Defenseman signed

The Kings today signed defenseman Drew Bagnall to an entry-level contract. Bagnall, who turns 24 in October, spent four years at St. Lawrence University (he was a teammate of John Zeiler). At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he’s known as a bruising defenseman with some offensive skill. Bagnall spent four years at St. Lawrence and scored a career-best 25 points last season, when he was the only defenseman to be named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He was a sixth-round pick by Dallas in 2003 and his rights (and a draft pick) were traded to Florida in 2004 for…Valeri Bure! Bagnall recently became a free agent when he couldn’t reach terms with Florida.

You can check out a Hockey’s Future analysis of Bagnall right HERE

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Preseason tickets

There was some question about when tickets might be available for the Kings’ first preseason game against the Ducks, Sept. 13 at Honda Center. The answer is…Saturday, at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available through Ticketmaster, at the arena box office or at anaheimducks.com.

Still no word as to whether FSN will be televising the first two games. Apparently even the FSN people don’t know.

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Klemm to Kings

Free-agent defenseman Jon Klemm is expected to sign a one-year, two-way contract with the Kings, as a couple astute readers already found on the NHLPA Web site this morning. (EDIT: It’s now official. The release is attached below.) It’s a $500,000/$100,000 split deal, depending on whether Klemm makes the Kings’ roster.

Klemm, 37, had one goal and two assists in 38 games last season. Klemm broke in with Quebec in 1991-92 and he scored a career-high nine goals in 1996-97 with Colorado. His hometown is listed as Cranbrook, B.C., which is also the hometown of Scott and Rob Niedermayer.
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Preseason tickets

Tickets for the Kings’ two preseason games at Staples Center will go on sale Monday. Here’s the release from the Kings:

KINGS PRESEASON GAME TICKETS

TO GO ON SALE AUGUST 20

LOS ANGELES Individual game tickets for the two preseason Kings games at STAPLES Center go on sale this Monday, August 20, at 10 a.m., the club announced today.

Tickets for the Kings-Anaheim game on September 15 and the Kings-San Jose game on September 18, which range in price from $29 to $126, will be available for purchase at all participating TicketMaster outlets (including www.ticketmaster.com) and by phone (213-365-3600).

Tickets for Kings-Colorado preseason Frozen Fury 10 game on September 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas are currently on sale and are available for purchase at the MGM Grand Garden Arena box office or by calling the Kings at 1-888-KINGS-LA. Tickets will also be sold at select Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (Tower Records/WOW!, Smiths Food and Drug Centers, Ritmo Latino and Robinsons May Stores) and ticket sales are limited to eight per person. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (702) 474-4000. Tickets are also available for purchase at Mgmgrand.com and Ticketmaster.com.

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Spotlight on: Cammalleri

Just to tie up a loose end from yesterday, I’m not aware of any complications as far as Rob Blake’s recovery from hip surgery. He had the surgery in early April and faced about three months of recovery, so I don’t believe there will be any issues entering training camp. I haven’t heard about any complications, so he should be fine. I saw Rob at the draft party in June and he didn’t seem to be in any discomfort.

Now, on to Cammalleri. Oh, and just to tie up another loose end, Mike’s agent never returned a call. I made a request, through Kings PR, to talk to Mike and it was respectfully declined. No surprise there, given the circumstances. He will certainly be one of the first players I talk to when training camp opens.

I think everyone is curious to see what type of season Cammalleri will have. I don’t think anyone has to worry about Mike sulking and taking any frustrations from the arbitration process into the season. If anything, as Dean Lombardi said this month, Mike would probably use it as motivation, as he is one of the most fiery competitors on the team.

Cammalleri had a breakout season in 2006-07. He had 34 goals, eight more than his previous high, and 46 assists, 17 more than his previous high. Almost half of his goals (16) came on the power play and he managed a plus-5 rating on an awful team. By almost every measure, it was a successful season. The question is, can he do it again? And beyond that, can he get better?

Cammalleri turned 25 in June and should be entering his prime years. He went through some rough spots early in his career, when he frequently landed in the doghouse of former coach Andy Murray, who took Cammalleri to task for a perceived lack of toughness and consistency. Cammalleri seems to have overcome that, and based on his physical talents there’s no reason why he can’t be a consistently high scorer in the NHL going forward. An 80-point season is nothing to sneeze at, but Cammalleri can stamp himself as an top-level scorer if he improves.

The issue with Cammalleri, as raised by Lombardi and many readers here, is leadership. Can Cammalleri take that next step and become a team leader? It wasn’t so much an issue in the past couple seasons, when guys such as Norstrom, Miller and Conroy were around. Now, it’s time for some of the younger guys to step forward, and Cammalleri’s name is at the top of that list. Lombardi said it himself, in so many words. Goals are nice, but a guy like Cammalleri also has to take responsibility for winning and losing, and now’s the time for that.

Based on what I’ve seen, it’s coming. Under Murray, Cammalleri was a bit bland in public, most likely because he was afraid to say the wrong thing. Last year he seemed to become a bit more confident and is always available in the dressing room to be a team spokesman. That’s important, as far as team leadership. At the end of last season, Mike was very vocal about his optimism for the future and his belief in the young players. That’s the kind of leadership the Kings will need from him, even if this turns out to be another challenging season.

