OK, here are all the quotes from tonight’s interview with Dean Lombardi. I typed fast, so excuse any typos. The only thing to add is that I asked Lombardi if he had any talks with agent Don Meehan about Alexander Frolov, and Lombardi said those would take place after the free-agency stuff sorts out a little more.
Hope you enjoy the quotes…
Question: Can you go through the day, and talk about anything you might have been close to getting done?
LOMBARDI: “Obviously we went into this for wingers. Like I’ve said, it’s one of the positives of being in our situation now, as opposed to three years ago, when we were looking for everything and signing seven guys. The No. 1 guy we targeted was Hossa. I got permission to talk to Hossa at the draft. There were three teams, us and two others. Detroit gave me permission, and we started the dialogue at that time. Detroit, if he got signed, they would get compensation. We met with his agent there, at that time, and he was interested in L.A. He said he thinks we could be the next Chicago. But he said, `That’s down the road,’ and that’s fair, that’s realistic. He said it was important to go to a 100-point team. I said, `I don’t know if we can guarantee that, but you’re the type of player we’re prepared to commit to.’ He was the one player we thought was a top player. I don’t know that he’s a `mail carrier’ type guy, but he’s still a top player.
“That dialogue continued until July 1. He was throwing (contract) numbers out there, but it was very vague in terms of numbers. We talked again last night and I got the sense that this was probably going in a different direction. I said, `What would it take?’ but we never really got an answer. I think he had his eye on something else already. We thought it was Boston. He told us this morning that it was probably unlikely that he would come here. It wasn’t really the 12-year term that got us out of it. It never got to that point. Part of this is that you’re frustrated, but the other part is that you want guys like that. I’ve always said you want guys who want to win first. And you look at Chicago, where they’ve come in the last seven drafts and where they’re at. Chicago, it took six years; we’re three years in. That’s the process they went through, and then they broke through. We’re hoping that if we break through like they did, we can compete (for players) at that level. We were prepared to talk about the cash and the 12 years.
“The other guy we looked at was Mike Knuble. He’s certainly not the big name, but we knew his character inside out. That would have been a nice player to get. Obviously we knew him and Murph (Terry Murray) had him. In the end, it comes out that he wants to stay in the East. And again, he went to a top team in Washington. So those are the two guys we really targeted.”
Question: How about Gaborik and Havlat?
LOMBARDI: “We were prepared to look at Gaborik, but we were not prepared for a Hossa-type deal. We were talking first about a one(-year contract), then a two or three for Gaborik. Then they got the Rangers’ thing. You’re looking at a guy who played 17 games last year, and has a series of those. Forty-eight games, 65 games, 65 games. There’s some gray there. I didn’t have gray areas on Hossa. It might work out, but do we need to take that risk and jeopardize things right now? I don’t think so. I’ll take that risk on Hossa-type players. Will he be healthy? Maybe. We had the one(-year deal) out there and we talked about two or three, then he gave us the Rangers’ number and we said, `We’re done.’ It’s more about rolling the dice, and I don’t think we should roll the dice and jeopardize what we’re trying to do here. Same thing goes, to a degree, with Havlat. I’m not interested in rolling the dice.
“So that’s the market. If you’re looking for top wingers, who else is there that fits? You’ve got 30 teams out there and we couldn’t offer the part that some other teams could. Chicago is a contender. Washington is a contender.”
Question: Do you now start looking at trade possibilities, or do you go after some second-tier guys?
LOMBARDI: “We’re going to investigate the trades. There’s nothing there, in terms of free agency, that fits the M.O. that you’re looking at. We might look at a few things. We are at the stage where I can strike, but you have to strike for the right guy. Yeah, you’re under the gun and you’d like to do something, and that’s when you go out and do something that you really don’t like, that you regret, and then you get buyer’s remorse. You still have a lot of people who have to sign people and fit under the salary cap, and I don’t know how they’re going to do it unless they sign a bunch of guys for $500,000 (each). If (no moves take place), we’re still going to be a better team next year. Again, we’ll strike for the right guy. For us, there was one guy we were prepared to throw that 10-year deal at.”
Question: You previously mentioned the idea of going after a veteran defenseman. Is that still realistic?
LOMBARDI: “I wouldn’t mind looking at that. I wouldn’t mind it because I would like to give our kids a cushion, but I don’t want to go too far out (in terms of salary) and cut off my numbers to where I can’t get the Hossa-type guys. At this time, I don’t see a major thing out there. I wouldn’t mind a good player to buy us some time, but I’m planning on the defense maturing as a group, and then spending my money up front. I don’t see any blockbusters out there but you never know what you might stumble on later.”
Question: Did you look into Beauchemin?
LOMBARDI: “It’s fair to say we dabbled in that. We’re still dabbling, still looking around with other guys.”
Question: Looking at your forwards, how do you prioritize? Do you keep this group intact, and hope you can add to it with a trade, or do you fill in the gaps now by signing some second-tier free agents? What’s the strategy?
LOMBARDI: “All we have really lost is Calder. Out of our forwards, Calder is the only one gone. You can say Boyle, maybe, and I love (Derek Armstrong) but he was basically our 13th guy. So it’s not like we lost an impact guy or anything. One good sign is that if we look down at the next tier of guys and ask, `Is he better than what we have?’ I don’t know. I’m sure we’re going to continue to see what’s available on the free-agent route. The other thing is, some teams have to fit guys in under the cap. There are teams up against it that still have to sign some bodies. It will be interesting to see if the trade market opens up. The nice thing is, I do have some things to trade.”