EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Milan Lucic understood that anything could happen with the Boston Bruins after they missed the playoffs and hired a new general manager.
Being traded to the Los Angeles Kings was one outcome that the bruising forward never saw coming.
“I expected the unexpected. I definitely didn’t expect to get traded to a team like L.A., but I couldn’t be happier to end up in a spot like this with a team like this,” Lucic said Saturday at the team’s practice facility.
“On paper, without me, they are still, I would say, one of the top five best teams in the league,” Lucic added.
Kings president Luc Robitaille and assistant general manager Rob Blake welcomed Lucic to the two-time Stanley Cup champion franchise, presenting him with the black jersey he will wear in the fall.
Lucic assumed that joining the Kings was not feasible financially, believing the team would be unable to take on the last season of his three-year, $18 million contract with its limited flexibility under the salary cap.
Instead, the Kings acquired the Vancouver native last month by dealing away goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th-overall draft pick.
“Just looking at the salary cap and all the great players here … I mean, I’m not a cheap cap hit, so that’s why I didn’t really expect it,” Lucic said. “But when it happened I was more than thrilled.”
Lucic said he had not yet discussed a contract extension with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, but noted “that usually takes care of itself if you’re focused on the right things.”
For Lucic and the Kings, it means bouncing back from a frustrating season.
Lucic had 18 goals and 26 assists for his worst numbers for a campaign in which he played at least 72 games since his second year with the Bruins.
The Kings mounted a meek defense of their 2014 Stanley Cup title, eliminated from playoff contention in the last week of the season because of inconsistent scoring and an inability to protect leads late in games.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Lucic should to be able to help his new team address both issues.
Lucic is expected to join Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik on the Kings’ top line, allowing Gaborik to move back to his natural position of right wing. And with Kopitar and Gaborik to occupy opposing defenders, Lucic believes he is still capable of duplicating the career-high 30 goals he scored in 2010-11.
“I don’t want to stand here and give any guarantees about how many goals I’m going to score, but when you’re playing with two great players like that, you always try to set new goals and higher goals for yourself,” said Lucic, who had 139 goals and 203 assists with the Bruins.
“I just want to get myself back to the player that I know I can be. I’m still young. I feel like I’m just getting into my prime years here, and from talking to the management here they have full confidence in myself and being the player I can be.”
When it comes to matching the physical edge that has been the Kings’ trademark under coach Darryl Sutter, Lucic pointed to his astrological sign.
“I’m a Gemini, so I got that split personality where you got that short fuse,” Lucic said. “I think the intimidating factor is still a big part of the game. I’m just going to continue doing what I do. I play with that mean streak. I’m not coming here to change the character of the team. I’m just coming here to add to it.”
But Lucic couldn’t begin his Kings tenure without reflecting on his time with the Bruins, taking out an ad in the Boston Globe on Friday to thank fans for their support during his eight seasons with the team.
“Like the ad said, it was a big part of my life,” Lucic said. “I got to win a Stanley Cup there on an Original Six franchise and bring it back where greats like Bobby Orr got to play. It was a real special time for myself and I just kind of wanted to close the chapter of my life there with something like that.”