Your thoughts?

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Spotlight on: Blake

There’s been a lot of focus on the Kings’ young players, and rightfully so, but I wonder about what this season will bring for Rob Blake. Blake turns 38 in December and he’s coming off a season in which he had 34 points and a minus-26 rating, his worst numbers in a decade. Yet, he’s still a valued member of the defensive corps, a presumed tutor for Jack Johnson and a probable team captain. Should be an interesting season for Blake.

In purely hockey terms, Blake is still a contributor. Not a $6-million contributor, but an imposing body on the blue line with a strong shot who can contribute on the power play. Plus, even though his assist totals dipped last season, he has scored at least 13 goals in each of his last eight seasons, and no more than 19 goals. So the consistency is there, in terms of goal production.

Is he going to improve at this point? No. Is he a Norris Trophy candidate? No. Blake isn’t going to get any faster, even if he is healthier this season, and as he gets older, the number of mistakes will only increase. Is he overpaid? Yes, although Blake can “earn” a good portion of that big salary this season if he comes through for the Kings in other ways.

A lot has been made of the Blake-Johnson connection, but I’m not sure too much can be made of it. With the possible exception of Kopitar, no player means more to the Kings’ future than Jack Johnson. Coaching will play a big part in Johnson’s development, but he could also benefit greatly from the type of “big brother” support that Blake could lend. Johnson has talent, but he’s also young and needs to learn the lay of the land, in terms of what it means to be a NHL player. Blake, who has seen it all, can help guide Johnson through his first full season.

Is a Blake-Johnson on-ice pairing the best for the Kings? I’m not certain, and that’s why I don’t have Marc Crawford’s salary… But I think it’s an interesting topic to think about.

Will Blake be captain? It’s an interesting question. One would certainly assume so, since he preceded Norstrom in that role. Blake isn’t a rah-rah guy, but then again, neither was Norstrom. It’s fair to say he provides the same type of leadership, and anyone with a Norris Trophy on his resume commands respect. I believe Derek Armstrong is underrated as a team leader, but other than him I can’t think of another viable candidate other than Blake.

Your thoughts?

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TV in London

The Kings’ two-games series against the Ducks in London will have TV coverage. The first game will be televised in the U.S. on HDNet and the second game will be televised by Versus. The first game is also being done by CBC, so I imagine it might be available to those who have the “Center Ice” package, but I can’t be certain of that. Still no word as to whether FSN will be making the trip to London.

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Spotlight on: Kopitar

There’s no better place to start than with Anze Kopitar, right? After all, he was one of the few bright spots for the Kings last season, as he broke through with 20 goals and 41 assists as a 19-year-old rookie.

The Kings pretty much got what they expected from Kopitar last season. During training camp in 2005, general manager Dave Taylor talked to Kopitar and tried to convince him to stay, but Kopitar had committed to one more season in Sweden and didn’t want to break his promise. If he had stayed, Kopitar would have been in the NHL that season. That’s how impressive he was in his first training camp.

Kopitar’s talents are clear. He’s 6-foot-4 with great hands and vision. He can power to the net but also knows what to do with the puck when he gets there. He’s never going to be the fastest skater, but he can create chances for himself and he had a handful of memorable one-on-one moves as a rookie.

Still, there is room for improvement. He will need to improve upon that 20-goal total now that he is clearly the Kings’ No. 1 center, and he must prove that his body, although physically strong, can hold up for 82 games. (Kopitar missed 10 games near the end of last season.)

Leadership also will be an issue. The Kings’ future is with its youth, and as the No. 1 center, Kopitar bears some of the responsibility for molding the Kings into winners. This shouldn’t be a problem. Kopitar is well-liked in the dressing room. His English skills are good and he managed to turn in an impressive season without being cocky. He’s polite and respectful but also knows how to joke around, and that’s impressive for someone his age. There’s also a desire to learn on Kopitar’s part, and not a sense that he already knows everything.

The biggest challenge might be for the Kings, to find Kopitar a pair of regular linemates — both 5-on-5 and on the power play — with whom he can thrive. Crawford loves to juggle lines but it might be in Kopitar’s best interests to remain with regular linemates and grow with them.

2007-08 potential: No. 1 center.

Your thoughts?

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Back to work

My apologies for some of the comments left on the board, and for the names that were used improperly. Just FYI, it’s one person, who apparently is nostalgic for ninth grade, who finds fun in causing trouble. It’s always interesting when men post under women’s names. No issues there, I’m sure. Anywho, it won’t happen again. It would help if people registered their names on the site, but I know people are sometimes sketchy about that and frankly I don’t blame you.

Anyway, back to work. We’re roughly four weeks from the start of training camp. I figured maybe we could spent one day discussing players who are likely to make the Kings’ roster this season. Pick one player, look back at the last couple years and look forward to next season, with some analysis from myself and all of you.

We can get it going later today, with everyone’s favorite: Oleg Tverdovsky. Just kidding, we’ll start with Kopitar.

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