Lombardi, on free agency

Just got the anticipated call from Lombardi. You’ll all be happy to know that he’s been ridiculously busy this week, putting together his wish list and working in the “war room” to determine how realistic it is.

Any of you who have spoken with Lombardi are well aware of his sense of humor. When I started with a softball question about how he sees things shaping up Sunday morning, he answered with, “Well, we expect to sign…” and then ran off a list of about seven top-level free agents. I reminded him that he forgot to mention his offer sheet to Ray Emery.

Lombardi spent some time talking about the new free-agency culture, and how the lowered age has complicated things for GMs and made the signing period unpredictable.

“I don’t think any of us know exactly how it’s going to go,” Lombardi said. “You used to have all the 31-year-old guys out there. In the old days, you didn’t have the Scott Hartnells of the world out there in their prime. Then when you give big money to those guys you have to project down the line and what it’s going to mean for Kopitar and Johnson.”

I asked Lombardi about the fact that the Kings have been attached to many of the top free agents out there and asked him if it was safe to say that they would be aggressive when the signing period begins.

“When you use the word aggressive, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be persuing some of those (high-profile) names,” Lombardi said. “`That being said, it’s all about the right player for the right price when you get to free agency. Sometimes you get into talks and you throw a big (salary) figure out there and you end up saying, `What did I do?’ and you have buyer’s remorse. You have to take the emotion out of him. On the other hand, I’m certainly not going to sit here doing nothing.”

The Kings are in an interesting situation. They’re trying to build with young players, but they also have significant salary-cap room and significant holes to fill. In that spirit, I asked Lombardi about how difficult it was to toe that line, and how aggressive he is about adding free agents to a team that is trying to bring young players into the fold.

“You’re constantly running through hypotheticals,” Lombardi said. “Ideally, we’d like to be going in with one or two holes to fill, but we have eight holes to fill. We want to be aggressive and fill one or two of them with this (free-agent period) opportunity and then project and say, `OK, this is what it’s going to look like in a couple years.’ It’s almost like you’re doing a mock trial.”

Lombardi has talked about classifying free agents as builders and bridges and has said that he would like to add two “builders” to the team this summer.

“A builder is a guy who fits in when you’re a contender and also fills a hole now, with what you have, and as you fill in your other holes,” Lombard said. “A guy like that will still be around when you’re a contender. Then with the bridge guys, they help that along. Part of being a contender is you have to learn how to win.”

Then, on to everyone’s favorite topic, the goaltending. I wanted to be very careful, and make sure I had a clear understanding of Lombardi’s thoughts about acquiring a goalie. And I heard pretty much what I expected to hear, which is that if the correct deal comes along, he would go for it, but it absolutely has to be the correct deal. He’s not going to reach, and give up picks and prospects, just for the sake of getting a goalie this summer.

“We’ll get a goalie as soon as he’s there and we can get him at the right price,” Lombardi said. “You’d like to be able to build the team from the back out (starting with the goalie), but it doesn’t always happen. We were in on the Vokoun thing but we’re not in a position to throw around first-round picks. We’re not in that position yet. When the right guy is there for the right price, we’ll do it. If it happens tomorrow, we’ll do it tomorrow.”

Without prompting, Lombardi brought up LaBarbara.

“Don’t underestimate LaBarbera,” Lombardi said. “The more I hear about him, the more I like what I’m hearing. He’s a guy who can allow us to be at the point where we don’t have to give up those first-rounders.”

As for the ever-popular Jaroslav Modry, Lombardi confirmed what most of us basically figured, that Modry would accept a one-year contract. In Lombardi’s view, he’s a veteran who can bridge the gap.

“We just don’t have the young defensemen right now,” Lombardi said.

That’s pretty much it for now. For those who had more specific questions, I apologize, but as fans I’m sure you’d much rather have Lombardi spend his time talking to agents than talking to me. As we head into Sunday, the Kings’ cap figure sits at approximately $27 million. It should be a very interesting couple days…

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  • Thomas

    Was there any discussion of which of the available FA he thought were “builders” and which he thought of as “bridges”?

  • Rich Hammond

    He can’t discuss particular names until Sunday.

