Mike Richards still doesn’t know why he was traded. Doughty, Fraser updates.

Lost among the quotable “Dry Island” denial soundbites thrown out Wednesday, when Mike Richards met the local media for the first time since his trade from Philadelphia, maybe the most revealing nugget of Richards’ press conference is that he still doesn’t know why he was traded.

At the very least, even if he does know why he was traded, Richards isn’t ready to divulge that reason publicly. In the meantime, speculation will continue.

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has his own take: It was a good hockey trade.

“It’s one of those deals that should work out for everybody and satisfy each of our needs,” he said. “We gave up two good players. Philly did just fine.”

That’s my starting point for tomorrow’s story. A couple other points of note from Lombardi:
Continue reading “Mike Richards still doesn’t know why he was traded. Doughty, Fraser updates.” »

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Bud Holloway signs in Sweden.

The Manchester Monarchs will have a new leading scorer next season.

Skilled right wing Bud Holloway has signed with Skellefte AIK of the Swedish Elite League for 2011-12. The restricted free agent declined the Kings’ qualifying offer, at least temporarily ending his tenure with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2006 draft.

Both this season (28+33=61) and last (19+28-47), Holloway led the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate in scoring. He helped the Monarchs reach the Eastern Conference Final series in 2010, tying an AHL record with six game-winning goals in a single postseason (out of the seven goals he scored).

But in three pro seasons, the 23-year-old from Wapella, Saskatchewan never got the NHL call-up he desired. He joins Corey Elkins and Oscar Moller on a short list of Kings prospects who have left for Europe this summer.

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Powerful experience for Kaunisto in Alabama.

I once chronicled an entire wedding on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. The nupitals took place at center ice between periods of an Ontario Reign home game. Much like the other thousand-plus people in attendance, I didn’t know either the bride or the groom, but it was an interesting diversion from the game I was covering. And if the backdrop of an ECHL hockey game can’t get a marriage off on the right foot, we’re all doomed.

Ray Kaunisto didn’t tweet his entire wedding Saturday, but the Kings prospect did share some interesting tidbits with the masses that allowed his Big Day to come to life:

His bride is an Anaheim Ducks fan.
This was his first married tweet.
– The new couple plans on having children in 2013.

All of which reminded me that I’ve been sitting on a most interesting What-I-Did-During-My-Summer-Vacation story, courtesy of Mr. Kaunisto.
Continue reading “Powerful experience for Kaunisto in Alabama.” »

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Lewis, six others re-sign.

Restricted free-agent forward Trevor Lewis re-signed with the Kings on Friday. His two-year deal pays a reported $1.45 million.

The announcement came with little surprise one day after general manager Dean Lombardi said a new contract was “close.” Lewis had only three goals and 13 points in 72 games last season, his first full year in the NHL. But he was hard to take out of the lineup because of his speed — a rare commodity on last year’s squad — and penalty-killing value. Lewis also had a goal and four points in the Kings’ six-game playoff series against San Jose.

Lewis can play either center or the wing, and figures to compete with Andrei Loktionov for the fourth-line center position in training camp.

The Kings also announced the signings of forwards Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune and David Meckler, defensemen Andrew Campbell and Patrick Mullen, and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. All six players spent the entire season in Manchester and were restricted free agents.

One player who won’t be returning to the Monarchs is Corey Elkins. The agent for the restricted free-agent forward wrote on Twitter that Elkins could be headed to Europe for a year and won’t re-sign with the Kings. Elkins had 18 goals and 44 points in 76 games for Manchester last season, after posting 21 goals and 43 points in 72 games the year before. Signed as a free agent out of Ohio State University, Elkins had one goal in three games with the Kings, all in 2009-10.

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With Richardson signed, who’s next?

Brad Richardson became the latest restricted free agent to come to terms with the Kings on Wednesday, avoiding arbitration with a two-year deal that pays $1 million in 2011-12 and $1.35 million in 2012-13.

His annual salary-cap hit of $1.175 million is reasonable for a player who has a 14-goal season to his credit, kills penalties, adds speed to a relatively slow group of forwards, and can play all three forward positions. Richardson won 50.8 percent of his faceoffs last season, third on the team. He jelled with Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds — who has since been traded to Philadelphia –during the playoffs, and his five points (two goals, three assists) in six games matched Clifford for the team lead.

According to capgeek.com, the Kings still have $10.7 million of cap room to play with.

Which leads to the question of who will be the next to sign.

It probably won’t be Drew Doughty.
Continue reading “With Richardson signed, who’s next?” »

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Development Camp dates, times, roster announced.

The Kings will host their annual Development Camp at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo on Monday and Tuesday of next week (free and open to the public). The roster includes players in the system, players who have been drafted but not signed by the team, and other non-roster camp invitees.

