Dean Lombardi interview transcript, video

On the process of how a trade such as the one for Robyn Regehr comes together:
“Well, fortunately we’re at the stage, unlike in the past, that I think it was safe to say that we were really zeroing in on a certain type of player. So, certainly unlike five, six years ago when we went from basically acquiring draft picks and prospects to maybe a couple of years ago, you start looking for smaller additions, to now, your market really gets kind of finite because you’re clearly looking for a certain element. And even though you have a lot of discussions with people, as a practical matter you essentially zero down into just a couple teams. The one thing about this whole process, too – we were engaged fairly early, obviously, because it wasn’t looking good for Willie Mitchell. Losing two guys like that right away, it’s safe to say that I’ve been looking for this all year. So I mean, you’re looking at two big, physical guys that were clearly part of our identity that have not been in our lineup all year. And we knew it was going to be long term. So you could argue that this process started two months ago. It’s just that again, people aren’t really willing to deal until this time of year.”

On whether the price went up as discussions progressed due to other trades made:
“I guess so. I think that’s what people generally tend to do, that they’ll see what other guys go for, and you kind of work within that framework. But it still comes down to – that might be a starting point – but it still comes down to you’re competing against other teams, and generally there’s two things the other general manager considers. One – the biggest price, and secondly, in this case, where the player will go, and then do you want him out of your conference? So those are usually the three things that enter into the price that might affect it to a certain degree. But in the end, it’s just like when a player signs as a free agent, the general manager’s probably going to take the most he can, and you hope to outbid people.”

On a relatively quiet trading deadline for the Kings after moves were made earlier this week:
“We like our team. It’s just filling those two holes. I mean, this group here – and I think I’ve said this to you guys several times here – the hardest part about this wasn’t the player trade. It’s making sure we keep this group together, and I think I’ve made it clear numerous times that the way this cap is coming down next year when we have six young players up for contract causes this to be a physics project. So of the players I looked at in making this deal, I spent way more time evaluating our cap and keeping this group together than I actually did evaluating the player. And that’s not taking anything away from the work on the player. But we knew we were going to get to this point some day. I mean, you’ve said it time and time again – build slowly with young players in the thought of keeping them together. But this CBA really hurt in terms of us having to adjust, because we certainly didn’t plan a dramatic decrease, and then, like I said, we have six million in space. We brought this team back we can’t use. And so everything we did in the last two weeks with Solly (Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs Jeff Solomon) is we had more physics projects going on the board than MIT in terms of trying how to figure out how to make sure we keep our own. And so that certainly also had an impact on your market, too, so you’re balancing the players and then you say, ‘Wait a minute,’ you don’t want to get in the situation where ‘OK, I’m paying this to get the player, but then I’m going to pay another tax in the summer because I can’t keep another player.’ So actually your price could increase dramatically if you aren’t cognizant of that. And that’s why I think that’s the other reason this is a really good fit for us. I think with Robyn, clearly that element he brings is something that we needed to add to the mix, and I think you put Greener back in this lineup, now you have that mix of puck moving and hard-to-play-against. So he’s a great fit from that, and I think hopefully, I think there’s a good chance that we can retain him. I think we’ve got a lot going for us, so this wasn’t looked at as just a player for a rental. We’re looking at this as a guy that can fit with us for a number of years here. But it still had to work for us in terms of the whole. I just feel so strongly. I think you know this group. Through the process, yeah, at times you get frustrated. But there’s no question they care about each other, and time and time again I’ve seen them they way they stick together through tough times, and you want to do everything you can to let them grow together. I think you’ve heard me talk about culture – and, quite frankly, and this has always been in the back of my mind. First you need stability and continuity. Then you get an identity, and then you have culture. But if you don’t have the first one, you’re not going to get the culture. And culture takes time, and the only way you’re going to do it is keep a bunch of good players together that care about each other, learn through the ups and downs and learn to win. And that’s a ‘culture’. And that’s not going to happen in one year. It’s a process, just like we’re just starting to get an identity now. There’s another step here, and if I have to start pulling guys out of that room, and you take away the stability and continuity, now you back the whole thing up. And that was very much in the back of my mind, that there is an emotional bond and step that we need to take as a franchise, and if I start ripping the guts out of it or whatever and start getting away from continuity, we’re never going to get there and you’re going to end up like everything else. You’ll get mediocrity, back to .500, like everything. It’s harder and harder in this day and age – that’s what caps are designed to do. Bring everything to the medium and constant changes. But you’re never going to get a team with culture if that’s going on. So I think I’ve been consistent with that. It’s the first year I’ve really faced the challenge of trying to improve the team and keep them together, but it’s always in the back of mind. So when I talk about this deal, it’s very much not just the player, it’s this other thing that’s in the back of my mind that is very important, I think.”

