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Penner inks for one more year

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Penner's journey with the Kings will last at least one more season.

Penner, who turned around a disappointing regular season with a strong playoff run, signed a one-year, $3.25-million contract on Sunday. Penner had become an unrestricted free agent hours earlier, at which point he became eligible to sign with any team of his choosing, but Penner said it never got to that point.

''We actually had talked yesterday and there was a deal in principle, so I never got to free agency,'' Penner said. ''My mindset was, I wanted to be on a championship team. ... It's a great organization here with the Kings, great people and I have great teammates. The fans have been unbelievable, and I wanted to be a part of that for another year.’’

Penner's signing means that the Kings, if they choose, can return their entire Stanley Cup championship team. The only unsigned piece is winger Dwight King, who is a restricted free agent, but the Kings made a qualifying offer in order to retain King's rights, and his re-signing isn't expected to be complicated.

Penner, meanwhile, will get another chance to prove himself.

Acquired from Edmonton just before the 2011 trade deadline, Penner underperformed at the end of that season -- two goals and four assists in 19 games with the Kings -- and throughout the past season, when he totaled seven goals and 10 assists in 65 regular-season games and was called out publicly by coach Darryl Sutter and his predecessor, Terry Murray.

Penner enjoyed an unlikely resurgence in the playoffs, though, as he had three goals and eight assists in 20 games and, all around, played well enough to earn a promotion to the second line, where he played left wing alongside center Mike Richards and right winger Jeff Carter.

Penner’s highlight came when he scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 5 against Phoenix to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals. Penner, who turns 30 in September, then helped the Kings beat New Jersey and won the second Stanley Cup of his career, after his 2007 run with Anaheim.

''When you win that second Cup, you really get a better grasp and understanding of what it means,'' Penner said. ''Sometimes you take that first one for granted, if you win it early. I didn't know if I'd ever win a second one, and now that I've won a second one, I want a third one. That's in my mind now.''

In returning to the Kings, Penner accepted a pay cut of approximately 25 percent and will be faced with another ''prove-it'' year, given that he will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent again next July 1. Penner passed up the opportunity to possibly sign a multi-year contract this summer.

''I knew there were probably other teams that would have offered me more than a year,'' Penner said. ''It's a great opportunity for myself, personally, to have the year I've wanted to have as a King. Last year wasn't anywhere near people's expectations, and especially my own. I look forward to having that opportunity to redeem myself further.''

Penner confirmed that he will require some type of surgical procedure on his wrist this summer, but said he didn't think it would impact his ability to be ready for training camp.

''It hasn’t affected my golf game that much,’’ Penner joked, ''but it’s still something that affects hockey, and I’ll probably have to get something done in the near future.''

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