As of now, Kings coaches Terry Murray, John Stevens and Jamie Kompon are scheduled to be present, along with Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris and assistant Scott Pellerin, and Ontario Reign head coach Karl Taylor.

Campers will be split into two groups; Group A will practice from 8 to 9:15 a.m. Monday and scrimmage from 9:30 to 10:30. Group B will practice from 10:45 to noon Monday.

On Tuesday, Group B will practice from 8 to 9:15 a.m. and scrimmage from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Group A will practice from 10:45 to noon. Among the notable invitees are a pair of goalies: Yorba Linda native Adam Brown, who plays for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, and Matej Machovsky, who backstopped the Czech Republic at the most recent World Junior Championships. He plays for the OHL’s Brampton Battalion.
Continue reading “Development Camp dates, times, roster announced.” »

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Richardson, Martinez elect arbitration.

Alec Martinez and Brad Richardson were among 23 NHL players who elected arbitration today.

Richardson was tendered a qualifying offer (along with Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune, Corey Elkins and Trevor Lewis) while Martinez was headed for restricted free agency.

The deadline for Club-Elected Salary Arbitration notification is 2 p.m. (Pacific Time) Wednesday. Hearings will be held in Toronto from July 20 to August 4. Martinez and Richardson can avoid arbitration by reaching a contract agreement before then.

In the meantime, expect the following facts and figures to be dissected by both sides:

After appearing in four NHL games last year, Martinez was recalled from AHL Manchester on Nov. 23 and seized the Kings’ sixth defenseman job. His five goals matched Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty for second among Kings defensemen; he also had a plus-11 rating, second only to Doughty among blueliners.

The 23-year-old Martinez earned $662,500 in the NHL last season, according to capgeek.com.

Richardson, who can play all three forward positions, had seven goals and 19 points in 68 games last season while averaging 11:45 in a utility role. He was among the regulars on the penalty kill, a role he could expect to reprise with PK specialist Michal Handzus playing in San Jose.

In the Kings’ six-game playoff series against the Sharks, Richardson found success on a line with Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, matching Clifford’s five points for the team lead.

The 26-year-old made $900,000 last season according to CapGeek.

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Kings turn to Gagne to fill their left wing hole.

On the same day Brad Richards spurned several suitors to sign with the New York Rangers, the Kings wasted little time securing their Plan B.

Left wing Simon Gagne signed a two-year contract worth a reported $7 million Saturday. He’ll be reunited with his former center in Philadelphia, Mike Richards, along with ex-Flyers coaches Terry Murray and John Stevens.

Gagne posted a 47-goal season with the Flyers in 2005-06, Richards’ rookie year with the club. Injuries have limited his ability to repeat that performance, as Gagne has only played two 70-game seasons since. Last season alone he missed 18 games with a neck injury, one game due to a pinched nerve in his neck, and another three games in the playoffs with a head injury, according to his injury history listed on TSN.com.

In the last five seasons, four in Philadelphia and most recently in Tampa Bay, Gagne has played in 76, 25, 79, 58 and 63 games, respectively.

The 31-year-old still put up decent numbers last season –17 goals and 40 points in 63 regular-season games, and another five goals and 12 points in 15 playoff games. He averaged 15:52 per game in the playoffs, fifth among a talented core of Lightning forwards, and was among the team’s top power-play threats. Seven of his 17 regular-season goals came on the power play, which should come as welcome news to a Kings squad that ranked 21st in the NHL with the man advantage last season.

The Kings made a big pitch Friday to Richards, who led the Dallas Stars in scoring the last two seasons. Richards today signed a nine-year contract with the Rangers, citing several non-monetary desires that ran counter to the Kings’ offer: to play close to his family in the Eastern time zone, to play for head coach John Tortorella (his coach with the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning), to play on an original-six franchise, and to remain at the center position.

More details to come; a conference call with Gagne is expected at some point.

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Richards chooses Rangers.

Brad Richards is taking his talents to the New York Rangers. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Richards will make $60 million over nine years, a $6.67 million average annual value.

Richards is reunited with head coach John Tortorella, who coached him to the only Stanley Cup of his career in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Because of this, and because of the Rangers’ ample salary-cap space, the Rangers were the front-runner to sign Richards all along. The prized free agent was also being pursued by the Flames and Maple Leafs.

Arguably no team went more all-out Friday than the Kings, who sent eight members of their senior staff to Toronto and compiled a celebrity video pitch as part of a presentation that was more than a month in the making.

The Kings desperately need a winger to replace the goal-scoring production of Ryan Smyth, who was traded to Edmonton a week ago at his own request. After losing out on Richards, they may turn to free agent Simon Gagne or try to pursue a trade.

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Free agency live chat.

Since news breaks before it can be blogged, I invite you to keep your browser glued to this chat room beginning at 9 a.m. today. What I know about NHL free agents, trades and buyouts will go here, so feel free to ask me some questions in real time:

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