The Los Angeles Kings are no longer sellers at the NHL trade deadline. General manager Dean Lombardi is buying into his improving club by adding Dustin Penner for the playoff push.
The Kings acquired the Edmonton Oilers' goal-scoring left wing for prospect Colten Teubert and two draft picks Monday, swinging the biggest deal of a fairly quiet day.
"We're set up now where we can focus entirely on getting better," Lombardi said before Los Angeles hosted the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.
That's an unusual role for Lombardi and the Kings, who just ended an eight-year playoff drought last spring. Lombardi started his tenure in Los Angeles by dumping assets late in most seasons, but his Kings are in the playoff picture again this year, sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference standings with 11 wins in 15 games before meeting Detroit.
Penner, a four-time 20-goal scorer, leaves the league-worst Oilers in a deal for defenseman Teubert, the Kings' first-round pick in 2008, along with Los Angeles' first-round pick this summer and a conditional third-round pick in 2012.
Penner is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and he could suit up for Thursday's home game against Phoenix.
Lombardi is a notoriously cautious GM committed to building from within the organization and refusing to overpay for free agents. He was outbid by New Jersey's exorbitant contract for superstar Ilya Kovalchuk last summer, but Lombardi eagerly rolled the dice on Penner after chasing the former Anaheim Ducks forward for more than a month.
Penner has 21 goals and 18 assists in 62 games this season, perhaps his best campaign since signing with Edmonton as a restricted free agent in 2007. He has one year left at $4.25 million on the controversial deal that brought him to the Oilers from Anaheim.
Lombardi envisions using the 6-foot-4 Penner on a line with leading scorer Anze Kopitar, a similarly physical forward who could create matchup nightmares for opponents' defenses.
"I think our team deserved this," Lombardi said, citing the Kings' 6-1-3 performance on a mammoth February road trip that rescued their season. "The players drove me to this, going on that road trip and saying ... 'Make us better without taking anybody out of the room.'"
Penner has been the subject of Oilers' fans displeasure since he signed a five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet that the Ducks declined to match. The contract angered then-Anaheim general manager Brian Burke, who blamed Kevin Lowe, Edmonton's president of hockey operations, for inflating the value of young restricted free agents.
"There were ups and downs," Penner said of his time with the Oilers. "I had a decent first year. The second year was something I think a lot of people would like to forget. The last two I've enjoyed thoroughly.
"I came here with a big contract. That also comes with big expectations, and if I tried to meet everyone's expectations, I would drive myself insane. So I focused on becoming more consistent and a player who could play every position. I think I'm on my way to that. I'm not there yet, and it's too bad I won't be able to do it here."
Penner kept his home in California, and described the Kings as "one of the better places I could go." His transition should be smooth because he already knows players on the team, including former Oilers Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, who both encouraged Lombardi to make the move.
"It's our job to get him in here and make him part of the family," Lombardi said. "Obviously, he was passionate about his colors, and that's good."