LOS ANGELES (AP) — With two significant moves shortly before the NHL trade deadline, the Los Angeles Kings secured a key part of their future and made another move away from their successful past.
Forward Alex Iafallo agreed to a four-year, $16 million contract extension with the Kings on Monday, a day after Los Angeles traded veteran power forward Jeff Carter in the latest step of a lengthy franchise rebuild.
After Carter and the Kings made the bittersweet mutual decision to allow the 36-year-old power forward to pursue another Stanley Cup title in Pittsburgh, general manager Rob Blake succeeded in his lengthy quest to keep the speedy Iafallo, one of the best recent additions to a struggling franchise.
Iafallo featured in recent trade rumors because of his pending status as an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the Kings finally locked him down as a key part of their new core.
“We were 100% committed to getting (Iafallo’s contract) done,” Blake said. “We’ve been focused on building a group in here, and Alex has been part of that group. He’s come in and been very effective, very reliable, a system-type player that constantly is a real good pro. We want to make sure we’re taking care of the good hockey players, the guys that are going to fit and go forward with us.”
Iafallo was an undrafted free agent when the Kings signed him in April 2017 after four seasons at Minnesota-Duluth. Iafallo surprisingly played his way onto the Kings’ opening night roster to start the 2017-18 season, and the upstate New York native scored 25 points in 75 games as a rookie while frequently skating on a line with captain Anze Kopitar and veteran Dustin Brown.
The 27-year-old Iafallo’s role and scoring totals have grown over the past four seasons as he recorded 52 goals and 74 assists in 266 career games, all without ever playing in the minor leagues.
“I want to be part of something special going forward here, and that’s why I wanted to stay,” Iafallo said. “I’ve loved it since I got here. Just a great organization, great players. We can do something special. … It’s definitely stressful going through that, seeing if you’re going to get traded. I sat down before games and just thought about hockey and what I needed to do on the ice.”
Iafallo has 11 goals and 14 assists as the third-leading scorer this season for the Kings, who are likely to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Only Kopitar averages more ice time among Los Angeles’ forwards than Iafallo (20:09).
“(Iafallo) realizes that as a team, if we’re going to take the next step, he’s going to be a big part of this team,” Kopitar said. “It’s nice for him, I’m sure, to get this part out of the way and just focus on getting better.”
The Kings’ journey back to contention won’t include Carter, a stalwart scorer and leader whose arrival in February 2012 played a big role in LA’s transformation into a powerhouse.
Los Angeles traded Carter to Pittsburgh on Sunday night for two mid-round conditional draft picks, further disassembling the long-remaining core of its two Stanley Cup champions. Only four players remain from that title-winning group: Kopitar, Brown, defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick.
Kopitar called Carter’s departure “a little punch in the gut.”
“Throughout the nine years, he’s done just about everything we’ve asked of him,” the captain added. “I don’t think he got enough credit for showing the way as a leader. It’s a very sour taste to see him go, but at the end of the day, you wish him luck, and we’ll meet up again soon, probably in the summer.”
The Kings won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title four months after Carter arrived, and Los Angeles reached three straight Western Conference finals before winning another ring in 2014. Carter’s offensive contributions have declined amid injury problems over the past four seasons, but he remained a valued teammate and physical presence.
Carter visited the Kings’ morning skate to say goodbye before their home game against Vegas on Monday night.
“There were some tears in some eyes today, but he’s going to get an opportunity,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We’d like to see him make good on it and enjoy another championship out East.”
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