Dean Lombardi joined the Kings in Florida, after a trip to see the Manchester Monarchs for a few days. Lombardi’s attention, of course, will be focused on the trade deadline, three weeks from today. As typical with any general manager, Lombardi wouldn’t publicly tip his hand in terms of who he might seek or what he might give up, but it doesn’t take a coulomb specialist to know that Lombardi will be looking for a forward or two. The questions are, what is out there and what is Lombardi willing to give up?
The irony of the trade deadline is that the more-productive trades are usually made during the summer, not in the panic-driven market of February. That said, the Kings can’t afford to wait. The first line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams has been productive, as has Mike Richards at times. After that, though, there’s a steep fall-off, and Lombardi’s moves over the past calendar year haven’t paid off. Dustin Penner, last year’s trade-deadline acquisition, hasn’t worked. (A move, mind you, that had the approval of more than 95 percent of voters on this blog.) Simon Gagne got hurt, Scott Parse got hurt, Trent Hunter hasn’t produced much and Ethan Moreau is gone. The Kings needed two of those guys to pan out, and none have. The question now is, can the Kings address their needs at the trade deadline? I asked Lombardi whether the dynamics of the deadline will allow the Kings to significantly improve…
LOMBARDI: “As the season moves along, people have a better handle on which direction they want to go. There’s two things that can happen. One, obviously, is a team just strictly downsizing, like we did five years ago, and just saying, `Let’s get picks.’ Secondly, you might have a philosophical change and just say, `It’s not a downsizing, per se, but we want a change to change the structure of our roster.’ So it’s not a rental, per se. It’s different. I think, as the deadline gets closer, it’s not about the deadline. It’s that more teams realize what they have or don’t have. They take into consideration how many injuries they have, and say, `If we get guys back, we’re OK,’ or they say, `We’ve got to look at upgrading our back end.’ And the rentals are always going to be there.
“The question about the rentals is just the price. If you look back, and you take all the deadline deals — just look at them and line them up — you’ve got all kinds of juice on deadline day, but how many of them have really effected the team? There’s this perception of all this juice and action, then you look at what really happens. Last year, arguably, we got one of the top players. How many players had average 25 goals? That was, `Wow, that was a big deal.’ In terms of the rentals, that’s always going to be there. As a practical matter, we don’t have a second and a third (round draft picks). Manchester is still a very young team, but you always have to be cognizant that (new) guys are coming through.’’
Question: So, as you look at it, it’s still a matter of finding the right fit?
LOMBARDI: “It’s being cognizant of knowing what we’ve got coming and knowing what we’ve got now. It’s knowing who we’ve got coming and who is going to help this team next year, and making (a potential move) fit with that. With a rental, you can say, `I don’t care if it doesn’t fit with these kids that are coming,’ but with other (trades), it’s, `OK, let’s trend this way.’’’
Question: But how patient can you afford to be? What if the only real option is a player who doesn’t necessarily “fit’’ with other things?
LOMBARDI: “I don’t have a problem with that. But as far as what’s out there, it’s like I said. There are probably seven or eight out there, but out of them, the ones that will be there as rentals, one of them will probably hit. Those are usually the ones that go to a really good team and don’t have to carry the mail.’’