It’s official: Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Flames, Oilers shift AHL teams to California

The American Hockey League’s California migration became official Thursday. The Kings will shift their top minor-league team from Manchester, N.H., to Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario and the Ducks will move theirs from Norfolk, Va., to Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.

The AHL will create a new Pacific Division for five teams in the NHL’s seven-team Pacific Division for 2015-16, offering the clubs greater access to their top prospects while cutting costs and travel time and also enhancing marketing opportunities.

In addition to the Kings and Ducks, the Sharks will move their top affiliate from Worcester, Mass., to the SAP Center in San Jose, the Calgary Flames will move their team from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton and the Edmonton Oilers will move their team from Oklahoma City to Bakersfield.

Two other teams in the Pacific Division, the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, will keep their affiliates in Portland, Me., and Utica, N.Y., respectively, for the time being. It’s possible they could join the westward migration at a later date.

The moves were announced during a press conference in San Jose, where the Sharks’ minor-league team is expected to make its temporary home while another site is selected. Fresno and Sacramento are the cities rumored to be the permanent location.

“To borrow a word from the recently retired Teemu Selanne, it’s an unbelievable day for California hockey, for Anaheim and the organization and the city of San Diego,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “This is a dream come true.”

Luc Robitaille, Kings president of business operations, praised the spirit of cooperation among the five teams to get the deal presented and approved by the AHL during its board of governors meetings over the weekend.

“It was a true team effort,” Robitaille said. “For the growth of hockey, it’s a tremendous thing for California. Five (AHL) teams will be playing on the West Coast now. Fans can see players who are one phone call away from the NHL now. It’s going to be a lot of fun now.”

The Kings said they would announce further details Friday.

The Reign, which will play out its ECHL season in Ontario, will move to Manchester, N.H., for next season.

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Kings, AHL to announce Western migration on Thursday

The Kings, Ducks, Sharks and other Pacific Division teams have long wanted their American Hockey League teams to be closer than Manchester, N.H., Norfolk, Va., and Worcester, Mass. Thursday, they and the AHL will announce a major shift in the form of a Western Division in the league. The Kings will shift their top minor-league team to Ontario. The rest is explained here in a story from earlier this month: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20150109/la-kings-anaheim-ducks-appear-set-to-move-minor-league-teams-to-southern-california

You can watch the announcement Thursday at 12:30 the AHL’s website.

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L.A. Kings forward Jeff Carter talks about teammate and friend Mike Richards

Here’s some of what Kings forward Jeff Carter had to say about teammate and friend Mike Richards clearing waivers and being assigned to Manchester of the AHL on Tuesday: “It’s tough, obviously. We’ve got a pretty close team here. Any time anybody leaves it’s always tough. We understand those things happen.

“He brought a lot to this room and a lot of stuff, unless you’re in this room, you don’t see. It was tough on him, too. It’s an opportunity for others to step up. It’s an opportunity for some of the young guys to become leaders. …

“I saw him last night. … I think he’s all right. Nobody wants to get sent down. It’s a (lousy) part of the game. I think he’s handled it well. He’s been around a long time. He knows how it works. I’m sure he’ll work hard and we’ll see him here again soon.”

 

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Tyler Toffoli status for L.A. Kings next game? Definitely maybe

Tyler Toffoli skated with his Kings teammates Tuesday for the second consecutive day after getting medical clearance after suffering from mono. He said he would like to play in Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but the final decision would be a group one. Toffoli said he would speak to Kings coach Darryl Sutter and the team’s medical staff and then a decision would be made.

“I feel good,” he said. “I did some battle drills today. I was trying to push myself more than I usual would the day before a game. I was trying to just get my legs under me. It’s been a long couple of weeks. The first week or so I didn’t do a whole lot. I did a bunch of bike rides. I wasn’t really allowed to do anything. The whole process went by smoothly. I think we’re all going to talk and see how I’m feeling and they’re going to tell me. … It’s more my legs and getting my legs under me.”

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It’s official: L.A. Kings assign Mike Richards to Manchester of the AHL

The Kings assigned forward Mike Richards to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., after he cleared waivers earlier Tuesday. None of the NHL’s other 29 teams claimed Richards, so the Kings held onto his rights. They can recall him in the playoffs, if they believe he can help them. Richards had only five goals and 10 assists in 47 games with the Kings. He last played in the minors in 2004-05, when he played in the AHL playoffs for the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ top affiliate. He joined the Kings in a June 23, 2011 trade from the Flyers.

