Lombardi, on Blake

Here’s what Lombardi had to say about the possibility of Rob Blake returning next season…

“I’ve had a number of meetings with Blakey. The first one was probably a month ago. With a player of Blakey’s stature and pedigree and the incredible influence he has on young players, it’s important he understands the direction we’re heading. One thing that happens with older players, they want to go to a contender, and that’s certainly reasonable. However, if you want to take on the job of being a part of this job and nurturing young players and leaving your legacy through those young players… this is the spot for you. We met three times, because I need him to come in with an enthusiasm and an understanding. I think it’s great if he wants to come back but it’s important that we’re on the same page. You’re talking about a Hall of Fame player; his influence is going to be important. How the players see his enthusiasm at the rink is critical. If he understands that and wants to be a part of it, we will welcome him back with open arms.”

As a follow-up question, Lombardi was asked whether he thought a deal with Blake would get done soon…

“I talked with his agent last night. I don’t want to speak for him but I went over that situation and I think there’s a chance we’re going to be a match.”

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Lombardi, on the team’s direction…

Here’s what Dean Lombardi had to say about the direction the organization is taking this summer…

“As far as the direction, we’ve been very clear, and even more so in the last month. The idea of putting together a group of players that don’t just have a chance for the playoffs, but to be a bona-fide contender. The only way we were going to do that was by going to the draft table. When I got here there were no young defensemen and goaltending was an issue, but I think we’ve made tremendous progress. That’s where Greene also fits with that group. He’s a guy with size. He obviously fits with us right now but I’m seeing a nice mix of what he brings with our other defensemen coming through the pipeline. This is what I talk about, when you’re a GM and when you have to go out and get six free agents. That’s not always exciting for a GM because that means he’s got so many holes to fill. You’ve got to get bridge players to bring your young guys along. We don’t have to carpet bomb the free-agent market this year because we have some young players who I didn’t want to force through last year. We’ve got a chance with a young defenseman (Thomas Hickey) we sent back last year and now we have two first-round picks who can challenge (for roster spots). Now we have homegrown Kings who can challenge for the lineup. If you try to force them, you’re just spinning your wheels.

“I’ve never traded a young player and I’ve never traded a (high) draft pick. We had 15 picks this year and we have 12 for next year. The path hasn’t changed and we will continue on that path next year. I told ownership, `This is going to be hard if you want to be a contender.’ It’s not unusual for owners to say, `Let’s go on a hybrid plan.’ It’s very clear to me that it’s, `Let’s stay with it and not build it piecemeal.’ Have we ever traded a young player or a draft pick? As we continue to build and become contenders, there will be a time when we move young assets, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

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Lombardi, on the new players

To start off the quotes, here’s what Dean Lombardi had to say about the qualities of the two players he just acquired, Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene…

“Competitors. That’s the first thing that comes to mind with both of them. They’re both very competitive players. Secondly, in Stollie’s case, he had an off year last year but I saw this kid a lot when I was scouting for Philadelphia. This is a good player who can do a lot of things. He’s good on faceoffs, he’s on the power play and he can kill penalties. The best thing I liked was his competitiveness. Greene, same thing. I’ve watched him going back to his draft year and he was a raw player. I think he’s certainly improved since college. I think there’s more upside with him but he really comes to play. On both of them, they have a chance to grow, given their age and where they are in their careers. They have a chance to grow and fit with Kopitar and Johnson and the rest of these guys.”

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Conference call(s) overview

Just got off the calls with Dean Lombardi, Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. I’ll be posting full quotes throughout the day, but here are some highlights…

– The word Lombardi used repeatedly with the two new players was “competitiveness.” It’s a big quality he sees in both of them and a primary motivator for the trade, along with the desire to get younger at two positions and acquire two NHL-ready players who have the potential to be part of the organization for a long time.

– Lombardi is confident that a short-term deal with Rob Blake will be reached soon.

– Lombardi spoke highly of Visnovsky and said he’s confident that Visnovsky will be a top “second-tier” defenseman. He hinted that part of Visnovsky’s struggles might have come from pressing and trying to improve a struggling team last season.

– Prior to the trade, the Kings did not negotiate an extension with Stoll. They would like to sign him to a long-term deal.

– Roughly 30 coaching candidates have contacted the Kings. Lombardi, once again, stated that he will wait until after free agency dies down before he seriously starts looking at candidates.

– Lombardi said that Visnovsky’s representatives were well aware that a trade was possible, especially since there had been talks of a trade for the last couple weeks. (As an aside, I have no interest in publishing translated “quotes” from Visnovsky. Last summer, after the huge uproar about the “communist” comments, Visnovsky told me he never even spoke to that reporter in question).

– As far as free agency, the Kings are unlikely to sign a forward now that they have Stoll but will likely look at two defensemen, Blake being one. He’s not looking at five- or six-year contracts for defensemen; more like two or three years, it sounds like.

– The Kings are still talking to O’Sullivan’s representatives, but when I asked if anything was “close,” Lombardi said he wouldn’t use that term. Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ top guy on such matters, is working on this.

– For the first time ever, Lombardi raised the possibility of signing a “bridge” goalie to a one-year contract. He also, however, hedged his bets considerably on this and said he wanted to look at Bernier, Quick and Zatkoff during the prospects camp to see if one of them is ready to back up LaBarbera.

That’s all for now. I’ll post extensive comments from Lombardi, Stoll and Greene throughout the afternoon.

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One year ago…

This was the quote from Lubomir Visnovsky a year ago, after he signed his five-year, $28-million contract extension with the Kings…

“I’m very happy that I’ll be staying with this organization for a long time,” said Visnovsky from his offseason home in Slovakia. “I love Los Angeles and I want to play in the playoffs with the Kings.”

Just goes to show how quickly things can change in the NHL…

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Visnovsky clarifications

Just to clarify a couple things…Lubomir Visnovsky has a no-movement clause in his new contract, which is due to kick in on July 1. That runs until 2012, when it turns into a limited no-trade clause. Also, Visnovsky’s actual salary next season is $7 million, but his salary-camp number (contract dollars divided by years) is $5.6 million.

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Lombardi quote

Here’s a released quote from Kings GM Dean Lombardi about the trade:

“It’s never easy to give up a player of Lubo’s caliber, but for the direction of this franchise, this exchange allows us to add two players who fit the long-term vision for this team,” Lombardi said. “We appreciate Lubo’s service and outstanding play these last seven years in Los Angeles. He was not only a great player for us, but a class act.”

That’s expected to be the only comment from Lombardi tonight. Lombardi, Stoll and Greene will be available for comment tomorrow.

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Trade details

From Edmonton, to the Kings…

Jarret Stoll, center… Stoll, 26, made $2.2 million last season, when he totaled 14 goals and 22 assists in 81 games. Stoll is a restricted free agent this summer. His best season, statistically, was his second full season, 2005-06, when he had 22 goals and 46 assists in 82 games. He had concussion issues in 2006-07 that limited him to 51 games.

Matt Greene, defenseman… Greene, 25, is due $1.15 million next season and will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2009. Greene had zero goals and one assist in 46 games last season. His season was limited because of a broken ankle. In 2006-07, his first full NHL season, Greene had one goal, nine assists and 109 penalty minutes in 78 games.

Lubomir Visnovsky is due $5.6 million next season in the first year of his contract extension.

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