Jeff Carter Is Now a King! No More Excuses

There’s your team, Los Angeles. Hope you like it.

Dean Lombardi finally acquired a high-scoring forward, after striking out two other times. (Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards send their regards.) And for the most part, Dean made the best possible deal to acquire a top-six forward.

He didn’t have to dole out an insane amount of time/money (Kovalchuk signed in NJ for 17 years at $100 million, Richards signed with the Rangers for nine years at $60 million.)

Carter is in the second year of his 11-year, $58 million contract he signed in Philadelphia. Even though the Kings are now on the hook for the remaining money on the contract, Carter’s cap hit is now third on L.A. for forwards (behind Anze Kopitar and bestie Mike Richards.)

Lombardi also didn’t trade away any prospects, either. He held onto Jonathan Bernier, who was rumored to be part of the deal for Rick Nash. The Kings are considered in the top five, organization-wise, for their prospects in the minors. Granted, he did include a conditional draft pick. But at this point, the Kings have a solid core in the minors that could conceivably be on the big league roster one day. The loss of one pick won’t kill them.

For the most part, Lombardi has stayed true to form: conservatively building this franchise, which was in shanbles when he inherited it in 2006. He kicked the tires on several high-ticket items during his tenure, but consistently settled back on his long-term plan.

I can’t say I was surprised. After all, in that Mike Richards’ Twitterview with Sportsnet’s Eric Gage, Richards possibly revealed Deano’s plan…

Kings fans have had to endure six years of this “five-year plan,” only to see this hockey team completely go off the rails this season. These baby steps the entire franchise has had to take have to this point have now evolved into bigger strides. We have now established the core of this team for the next 10 years. Barring what happens with Jonathan Quick’s contract, which is up at the end of the 2013-14 season, this team won’t really change significantly anytime soon.

So the $64,000 is: is this enough? Can the Kings become perennial contenders as constituted right now? Unless Lombardi does something so out of character (like trade Quick for Nash), this is your Los Angeles Kings team for the foreseeable future. Are they good enough?

A good friend once told me that you can only live on potential for so long. Youngsters like Kopitar, Brown and Doughty are now out of that period in their careers. These players will now be judged as compared to the two outsiders Richards and Carter.

The time is now for Kopitar to assume his role as the team’s most dominant player. No longer hindered by the head coach to make everyone else better, Kopitar needs to shoot and (more importantly) score more from his best stick.

The time is now for Drew Doughty to evolve back into the Norris Trophy-contending defenseman he was in 2010. He’ll need to crank up the intensity, as his job just got ultimately tougher with the Johnson trade.

The time is now for Dustin Brown to truly step up as this team’s nasty leader. The type of nasty to allowed him to lead the league in hits for two seasons; the type of nasty that make other players uncomfortable.

Dean Lombardi’s job as acquirer of a top-six player is done with getting Carter. From now on, he’ll really have to rely on the evolution of the players down in the minors. But he’s done something more than that. With this trade, he will have affected this franchise, whether it turns out good or bad, for the next decade. When you think about the scope of that, it’s equal parts impressive and scary.

I think this should quell any rumors that Lombardi will lose his job at the end of the season. It wouldn’t be the first time a team misses the playoffs after making it previous years. And this team still has its positives, heading into next season. There’s 21 games left in this season, and anything can happen once you get to the playoffs. I’m thinking we’re going to see something amazing in the next two months.