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L.A. Kings forward Mike Richards clears waivers, expected to report to Manchester

Struggling forward Mike Richards cleared waivers Tuesday morning, as expected, and the Kings will assign him to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. They expect him to report later this week and to improve his game with the idea that he could return to the Kings for the playoffs in April. Richards had five goals and 10 assists 47 games before the Kings put him on waivers Monday. The 29 other teams in the NHL had 24 hours to claim him, but none did.

“The way the schedule is in Manchester, you’re able to probably work on some things you don’t have the time to up here,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “So, if he goes down there and attacks this, there’s no reason he can’t come back, because our cap is the same in terms of the numbers right now. … There’s time for him to easily clean some of this up and be what he usually is in the playoffs. But if he says he doesn’t want to report, then that’s not an option.We’re not going that route.”

 

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L.A. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli hopes to play Wednesday vs. Blackhawks

Tyler Toffoli hasn’t played since coming down with mono after the Kings’ loss to the New York Rangers on Jan. 8 at Staples Center. He resumed skating with his teammates Monday and said he hoped to be fit to play in Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center.

“We’ll see,” Toffoli said. “It’s the first time I’ve skated with the guys. I was a little tired. We’ll see tomorrow and then Wednesday. I got tested Friday, blood and ultrasound and stuff. It was all good there. I’m not sure if I’ll have any setbacks. Hopefully, I’m feeling good.”.

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L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter says Mike Richards still has ‘lots of game left’

Coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about the Kings’ move to place struggling forward Mike Richards on waivers Monday morning:

“From a personal standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, Mike’s been a really good player for us, obviously. He’s had a really tough year. It’s natural for people on the outside to want to have all the answers. Mike’s still got lots of game left. He’s been frustrated with it, too. I think he’s got lots of game left. That’s how I feel. …

“This is hockey and some of you guys don’t get it, period. In terms of lots of players go on waivers and lots of players clear waivers and still have great years in front of them. It’s just people in media who want to continue to beat people up because they can’t do it themselves. … I think Mike’s still go lots of hockey left.”

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Kings GM Dean Lombardi talks about placing Mike Richards on waivers

Here’s part of a question-and-answer session between Kings beat writers and general manager Dean Lombardi on Monday afternoon …

Question: How did it get to this point?

Lombardi: “It’s a process you work through. It’s not like all of a sudden it dawns on you. You’re starting to think about and you work through the process. I think it’s fair to say we made a final decision that we were one way our another deal with it after the All-Star break.”

Question: How did he take it?

Lombardi: “You can ask him. The process isn’t done because he’s still got to clear. I’ll probably talk to him a little more tomorrow. I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody. These are the tough decisions you’ve got to make.”

Question: You could have bought him out last spring, did you hope that would get him going?

Lombardi: “It was a combination of that and I think it’s … we expect loyalty from our players and it’s a two-way street. I think under the circumstance and what he’d done for us, I thought he deserved a chance to get back to what he’s capable of. That’s a hard balance. Obviously, I’ve thought about that a lot. There’s a new wave thing out there that players are commodities and passion and loyalty, those values made sports so special, the commodities guys will tell you that don’t matter. Well, that’s been a big part of the success of this team, I believe. And that’s how I came down on it. If you’re going to expect loyalty from your players, you have to at times show loyalty to them. Then the issue becomes, where’s that line.

“So, when I step back now, I’m never going to lose my belief in those values being critical, but as we see in the cap area … the cap is designed to eliminate those types of emotions. Fortunately, I still believe they’re a critical part of a good team. In retrospect, if you the commodities angle, you say, well, it should have been easy. If you use the belief in the intangibles it’s not. It is what it is. In the end, I felt he deserved that chance for all he’d done for us. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question that we don’t win that first Cup without what he did for this team. Obviously, you don’t win the second one. But you’ve still got to be at a certain level here that has to get done.”

Question: What about the financial standpoint  …

Lombardi: “That’s what we’ve got to work through. Mike in his career, he’s shown he can be a .300 hitter and get you 80 RBIs and be an All-Star player. So, maybe at this stage, it’s not there. I still think he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and do a lot of those things for you that only he can do. Let’s face it, right now, he’s batting .200. But I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to that. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. There’s a lot of things that remind me of where Teemu Selanne was at this stage. Remember when he had fallen off the map in Colorado and it looked like he was done? Then he started changing some things and went on to have 10 great years, for crying out loud. It’s up to Mike. In my mind, I believe if he wants to, he can get back to that. I see no reason why not. But it’s going to be up to him.”

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