There’s an interesting piece in the Philadelphia Daily News that quotes two unnamed members of the Philadelphia Flyers about the hard-partying ways of center Mike Richards, who was traded to the Kings last month for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
According to the unidentified Flyers, Richards and then-Flyers teammate Jeff Carter — who was later traded to Columbus — were exiled in part because they refused to sign their names on a board in the locker room and pledge to refrain from drinking for a month -- or, as they called it, the Dry Island.
Not every player on the team took that pledge, which is acknowledged by General Manager Paul Holmgren. But the partying habits of Richards and Carter were said to be of concern to those unidentified teammates and supposedly contributed to management's decision to trade them.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi didn’t respond to a request for a comment on the Daily News story. Richards is scheduled to be in Los Angeles for an introductory news conference Wednesday, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to this.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, contending the Edmonton Oilers have twice traded him players who are not able to play, said Friday he will “look at our legal avenues” to get a remedy.
“The bottom line for me, I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton’s word,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi initially agreed to take forward Gilbert Brule in exchange for left wing Ryan Smyth but balked when he said the Kings’ lawyers determined Brule had not been procedurally cleared following a concussion. Unwilling to void the trade because Smyth had asked to leave Los Angeles -- and because Smyth’s departure would take a huge burden off the Kings’ salary cap -- Lombardi agreed to instead take center Colin Fraser and a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Lombardi said he knew Fraser had suffered a fractured foot last season but was told Fraser was days away from being cleared.
However, Lombardi said the Kings’ doctors found not only an unhealed fracture but an alarming cyst in Fraser’s foot and a blood disorder. Lombardi said Fraser will require surgery that would keep him out four months. Lombardi also said Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of the Kings’ parent company, AEG, tried to broker a settlement but the Oilers have not responded to the Kings’ requests for further discussions.
Free agent Brad Richards agreed to a contract with the New York Rangers on Saturday, turning down an offer the Kings had made during an elaborate presentation Friday at the office of his agent, Pat Morris.
A Kings spokesman confirmed that Richards was going East shortly after it was reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger.
Initial reports pegged the contract at nine years and $58.5 million, which was close to or identical to the Kings’ offer. Both offers were heavily front-loaded.
Apparently the comfort factor for Richards of returning to the East and playing for John Tortorella, who was his coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 when they won the Stanley Cup, was more important than other factors. The Kings tried to persuade him they would be a good fit strategically, were Cup contenders and offered a desirable lifestyle. They assembled a videotape pitch that included recruiting appeals from Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant, among others, but in the end couldn't overcome geography or Richards' familiarity with Tortorella.
The Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs were also believed to be among the final few teams that Richards considered overnight before choosing the Rangers. Calgary reportedly offered him more than $60 million and included a personal call from Jarome Iginla to Richards in its pitch.
Winger Teddy Purcell has become a star in the Tampa Bay Lightning's Eastern Conference playoff series against the Boston Bruins, scoring five goals in helping to carry his team to a decisive seventh game Friday night in Boston.
Kings fans can only shake their heads at his success, remembering the long droughts Purcell endured during his time with the Kings.
Purcell scored four goals in 40 games during the 2008-09 season and three in 41 games in 2009-10 before being traded to Tampa Bay with a third-round draft pick for center Jeff Halpern. The Lightning clearly got the best of that deal: Halpern left the Kings as a free agent after scoring no goals and contributing only two assists in 16 games. The Lightning drafted Brock Beukeboom with that draft pick but later traded him to St. Louis for key defenseman Eric Brewer.
I asked Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi for his thoughts on Purcell’s feats with the Lightning, but Lombardi forwarded my request to Coach Terry Murray, who was kind enough to call from his offseason home in Maine.
Kings forward Oscar Moller, a restricted free agent, is expected to return to his native Sweden to play in the Elite League next season but the Kings will retain his NHL rights.
General Manager Dean Lombardi said the move was Moller’s choice. The fleet but small winger — he’s listed at 5 feet 10 and 189 pounds — played only 13 games during the season and only one playoff game. He acquitted himself well while filling in for the suspended Jarret Stoll in the second game of the Kings’ playoff series against San Jose but didn’t get another chance to play.
His fatal flaw apparently is his size, at least in the eyes of Lombardi and Coach Terry Murray. Moller has skill and his speed is an element Kings forwards sorely lack, but he couldn’t win a regular spot. And he has little to prove in the American Hockey League after scoring 23 goals and 50 points in 59 games with the Kings’ Manchester farm team last season.
“It is a chance for him to mature more physically. He still has a young body,” Lombardi said via email.
But not a big enough body for the Kings, it seems. Too bad.
