Teams make trades for difference reasons. Some are fine-tuning for a playoff run. Some are trying to fill holes simply in a push to make the playoffs. Some are dumping salaries. What, I wanted to know, did these moves — in least in Dean Lombardi’s mind — say about the Kings? How did they fit into his plan, in both the short term and the long term?
LOMBARDI: “I think we’re a better team and we’re not off-course. That’s all you can do. In the end, you’re trying to improve your team. If you really look at what’s in the marketplace at the trade deadline in the last couple years, there are not a lot of impact players there. The one impact thing that was there was Kovalchuk, obviously, and it’s well-documented why we walked away from that. So now, it’s how can I improve this team, and what’s available? And not blow your brains out, as far as throwing around first-rounders or Brayden Schenn or something.
“In the end, I think that once those top guys go — and then maybe Ray Whitney might have been the only other, if you look at the marketplace, a top-six guy — I think the key to the other pieces is finding what fits, versus just picking up bodies. It was finding guys who would fit to make us better. We sent Moller and Cliche down, but they’re still available on recall, and I don’t think it’s bad for them, at all, at this stage of their career, to go down there and continue to develop in the minors. They’re still available to us on recall if we need them. So you do the best you can, while staying within the framework of your plan, but it’s really not that hard at this time. It’s not like there are those Earth-shattering deals out there, where it’s, `OK, we’re changing the plan’ or accelerating the direction or whatever. It’s really about finding guys that fit, not just collecting bodies.
“The other thing is, this is the first time I’ve been a buyer since I’ve been here. This was kind of fun, for a change, versus just getting draft picks. But as a general manager, when your team has played well and showed you that they’re making progress — since that Detroit game, I think this team has continued to grow — and you see signs that they’re starting to believe in themselves and, most nights, play as hard as they can, you feel an obligation to say, `Let’s get them some help, and do the best we can to show them that we’re trying to give them a few more weapons and make us better.’ A lot of it depends on that your team has made the effort to show that they’re ready for you to go out and get a couple pieces to help.”
I also asked Lombardi if, because it seems as though Justin Williams will be able to return far sooner than expected, it changed his philosophy in terms of the type of player he sought leading up to the deadline…
LOMBARDI: “No, because who else was available? Who would have knocked him out? The only time that crossed my mind was Ray Whitney, because arguably there are some similarities in their game. One of the questions I asked myself was that. `Would I want a Ray Whitney if Williams is coming back?’ When Williams went down, that’s probably why I was more aggressive. I thought he would be a good fit, and then it blows up because of the no-trade.”