Oilers forward Dustin Penner keeps Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky at… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
The frenzy in the weeks before the NHL trade deadline proved more exciting than the final hours of wheeling and dealing. Who didn't move was as noteworthy as the 35 players uprooted in 16 trades Monday, leaving the Kings to make the biggest splash in a quiet pond.
After being told Dallas center Brad Richards wasn't available to them, the Kings went for size over speed. To acquire four-time 20-goal scorer Dustin Penner, a brawny but inconsistent left wing who was a contributor to the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship, the Kings gave the Edmonton Oilers minor league defenseman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in a thin entry draft in June and a 2012 third-round pick that will become a second-rounder if the Kings win the Stanley Cup this year.
The Kings didn't address their need for speed up front, but they didn't have to trade prime prospect Brayden Schenn and they gained muscle. Penner, 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds, should give talented but inconsistent center Anze Kopitar someone on his level to play off. Teubert, chosen 13th in the 2008 draft, became expendable because his defense-oriented game is much like Matt Greene's.
"It was time to get better," said General Manager Dean Lombardi, notoriously reluctant to trade draft picks but eager to solidify the team's grasp of a playoff spot after it rebounded from a 2-10 slump.
"The No. 1 determinant in terms of when the general manager gets aggressive is what the players downstairs are showing him. This team has had some mental slides, but the way this team fought out of the last one showed me it's time to make us a better team and not take anybody out of that [locker] room."
Penner, earning $4.25 million this season and next on the five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet that lured him away from Anaheim, missed the Kings' game against Detroit on Monday at Staples Center but is expected in Los Angeles on Tuesday. He has 21 goals and 39 points in 62 games this season.
Penner, 28, was probably the most prominent player to move after Dallas decided to keep impending free agent Richards. Veteran Jason Arnott moved from New Jersey to become Washington's No. 2 center and the out-of-contention Florida Panthers dispersed bodies but kept winger David Booth. Colorado kept defenseman John-Michael Liles and Edmonton held on to Ales Hemsky and defenseman Ladislav Smid.
The Stars, in the pack of West playoff contenders, had the biggest bargaining chip in Richards even though he has sat out six games because of a concussion. The club is for sale and it was speculated Richards might want to leave for greener financial pastures.
"In my mind, I wasn't going to move him unless somebody knocked our socks off with something we couldn't refuse," Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk told reporters in Dallas. "We've said all along that we want to sign Brad, and we still feel that way."
The Ducks, who recently acquired goaltender Dan Ellis, winger Jarkko Ruutu and defenseman Francois Beauchemin, made two small deals. They sent disappointing forward Maxim Lapierre and minor league center MacGregor Sharp to Vancouver for center Joel Perrault and a third-round pick in 2012, and added left wing Brad Winchester from St. Louis for a 2012 third-round pick.
"We were trying to get a little more size," General Manager Bob Murray said.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks were among the teams that made depth moves, acquiring defenseman Chris Campoli and a conditional seventh-round 2012 draft pick from Ottawa for center Ryan Potulny and a second-round pick in June.
Most teams were spectators, perhaps still digesting such recent blockbusters as Boston's acquisition of defenseman Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, the megadeal that sent Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk from Colorado to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement, and the trade that sent winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen from Dallas to Pittsburgh for defenseman Alex Goligoski.
Lombardi said the Kings had zeroed in on Penner the last few days — while he was negotiating a four-year, $14.6-million contract extension to keep right wing Justin Williams from free agency.
"That's an important thing for us. He's one of our more skilled players," Lombardi said of Williams, 29, who shared the team goal-scoring lead at 20 before the game Monday. "We didn't want to lose that level of skill and a guy who's won a Stanley Cup and is not old."
With Williams and Penner signed, the Kings are "still positioned in the summer if we want to add a top player and we still have the guy everybody wanted in Brayden in the system," Lombardi said.
Penner brings some baggage — chiefly that he doesn't always play hard. "Coming here and just fitting in and doing what he's capable of, we're hoping he can get recharged," Lombardi said. "I think he had a lot of pressure on him there going to Edmonton and this is the type of thing where he's been to Southern California before. This has a chance to be a real good fit for us.
"The thing I like about it is we've become a team that's known as hard to play against. And I think you add a guy this size, with his ability, I think he adds to that."
Now come the ripple effects of that splash.