Greetings from San Jose, where there seems to be a pretty good buzz about the playoff opener between the Sharks and Kings at HP Pavilion. The morning skates for both teams drew decent media crowds, including cameras and reporters from Canada’s TSN TV network, which is televising the series.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi didn’t respond to my requests to explain why he assigned prized prospect Brayden Schennto Manchester of the American Hockey League instead of bringing Schenn here to join the big club, but Lombardi’s comments to me in a phone conversation two days ago shed some light on the club's reasoning.
Lombardi said Tuesday, before Schenn’s junior team was eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs, that he was hesitant to throw Schenn into the pressure cooker of the playoffs and put the young center in the position of “replacing” injured center Anze Kopitar.
“The other thing, too, is that he can help us in terms of making plays. But the perception that he’s somehow going to fill in for Kopitar is way off,” Lombardi said Tuesday. “He could improve the team in an area like [Andrei] Loktionov, in terms of playmaking and puck possession. But the perception that he’s going to go in there and suddenly Kopitar’s hole is going to be filled, that’s totally unrealistic.
“The other thing in the back of my mind is, is this really the stage to put the kid on?”
A key matchup in the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks could be the Sharks’ power play, which ranked second in the NHL with a 23.5% success rate, against the Kings’ penalty killing, which ranked fourth with an 85.5% efficiency rate.
“I think that’s an easy one to point out,” Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said the other day during a conference call with reporters.
“Their penalty kill has been exceptional all year. They’ve got some units that do a tremendous job and their goaltender might be their best penalty killer. We do rely on our power play. I expect it to be sharp but I do believe this series will likely be won five-on-five. Those two special teams may offset each other and you’re going to have to perform five-on-five and find a way to prevent a score.”
Kings Coach Terry Murray agreed that it’s wise not to rely too much on the power play in the playoffs because the calls might not be plentiful.
“Some teams look for that and wait for that and it can come back and haunt you,” he said Tuesday after the Kings practiced in El Segundo.
“I think there will be a lot of five-on-five play. I don’t think we’re going to get into too many special teams, in my opinion. I just base it on the way the season finished off the last month—they let the teams decide the outcome.”
The Kings had only 23 power plays in their last seven games and had no power plays or disadvantages against Dallas on April 2.
Bob Pulford stood next to the glass during the Kings’ morning skate Thursday at the Toyota Sports Center and marveled at what he was seeing.
“They’re all so big,” he said as players practiced at the El Segundo facility for Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center. “They’re a good team.”
The Kings’ 40-25-5 record proves he’s right and not simply biased because his daughter, Wandamae, is married to the Kings’ general manager, Dean Lombardi.
The current Kings are the first edition to record back-to-back 40-win seasons. The first Kings team ever to win 40 games was the squad Pulford coached in 1974-75, which won 42 games and still holds the franchise record of 105 points.
The Kings will honor Pulford in an on-ice ceremony Saturday at Staples Center before their game against the Ducks. It’s the last in the Kings’ Legend Night series and will feature players wearing replicas of the team’s old Forum blue-and-gold uniforms.
Pulford, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs, played the last two seasons of his career with the Kings and became their coach on June 7, 1972. He left the Kings after the 1976-77 season to become general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Who would have thought that the Kings would make the most prominent trade on the NHL's trading deadline day?
But there it is: Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi acquired left wing Dustin Penner -- a member of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team -- from Edmonton for minor-league defenseman Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in this year's entry draft and a third-round pick in 2012 that would become a second-round pick if the Kings win the Stanley Cup this year.
"It was time to get better," Lombardi said.
Penner is not expected to be in the Kings' lineup for their game Monday night against Detroit because of immigration issues.
Here are some of Lombardi's thoughts, and yes, this first part was in response to ONE question:
"We were obviously looking for a top forward. I think generally we had a list last month of four or five that were realistic. There's a whittling-down effect, and it's not only what you need but what you're willing to pay contractually. The last couple days we set our sights on him, and it finally gets done. [Sunday] night, I wasn't sure anything was going to get done. It always goes down to the end.
"I think what makes him attractive is that he can do a lot of things but he clearly can play the left wing. I like the fact that he's been to the Stanley Cup finals and knows what it takes to win. All the reports we get on him, including [the former Edmonton players] that are here, Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll, were high on the type of person he is and also said that he would fit in with this group.
"Coming here and just fitting in and doing what he's capable of, we’re hoping he can get recharged. 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 [6-foot-4, 245 pounds], with his ability, I think he adds to that.”
Asked about his habitual reluctance to give up draft picks, Lombardi said the time and the circumstances made it right to trade a first-round pick. It also helps that this year's draft is considered thin and that the Kings' pick will be late.
"In terms of where the franchise is at, in the first four years it made no sense to trade draft picks. I’ve always said there will be a time and place to trade picks and prospects but it has to be the right time and the right player. Last year was the first time we were a buyer, but we were a buyer on the perimeter. But this time, what dictates ... 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 [a 2-10 slump] showed me that, in essence, it's time to make us a better team and not take anybody out of that [locker] room. That's where a lot of my other deals were breaking down. I was not interested in taking anybody out of my room and creating a hole to fill a hole. It makes no sense.
