LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Kings left wing and former University of Maine winger Dustin Penner said he didn’t mind taking a salary hit to stay with the Kings.
Penner, who made $4.25 million in the final year of his contract with the Stanley Cup champions this past season, recently agreed to a one-year, $3.25-million deal.
The Kings won the Cup for the first time in their 45-year history.
“It was by design. I wanted to stay and be a part of the Kings,” said Penner Friday night. “[The Kings] stuck by me and I wanted to show my commitment to them.”
Penner had an injury-marred regular season that included an early-season groin pull, a back injury incurred while eating his wife’s pancakes and a right wrist injury that bothered him a large portion of the season and required surgery that he underwent a week ago. He also underwent a divorce.
As a result, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Penner, a left-hand shooter, had just seven goals and 10 assists in 65 regular season games. He had four seasons with at least 23 goals prior to this season.
But he was a force in the playoffs, notching three goals, including two game-winners, and eight assists. It was his overtime game-winner in Game Five of their Western Conference championship series against Phoenix that clinched the series and sent the Kings into the finals against Eastern Conference champ New Jersey.
“I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. I was in the right place at the right time. You don’t care who scores as long as your team wins,” said Penner. “Everyone wants to be the guy who scores the game-winner but you don’t want to be the scapegoat, either.”
Penner said he was fortunate in that his wrist wasn’t the hindrance it was during the regular season.
“My wrist finally calmed down for the playoffs,” said Penner, who tried a series of different treatments to remedy the situation and wore a variety of casts to protect it.
He admitted that there were times during the season “I would tell my centerman that I couldn’t shoot the puck so don’t pass it to me. It was one of those intermittent things. It would come and go.”
For the 29-year-old Penner, it was his second Stanley Cup.
He won it in his first full NHL season with Anaheim in 2006-2007.
Anaheim racked up 110 points during the regular season to cruise into playoffs while the Kings compiled 95 and had to win games down the stretch just to get into the playoffs.
“Winning it in my first full season was a blessing and a curse,” said Penner, who explained that you expect to contend for the Cup every year after winning it.
He signed a five-year offer sheet with Edmonton in 2007 but the Oilers never made the playoffs and he was traded to Los Angeles in 2011.
“You realize it’s not as easy as it was the first time. When you win a second one, you really appreciate it [more],” said Penner. “You know what it takes and how lucky you were to even have won one. There are a lot of great players who never even get close to winning the Cup.”
The Kings became the first eight seed in NHL history to win the Cup and they set a record by winning 10 straight road games and by going up 3-0 in all four series.
The Kings benefited from dispatching their opponents early because it enabled them to get some rest between series, he said.
Penner said they had a lot of television and movie stars attend their games and they had a chance to appear on the Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel shows.
“It was cool,” said Penner who noted that there are a lot of knowledgeable hockey fans in Los Angeles.
They also stole the spotlight from the Lakers.
“That’s tough to do. But we managed to do it,” said Penner.
Penner hasn’t had his day with the Stanley Cup as yet but hopes he will get it after he gets the cast off his wrist and can hoist the Cup again in his native Winkler, Manitoba.
Penner, who had had 11 goals and 12 assists in his only season at Maine in 2003-2004 and helped the Bears reach the NCAA championship game, said his wrist should be healed by the time the Kings return to training camp in September.