Michael Cammalleri is back in the city where he started his NHL career, after signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings on July 1. Ten years ago, though — almost to the day — Cammalleri and the Los Angeles Kings sat on opposite sides in a five-hour arbitration hearing.
Just one year into his tenure, Dean Lombardi successfully argued against the enormous raise Cammalleri was demanding, landing the Kings’ top scorer at $6.7 million overall on a two-year deal. And for a while, it was business as usual. The Kings were still pretty bad, but a (presumably) very motivated Cammalleri was still pretty dang good, potted ten goals in his first ten games of the new season. Cammalleri skated alongside two other young players with the keys to LA’s future, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Then Cammalleri cooled off, and then he missed a month with a rib cartilage strain, and then the production wasn’t justifying the strained relationship or the upcoming contract, as Quisp put it on this site, “everyone on the planet” realized that a trade was coming. It went down on June 20, 2008, at the NHL Draft.
You’ve seen what happened to the Kings in the nine years since. Kopitar, Brown, and a little-used rookie named Jonathan Quick are the only two Kings who remain from that 2007-08 squad. Mere hours after Cammalleri was sent to Calgary, LA drafted Drew Doughty second overall. A week later, the Kings acquired Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll. A month after that, LA hired Terry Murray to coach the team. And so on and so forth, until a number of high-profile forwards acquired by trade and some undervalued defensemen joined Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, and Quick to win a Stanley Cup, then another one two years later. The Kings went from cellar-dweller to juggernaut to, well, whatever they are now. But what happened on the other end?
Here’s where Mike Cammalleri has been since departing Los Angeles.
June 20, 2008
Cammalleri thoroughly enjoyed his new digs (evidence of that later), and after a rough season where he was expected to be “the guy” in Los Angeles, he got to spend most of his time with “the guy” in Calgary. Iginla took a step back from his 2007-08 Hart Trophy finalist season, but Cammalleri picked up a career-high 82 points, and the Flames went from a one-man show to a two-man one. The Flames might have expected to end their streak of first-round defeats against a team that had missed the playoffs in nine of their previous ten seasons, but unfortunately, that team was the Chicago Blackhawks. Cammalleri scored the go-ahead goal in the third period of Game 1, but Calgary blew that lead and lost in six games as Cammalleri was unable to find another goal. Calgary wouldn’t return to the postseason until they shoved LA out in 2014-15.
July 1, 2009
“ ‘Now it’s time to move on. It excites me to play in Montreal. There’s a passion for the sport there that you only find in select places.’ ” - Cammalleri, via Sportsnet
$30 million over five years was a lot of money, but for the Habs, it was worth it to put a proven scorer on Scott Gomez’s wing. Gomez had been acquired the previous day from the Rangers, who landed the biggest fish on Day 1 of free agency: Marian Gaborik. The Canadiens were pleased to grab Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, who had 62 points of his own in 2008-09, and the offense looked improved despite the trade of Saku Koivu to Anaheim. But the offense scored 32 fewer goals with their new prizes, and neither Cammalleri nor Gionta exceeded 50 points. (They actually haven’t done so since, either.) Cammalleri missed six weeks with a knee injury, and as the playoffs started, he was going on 2 1⁄2 months without a goal.
May 14, 2010
“Cammalleri Chasing Down 91-Year-Old Canadiens Record” - Habs Eyes on the Prize
Everyone remembers the 2010 Montreal Canadiens due to the heroics of Jaroslav Halak, who backstopped the East’s #8 seed over the post-lockout era’s best regular season team and the defending champs. But Cammalleri was nearly as instrumental to Montreal’s upsets of Washington and Pittsburgh, as he scored 12 goals in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He ended up with 13, and if that didn’t show how important he had become, playing 23 minutes a game in the Eastern Conference Finals sure did.
