanted to be a piece of the puzzle on a good team that had a chance to win. I think everybody would agree that L.A. is that spot."
A former captain of the Edmonton Oilers, Moreau in 2009 won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, given to the player who "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community."
Listed at 6-foot-3, 219 pounds, Moreau will also bring some bulk back to the Kings’ third or fourth line, after the offseason departure of Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Kings also believe he can replace some of Handzus’ quiet, veteran leadership.
"He's a veteran presence," Hextall said of Moreau. "I think when you lose a Michal Handzus, you've got to try to compensate for that. I think Michal brought a lot to the table that we need to replace. Mike Richards
brings a lot of intangibles in, no question, but we lost some size there as well with Handzus and Ponikarovsky, and we felt like we wanted to bring it back into the lineup because it was valuable to us during the playoffs."
Moreau was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1994 and started his NHL career with them the following season. In 1999, Moreau was traded to Edmonton and spent parts of 11 seasons with the Oilers.
In 2003-04, Moreau totaled career highs of 20 goals and 32 points. In 2005-06, Moreau reached the Stanley Cup Finals with the Oilers. Now, he will be reunited with two teammates from that squad, defenseman Matt Greene
and center Jarret Stoll
It’s been a tougher go of late for Moreau, who has missed at least 45 games in three of the past five seasons. Injuries limited Moreau to 37 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, but Moreau said he is healthy and motivated.
"I just can't wait to get back, just to show my teammates that I'm not just here for leadership," Moreau said. "I'm not just here to be a piece of the roster. I want to re-establish myself and score goals and play tough and do what I've always done. I don't feel like my play has gone down. I've just had some unlucky injuries. It's exciting for me to be able to re-prove myself in the league and have some incentive. I'm mad, which is good. I'm motivated that more teams didn't want me, and hopefully I can take it out through my play."
Moreau already is familiar with Southern California. His brother, Chad, is a Los Angeles-based trainer who previously worked as a strength coach for the Oilers, and Ethan Moreau has spent a significant amount of the past few summers in the L.A. area.
"It's such a comfort level," Moreau said of joining the Kings. "I went in the locker room today and I kind of knew everybody in there. It was a weird feeling for me, because I've always been on the other side and practicing with those guys and getting along with them, but now, actually being in the room, it felt pretty cool."