May 24, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT
The Los Angeles Kings are just four wins away from their first-ever Stanley Cup victory, but perhaps it makes sense that they’ll need to face a player who was believed to be the “missing piece” to their puzzle to accomplish that task.
The Kings finished second (or worst) in the big free agent sweepstakes the last two summers. Depending upon whom you ask, Los Angeles went equally hard after New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk in 2010 and New York Rangers center Brad Richards in 2011 but came up “empty” each time.
In the process, the Kings developed a deeper, less top-heavy team that perhaps wasn’t built for regular season domination (yet?), but rather postseason glory. Some might even argue that – despite Richards’ and Kovalchuk’s talents – the Kings were “protected from themselves” by missing out on the best of their respective free agent crops.
Either way, there’s some poetic justice to the fact that whether the Rangers or Devils advance, the Kings will face a player who supposedly would have been the “missing piece” to their championship puzzle.
Which mercenary talent should they fear more going forward, then?
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