August 31, 2011
“ ‘As time goes on in Montreal... I fall more and more in love with it.’ ” - Cammalleri, via The Hockey News
January 12, 2012
“ ‘That’s really none of your business,’ Cammalleri said curtly when asked to relate what he told [reporters]. ‘It’s an emotional game, we’re sitting in 12th spot. It’s not fun to lose, you always want to do more. That’s all. I made some comments after my interview yesterday that I thought were pretty (politically correct) with regards to the competitive advantage a winning team has in their mentality, and the lack thereof of a losing team.’ ” - National Post
Cammalleri’s 2010-11 looked a lot like his 2009-10. An injury took a chunk out of a decent, if underwhelming, regular season before Cammalleri caught fire in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the playoffs only lasted seven games, but Cammalleri’s 10 points set up what should’ve been a solid 2011-12. Instead, Montreal cratered, and Cammalleri was traded to Calgary MID-GAME the day after making comments critical of Montreal’s “losing mentality.” (After being translated to French and back to English, the comments were skewed a bit; TSN hilariously quoted: “We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.”)
April 28, 2013
“ ‘It's disappointing where we are.’ ” - Cammalleri, via NHL.com
Hey, remember how I mentioned that the Flames’ playoff drought extended to 2015? That included Cammalleri’s entire second tenure with Calgary. Cammalleri stayed productive, even leading the Flames in scoring during a lockout-shortened 2013, but the team got bad pretty quickly after an encouraging second half of 2011-12. (They tested LA down the stretch, but eventually failed to beat our the Kings for the eighth playoff spot in the West. Thank goodness.) Cammalleri was consistently better than his teammates from a possession standpoint, and after he put up a 50.8% Corsi For% for the league’s fourth-worst CF% team in 2013-14, he was on his way.
July 1, 2014
“I like to score goals. If I score goals, the team has a chance to win games, so I'll be a happy man.” - Cammalleri, via NHL.com.
Did anyone tell Mike Cammalleri what team he was signing a five-year contract with? The New Jersey Devils finished 27th in goals in 2013-14, and while Cammalleri praised New Jersey’s “template” when he joined the team on the first day of free agency, he had to know that goals might be at a premium. Then again, he was going to be a solution to the Devils’ goalscoring issues, and for a year and a half, he actually was. In 2014-15, the 32-year-old Cammalleri scored 27 goals, in only 68 games. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say “only,” as that 68 was his highest since 2008-09. No one else did much of anything on offense, though, and his 42 points trailed team leader Adam Henrique’s total by only one. He then came out flying the next season. On January 26, the Devils were in eighth, Cammalleri already had 38 points in 42 games, and that $5 million salary looked downright reasonable.
Then he hurt his wrist, and missed the rest of the season.
October 28, 2016
“What’s Up With Mike Cammalleri?” - All About the Jersey
June 30, 2017
“Devils to Buy Out Cammalleri” - All About the Jersey
There was a single hot streak for Cammalleri during his final year in New Jersey, but 31 points in 60 games came in below any point total since Cammalleri became an NHL regular after the lockout. In his first month back in action Cammalleri looked lackluster, but things didn’t get really bad until 2017. In his last 28 games, Cammalleri took 63 shots on goal and scored on exactly zero of them. That was unforgivable for a player with two years and $10 million left on his contract, especially one who missed almost all of March with yet another injury. In his final game as a Devil, Cammalleri had an assist in 13 minutes of ice time, but he watched as Miles Wood, Joseph Blandisi, and Stefan Noesen (average age: 23) each got more shifts. The Devils picked Nico Hischier first overall, and faced with yet another season of rebuilding, they bought Cammalleri out.
July 24, 2017
Mike Cammalleri is not the same player he was in 2008, and the Los Angeles Kings are not the same team. Now that we’re all caught up on Cammalleri’s journey, you can probably understand why Cammalleri is back in LA. Cammalleri is making $1 million this season as a complementary piece. While there is some pressure to succeed, for the first time in quite some time, Cammalleri won’t be expected to lead the offense. One thing hasn’t changed, though: the Kings need goals, and they need Cammalleri to provide them.