Dean Lombardi is traveling back from Toronto today, so Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk about the Simon Gagne signing, how Gagne fits into the Kings’ plans and, as a side note, whether there is anything new with the Drew Doughty contract talks…
Question: Clearly you took a swing at Brad Richards yesterday. How important was it to come back quickly and get a top-six forward?
HEXTALL: “It was fairly important for us. We’ve looked at the trade market, and there’s not a lot there. Quite frankly, after yesterday on the free-agent market there wasn’t a ton there, but this was a guy we had our eye on from the start, if we didn’t get Brad Richards. We moved as quickly as we could. Obviously the familiarity with people in our organization — Terry Murray, John Stevens, myself, Dean and, particularly, his relationship with Mike Richards, both on and off the ice — were factors in him coming to L.A.”
Question: His two 40-goal seasons pop out, but so does the number of games missed because of injury. Was there any hesitancy there, when you looked at signing him?
HEXTALL: “No. There’s risk with every player. You always analyze the risk vs. reward. Obviously with the amount of money that goes into it, and the cap space, you look at the injuries, and we felt that the reward was worth the risk. I think the one thing about Simon is that he’s always been a big-game player. He has scored big goals at critical times. You look at his playoff numbers, and he played in some real big games and has played some of his best hockey. That’s part of the reward that we look at. This is a pretty darn good player, and he’s also a very good defensive player, a much better defensive player than people give him credit for. He can kill penalties, he can check and obviously with the offensive part of his game, he’s got a track record of numbers there.”
Question: Is there some sense of relief to get that top six settled, at least on paper?
HEXTALL: “We clearly knew we needed a top six forward. We targeted (Brad) Richards first, but that’s no slight on Gagne. He’s a very good player. We’re excited about it and I think our team will be excited about it. When you get guys who you know can play together, like Gagne and Richards, there’s some comfort there. They’ve got some chemistry and we can line our lines up there. I’m not the coach and I’m not trying to dictate what Murph [Terry Murray] is going to do, but my hunch is that those guys will be together.”
Question: Then, when you look at the third line, you’re obviously going to have a new look there, without Handzus and Simmonds. Is the thought there that you have some options, that some guys can compete?
HEXTALL: “There are some options there. Obviously you’ve got Cliffy [Kyle Clifford] and Stolly [Jarret Stoll] and Richie [Brad Richardson], and Lewis could slide over to the right side. So there are options for Murph, and we’ve got a couple kids coming up. So I’m pretty excited about our team. I think we’re pretty happy with where we are right now, and signing Simon is a big piece of that.”
Question: Off-topic, but anything new you can share on contract talks with Drew Doughty?
HEXTALL: “There’s nothing new there. Hopefully we’ll get it done in the next little while. We’ll be hammering away, I can tell you that much.”