Whether the player sees it coming or not, being traded can often create a very uncomfortable transition. On the bright side, many of the players involved in this summer’s biggest deals could enjoy a slightly smoother transition since they’ll be reunited with former teammates.
It’s possible Jeff Carter is still a bit upset about being shipped from Philadelphia from Columbus, but former Flyers teammate R.J. Umberger might be able to show him the ropes in Ohio. Devin Setoguchi was elated when Dany Heatley told him that he would join him in Minnesota after the Wild completed a second blockbuster trade with San Jose.
Yet when you consider the best reunion from a pure chemistry standpoint, the Los Angeles Kings’ might have hit the jackpot by signing Simon Gagne and trading for Mike Richards. The two made their best music together in the 2008-09 season with Philly; Gagne scored 34 goals (matching his goal-scoring output from the last two seasons) while Richards scored a career-high 80 points.
Injury issues could plague Gagne and a different offensive system could foul things up for the both of them, but it’s tough to deny the wisdom of bringing the two back together. It’s a point that hasn’t been lost on Gagne, who discussed the reunion with Helene Elliott as he visited Los Angeles earlier this week.
“I had a lot of success with Mike in Philly for many years. It’s always a plus to have the chemistry building right away,” said Gagne, who will wear No. 12, which he has worn since childhood. “We didn’t play together last year, but a year is not too bad. … I’m sure we’ll have a chance to show what we can do and we will try to take that chance. We have a lot of other players offensively that I’m sure we could find chemistry with too.”
While the Washington Capitals’ mind-numbing bargain contract with Tomas Vokoun topped it soon after, the Kings’ deal with Gagne still ranks as one of the best free agent gambles of the 2011 off-season. Health is the biggest concern for Gagne, but he’s a natural goal scorer who has good speed and can play a decent defensive game to boot.
Plenty of people wonder if the Kings will be a genuine Stanley Cup contender in 2011-12. That might just happen if Gagne finds a good groove with Richards once again.