  • EthanH

    Thanks again. Good stuff, even if he couldn’t get real specific with names. Can’t wait to see what happens Sunday.

  • Hec27

    Great work Rich. As always, it’s much appreciated.

    I guess Labarbera will most likely get his chance this upcoming season.

  • Aaron

    Thanks again Rich, you’re insight into the organ-eye-zation rules. Can’t wait to see what happens on Sunday!

  • Gmatsuda

    Rich…great stuff. Every time I read one of your interviews with Lombardi, I can’t help thinking what a a refreshing change it is from when Dave Taylor was the GM. No offense to Dave…he was a nice guy, but as I’ve said before, it was like pulling teeth when you spoke with him, even though he would talk to you…you never really got anything out of him.

  • Gabby

    Great interview. As fans, we’re thrilled to have a GM who treats us as equals. As a journalist, I’m sure it’s nice to have a guy willing to give you such great quotes. Keep up the good work!

  • Chazz Loeks

    Drury and Briere were both in Los Angeles today. Hmmm…

  • AJ

    Your blog is God’s gift to Kings fans. Never have I seen such good questions for our GM and never have I seen such an accessible and candor GM as we have now. Millions of thanks and keep up the good work… PLEASE!!!

  • CGM

    Thanks for the insight Rich. This is a great sport to follow isn’t it?

  • PaulCat

    Rich, your insight and effort is so appreciated. A dream for so many of us is to be that “fly on the wall” into the mind of a professional sports GM. The fact you have this rapport with Lombardi and the openness he seems to have with you speaks volumes of the type of journalist you are. Thanks so much for this.

    On another note, I wondered if you could pick his brain on the reason behind not signing of Nick Boynton. Curious what he knew that we didn’t.


  • MattGeorge

    I Think the real question we’re all wondering (which may have been answered so forgive my ignorance), is how close to the cap are the kings willing to spend this year… they have’nt spent to the cap yet so free agency isnt gonna mean much lest we doll out the cash. And if I hear “invest in the future” one more time im gonna smack someone.

    “Invest in the furture” translates to “AEG would like to keep as much cash on hand for our future team in Kansas City as well as Beckham, thank you for being a fan of the team that “built our business” and just hope for the best!

  • Joe Grind

    Keep up the good work. Much respect.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jordyfox Jordan Ellner

    This is the best hockey insight the LA Kings have ever had. Thank you for caring and covering the Kings. Please keep doing more of this.

  • Marc Crawford

    I keep having nightmare that the free-agent signings for the Kings come Sunday are John Druce and Kevin Todd.

  • kingofdodgers

    Great work Rich. I will be at the mini camp next, next week. Would you like to print out a roster for us? Thanks.

  • Carla Muller

    At select a seat this week, Lombardi said he had authorization to spend up to the cap. He said if we didn’t, it wasn’t an ownership decision, it was his.

  • Scott

    Thanks again, Rich. It really is great having real hockey coverage in LA again. How do we nominate you for a Pulitzer?


    I guess we will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow morning !
    Sounds like it could be interesting……

  • Goon Squad

    The right guy for the right price means this: Drury, Gomez, or Briere may be worth 6 million, BUT if Dean projects Kopitar to be the #1 center in 2 years from now, and he projects wanting to pay Kopitar 4 million at that time, then he can’t bloody well have Drury making 6mil. That is what I believe he means when he says he has to see how it will affect the current players. I think he would have to be able to comfortably leave room above his #2 center to pay his #1 when the time comes. What worries me is that were DL still in San Jose, the Thornton trade would never have happened.

  • MattGeorge

    EXACTLY MY POINT. IF DL WERE in SJ the thornton trade would not have happened. I understand planning for the future and all but you can plan yourself right into a rut.

    We would all love for Kopitar to develop into a 4 or 6 million dollar kid but, correct me if im wrong, don’t the kings have a history of shuttling off players (blake) when they reach thelr prime…only to bring them back at the lower end of their performace curve?????

    So again… SO WHAT if we’re “planning for the future”…. Give us a competitive team NOW. (So I don’t completely feel like i wasted MY money at select a seat)

  • Galen Senogles

    Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

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