"It was time to get better. The building process is trades, free agency and drafts, but it depends on what stage your franchise is at. And the way they battled back and got in this, OK, now's the time to get you some help and not take anybody out of the room. ...The way they battled back said, 'You know, it's time for the GM to go out and get them some help.'"
Lombardi said he wasn't interested in "putting certain players out there," meaning prized prospect Brayden Schenn. Teubert had fallen on the Kings' defense depth chart, though Lombardi said Teubert had played well during Lombardi's last scouting trip to see the Kings' farm team in Manchester, N.H.
"Colten's come a long way. He was really good when I went down to Manchester, but one of the things that allows me to consider this is he's very much a Matt Greene-type player. So I could afford to look at a good prospect like this because I have Matt Greene in the fold for a long time."
Adding Penner doesn't help the Kings' need for speed up front, and Lombardi said "the speed issue" was considered. "In a perfect world, maybe you'd like to have a speed demon that plays in traffic. As a practicality, that wasn't really there. If I wanted to focus on that, then nothing gets done today," he said. "I think the most important thing is speed through the puck. I think Detroit is the best example of that. Sure [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg can skate, but Detroit looks fast because it's speed through the puck.
"You can't outskate the puck, and I look more at the way they keep possession and move it as more critical than just being able to skate fast. I don't mind adding a guy this size with a clear identity. ... This guy with [Anze Kopitar], the size of these two? And you’ve got to think that's hard to play against."
Before announcing the trade, the Kings announced a four-year, $14.6-million contract extension for right wing Justin Williams.
"That's huge," Lombardi said. "That's an important thing for us. He's one of our more skilled players. We didn't want to lose that level of skill and a guy who's won a Stanley Cup and is not old . There was too much of a potential where we could have put ourselves in a hole July 1 to have to run out and replace him -- we're going backwards. To be able to lock him in and add Dustin Penner, we're not going backwards. We're still positioned in the summer if we want to add a top player, and we still have the guy everybody wanted in [Schenn] in the system. That's a big load off my mind."
Lombardi also said the left shoulder injury suffered last weekend by prospect Andrei Loktionov "is a setback for us. That hurt our depth." He said he's not sure if Loktionov will require surgery but that he should recover for next season.
Although many NHL general managers have gotten a jump on the Feb. 28 trade deadline by swinging deals both large and small in the last few days, the Kings have not jumped into the action.
General Manager Dean Lombardi said he’s not sure why there has been so much activity so early but did not indicate he’s about to contribute to the trend by making an impact move. He remains interested in acquiring a scoring center and/or left wing and has looked at Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and Florida’s David Booth. If the Dallas Stars’ slump and ownership uncertainty continue they might have to trade Brad Richards, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season but would command a high price as a rental player for the last six weeks of the season and the playoffs.
One factor holding Lombardi back from any deal is that many of the general managers he talks to ask for prospect Brayden Schenn to be included in any potential trade and Lombardi isn’t willing to do that. Apparently he has not been able to get far with any other combinations of players.
“What’s the definition of progress? I don’t know,” said Lombardi, who rejoined the Kings before Saturday’s game against the new York Islanders after spending several days in Manchester, N.H., and Springfield, Mass., watching his top farm team, the Manchester Monarchs.
“I don’t think I’m close to anything. Everyone’s talking. We’re not rude. We return calls.”
The coaching staff and executives of the Kings -- also known as the West Coast branch of the Flyers alumni society -- got warm welcomes Sunday before the Kings faced the East-leading Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Flyers employees and others greeted Kings Coach Terry Murray, assistant coach John Stevens and General Manager Dean Lombardi, though Murray pretended he had been snubbed.
“Nobody sent a beer to my room. No Philly cheesesteak, nothing at all,” he said, smiling.
But Murray, who played for the Flyers in addition to coaching them, said he relished the chance to see old friends.
“There’s a good feeling coming back here. This is a place I was a part of for a long time,” he said. “It goes back to ’75, when I came as a player, so there’s a lot of former teammates still around and a great history of the game. It was a lot of fun playing here, in this city, and to also coach here.”
But he seemed to have little sorrow that the end is near for the Spectrum, the Flyers' longtime home. The arena, located across the street from the Wells Fargo Center in a sports complex that also includes the homes of the Eagles and Phillies, is in the midst of being demolished. The Flyers and 76ers moved out in 1996 but the Spectrum was used by the Flyers’ minor-league team and for concerts until last year.
“Long overdue,” Murray said of the building’s demise. “It was a great building to play in. it was great for the fans. But you can’t stop progress. It’s time to move on.
“I opened this building when I came as coach of the Flyers. It was incredible when you walked over from that building to this when they were still under construction and to see the size of the place. It was incredible how it ever got done.”