"It's unbelievable feeling," Gaborik said, standing on the ice with the Stanley Cup. "It doesn't get better than this. When you get older, you appreciate it more. These chances don't come along every year, and I'm fortunate and grateful to be part of a Stanley Cup team."
Two years ago, it was Carter getting traded from Columbus at the deadline to Los Angeles and helping the Kings win their first Stanley Cup. This year, it was Gaborik making the similar journey. Carter was the player who helped him get acclimated to L.A. It was a kind of passing of the torch that speaks to the culture in the Kings' dressing room and growth of Carter since he arrived.
"Carter, his emergence as a leader has been really special," Lombardi said, adding: "He was the first one to grab Gaborik when he came in, and he said, 'You're staying with me.' ... I'm not sure that's the same player that was there three years ago. I think it's an incredible lesson in how an athlete, how he grows as a person can be as important as how much he gets in shape. It's just fabulous to see how far he's come."
Lombardi says he believes that Gaborik, 32, can have the same type of growth if he stays in Los Angeles. He's a free agent after this season but all signs are pointing to the two sides figuring out a way to continue the relationship.
"There's a little bit of Teemu Selanne in there," Lombardi said. "When Selanne finally won, he went to another level and I think sometimes when you experience something like this, you realize there are things more important than stats. He's a great kid. The one thing our scouts did was before the deadline, everyone knew we were looking for offense and the digging they did, they found out about him as a person. Because we knew if he got into our room and he was a good person, there's a good chance he was going to acclimate given the way those guys were in the room. It started with him. The marks he got as a person and a teammate were first class."
When Lombardi was asked if he thought Gaborik would stay with the Kings, he once again flashed a slight smile.
"Ask him," he said. "We're certainly hoping he stays."