LOS ANGELES -- Dean Lombardi flashed a slight smile and adjusted the Stanley Cup champions hat on his head when he was asked to recall the moment he knew Marian Gaborik would be a good fit for the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings' general manager had just congratulated the 32-year-old forward he acquired a little over three months ago in a trade-deadline deal, hoping for a little more offense and ending up with the leading goal scorer during the Kings' magical postseason run to their second Stanley Cup in three years.
"When [Jeff] Carter picked him out and [Mike] Richards took him out to breakfast in the morning, you saw a little spring," Lombardi said of the trade. "Your players are the ones who know. Even as a GM, and everyone wants to handicap trades, but watch your players when you make a deal. They're the ones who know."
When the deal was made, the Kings were in the midst of a three-game trip in Canada, beginning in Winnipeg and continuing on to Edmonton and Calgary. Jack Ferreira, the Kings' special assistant to the general manager, was with the team in Winnipeg when Gaborik arrived and immediately called Lombardi after seeing him around the team.
"Jack's been around a long time," Lombardi said. "And that's the first thing he said: There's a spring in their step. The players are the ones that tell you when you do the right thing."
It wasn't hard to see why the Kings would embrace a sniper like Gaborik, who came to the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Matt Frattin, a second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick. The Kings were one of the five-lowest-scoring teams in the league, which is where they would finish the season, and leaned heavily on a defense that gave up the fewest goals in the league.
In Gaborik, they had a player who could potentially change their team and give them the kind of scoring punch they needed when the playoffs rolled around. But there was more than that. Gaborik wasn't only the best offensive option for the Kings at the trade deadline, their research found he was probably also the best fit in the dressing room. He was well-liked at every stop, and you would be hard-pressed to hear a teammate say a negative thing about him.
It's one of the reasons why this Stanley Cup title run was so special for Gaborik. He was not only going for his first one, but he was doing so against the New York Rangers, the team he spent more than three seasons with before being traded to Columbus at the 2013 deadline.
"Quite frankly, it was a special series," Gaborik said. "To play against those guys, it was a very difficult. They have a great team."
Gaborik made an instant impact on the Kings, but it wasn't until the playoffs rolled around that the Kings realized how big of an impact he would have. Gaborik ended up with 14 goals in the postseason, the most in the league and the most since 2009. He had only 11 goals during the regular season.
On Friday, Gaborik scored the tying goal to send the game into overtime and had several shots at scoring the winner during both overtime periods. When it was finally over, Gaborik was the third Kings player handed the Stanley Cup so he could hoist it for the first time.