Lombardi: The NHL’s Gordon Gekko

Question: Can you give people a general sense of what this month is like, leading up to the deadline? How many GMs will you talk to in an average week?

LOMBARDI: “You know what? You’ll take your list, and it’s almost like a funnel effect. First of all, your due diligence requires you to do your job properly and talk to every team. Generally — you see the pro scouts in here right now, and they’ve been here the last four days — you try to see a match. The one thing that’s different for us now is, before we were clearly sellers and looking for draft picks. Those are easier deals, whether it’s Brad Stuart or Rob Blake or all those guys that we had on the market when we were trying to acquire draft picks. Those calls are, `OK, what are you looking for? And here’s the price.’ So you were able to set up a framework.

“We’re not in that situation now. We’re the youngest team in the league, so I don’t have a lot of those veteran guys. So that part of the trade deadline is very different. To me, that’s one of those things that, when you’re looking for progress, that indicates progress. The bridges are gone, and you’ve got a lot of players that you’re trying to build with, and you don’t have a lot of those guys. That’s progress. It’s one of those intangible things, because you know your reserve list is getting stronger and you’re heading in the right direction.

“So I’m in a very different situation, going back to your original question. I am looking for that help, to help now and in the long term, so you’ll make those calls. You look at a team’s roster. Number one, do they have somebody that’s appealing? Because the other thing you’ve got here is, we’re finally getting some boxes filled. Before, I was looking for anything. Whether it was draft picks or young players, it really didn’t matter where they played or where they fit. My shopping list, now, is not as broad.

“So when I look at the other teams’ lists, it’s, `Yeah, I like this guy, but he doesn’t fit.’ So that eliminates that part of the player-supply market, for lack of a better term. So you’ll look at a team and say, `That’s a guy who would fit.’ Then you might look at it and say, `They’re not going to move him,’ but due diligence requires you to ask. So again, it’s kind of a funnel effect. I’ll make my list of 30 teams and check in with every team. Do they have somebody who fits for me? No. Then you’ll ask, `Is there anything you’re moving that I’m not aware of?’ Then you might stumble onto something. You’ve got to know that, in case you run into a three-way deal.

“I did this with Hackett, and when I got McLaren, and I did this with Todd Harvey. I started doing those three-way deals when they weren’t en vogue and everybody thought I was crazy, but it just makes sense. So it helps to know what somebody else might move, so if you stumble on that team that has something you want, you can maybe make that work. That’s why, even if it’s not a perfect match, you have to know what’s in the marketplace. Then you’ll look at your list, after you make your calls, and you say, `OK, there’s 30 teams…there’s nothing to talk about there, nothing to talk about there,’ and it wittles down. It gets like a funnel.

“Then by the time you get down to the trade deadline, the reality is that you’re probably just talking to three or four teams. You don’t want to be surprised. Something can always come up, but generally you don’t want to be surprised and find out, `Oh, that guy was available’ or `I could have found this three-way matchup if I had been doing my job.’ It’s like the guy said, Gekko in Wall Street. That famous line. He said, `I look at 100 deals a day and I choose one.’ That’s basically what it is.

“You’re going to look and you’re going to get out there. People might look afterward and say, `They didn’t do anything.’ No. There’s a lot of phone calls, because you want to be able to walk away and say, `Hey, we did the best we could but there was nothing there,’ and then you move on. The other thing that process does, it educates you on the market. That’s the other thing. When you do this process correctly, you learn a lot about what players are worth. You get a feel for which direction teams are going, by who they’re putting out there.

“The other thing is, people are all in `deal mode.’ You only get three times a year when people are in deal mode. It’s this deadline, the draft and, generally, maybe a week or so going into training camp, when people look at their team. There are more people willing to talk about what they’re trying to do. You might just file that away. I talked to a guy today and he said, `It doesn’t make sense to me now, but we should talk at the draft.’ So a lot of deals could start here, but they don’t come into fruition until the draft.

“So it’s a long process, and its fruits don’t always bear themselves immediately. Like I said, you might just have to make a deal where it’s Joe Schmoe for a fifth-rounder. But part of that process might be, that was the last option. I want to keep my options open, but if I have to do something, I’ll do this soft one, so to speak. But I don’t want to do that until I have checked out every other avenue. You can’t feel good about doing that until you’ve done all your due diligence.”

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  • wavesinair

    Fantastic insight. Very cool to hear DL speak so in depth about how the process works for him. It seems doubtful we are going to get a Kovalchuk this season. Not enough sellers and too many teams, especially in the west, vying for a playoff spot. I expect only a marginal trade or two for a pick and/or prospect.

    I wonder how many people he has helping him with the details and keeping options, players, salaries categorized.

    I wonder what the war room looks like. Bulletin boards, computers, diagrams, 3D laser projections. And how much is just in his head.

    There is only one player in the trade mix I hope he doesn’t deal: Kyle Calder

    He is playing really well and contributing in many areas there aren’t stats for. I’d hate to see him go for a pick.

  • Ersberg

    Interesting read. Thanks Rich.

    So, was that Bryan Murray telling Dean that it didn’t make much sense to deal him Heatley right now, and to wait until the draft?


  • Moondoggie

    Facinating insight into the trading process Rich & DL, thank you! The “funnel effect” and the Gekko line in Wall Street “one deal out of one hundred” puts a whole lot into perspective of the entire process.

    I’d agree, we’ll probably see some of our vets moved as we have the kids waiting in the pipeline to prove they belong. It can be a cost cutting move since we have so many kids who are ready to play and the only way we’re going to actually know if they’re ready is get them in the lineup. It’s going to be a very interesting month for LA, plus we have the draft to look forward to and the UFA signing period (which I don’t see LA being a major player) coming up as well. The next six months will be pivotal in the Kings long term success.

  • brianguy

    pretty cool. and remember an even more prophetic adage Gordon Gekko said, “GREED IS GOOD” – just don’t let it get you in trouble ala Anaheim.

    (but I still want to know what was behind the Richardson deal)

  • http://www.lighthousehockey.com Dominik

    Why don’t more NHL GMs realize a little frank talk like this goes a long way to engaging fans and keeping them hooked? They don’t have to trade state secrets — just give a little insight.

    Thanks so much for this, Rich.

  • Fletch

    Amazing stuff, Rich. We are so lucky to have you getting personnel to open up like this – NO other team has that luxury. Thank you so much and keep up the good work!

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