On whether Regehr’s evaluation was made easier due to his relationship with Darryl Sutter:
“Oh, no question. What you get there is now just like with Carter and Richards. You guys, at times, you do your digging to find out about a player, but we don’t have to do that. This guy’s character is off the charts. He is no picnic to play against. And the other thing, you know from your own locker room that in the end the players know. I think this is a guy you’d rather have on your side than have to play against him. And I think [he’s got a] left shot and we’re blessed with obviously with some really good young defensemen and the way Muzzin’s come on. But we still need that element that guys like Robyn and Greener and Willie Mitchell bring.”

On the evolution of contract negotiations with Rob Scuderi:
“I think you’ll see us now – and actually, we just started this this afternoon – it kind of went back to the drawing board here and see the dominoes. So I think…we’ve got an idea now of what we can do to try and keep these guys together. So you’ve got these young players up, and so now you say, ‘OK, you’ve got to do the balancing act.’ The less term you give, you probably can keep it down to keep the veterans. So you’ve got to do this balancing act now between the advantages of term, but also keeping the other pieces. And we were kind of unsure, obviously going through until now we’ve done this, OK, now we know what we want to do. So let’s start working on this. So I think Solly’s going to finally earn his money here this year.”

On his disinterest of buying out the contracts of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter:
“Buy ‘em out? With Mike? No. Who ever asked me that? [Reporter: In January at the press conference, it was just a general conversation about teams using the buy-outs. It wasn’t specific that you were interested. You said you didn’t plan on using that buyout clause.] No. With those guys? No.”

On whether the buyout clause would be considered with Willie Mitchell’s “situation”:
“Well, I think what we know now, and that’s the next thing we’ve got to zero in on – kind of just like you asked about the contracts, we’re kind of looking at it in like Willie went to see another doctor, we know. I’ve got to get all the information out. The one thing we do know is he’s done for the year, which was kind of always hanging out there. In terms of his career, that’s what I think we have to figure out now where he is health-wise in terms of his career. So once we have that, and I think we’re going to have the discussion this week with all the doctors and Willie and try and sort through this thing. The first issue is to see where we are in terms of him playing again. And then we can decide what to do. Obviously, if he’s going to come back, great. I’m not sure how viable that is based upon my preliminary stuff. But again, I’ll know more on that by the end of the week. [Reporter: Because he’s had the two surgeries now.] Yeah, and I think without going into detail, like I said, at least we got some finality that he’s not coming back this year. Now I’m getting some information – and I don’t like speaking to it because I don’t have it all, but I guess it’s safe to say there would be a legitimate concern now whether he plays next year. But that could be premature. Let’s just say now, though, it’s possible, where I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Like we always thought, ‘OK, if we don’t get him this year, this isn’t serious for us.’ But apparently some other things might have shown up. But until I get the whole story, I probably should hold off.”

On whether he was close on making any other trades prior to the deadline:
“No. I like our team, and I think we addressed our biggest need. And you see Matt Greene in there – we get him back, that’s like getting a player for nothing now. I didn’t see anything that was really going to improve us. Our depth up front with Toffoli and Brad Richardson, we forget about him, but he’s shown he’s a good depth player. So it wasn’t really anything there that made sense as terms of an upgrade, let alone then get to the part where if you upgrade, what’s it going to do to your cap and everything else. The other thing we were able to do on this that I really liked – and you know I’m confident in how I feel about this – we’ve got 10 picks in this year’s draft. You never want to lose sight of that part. Now, we don’t have a first rounder, but we’re going into this, we were able to keep this nucleus, get this piece here, and have 10 picks going in next year’s draft. Our eye going forward, we haven’t sold the farm by any stretch. I think we’ve got the space to keep our young players. Then hopefully…add the right veterans here going forward also. Now it’s up to our scouts to hit in the middle rounds. I mean, we’ve got a lot of swings in there, so we’ll keep the supply line going. But that’s the other thing, too – like, you underestimate those picks coming up overall. So, OK, you get Regehr, and you know the fifth rounder for Drewiske because you’ve got the depth. And then you look at your list, and we’ve got three fourths, two fifths, two sevenths. We’re in good shape there, and that’s unusual for a team coming off the success we had last year. Generally you’ve got to empty the store a little more. So I think we’re in pretty decent shape.”

On whether getting a first round pick back is important this year:
“You look at it…We were fortunate last year, actually, like we were going to pay it last year or this year, and [Columbus] didn’t take it because it fell to 30. But actually, the kid we got has really done well. So we actually probably lucked out there, to get this kid Pearson in the 30th pick. He’s got a good chance. [Reporter: A little concerned, though, when he came back from the injury?] Yeah, but it’s not structural, so they say that’s the biggest thing. But you can’t predict that. And he’s still a young lad. He’s got to get in shape and everything. But that whole line down there, like we really sucked the lifeblood out of them this year between losing players on waivers and trades. Now we’ve got another wave coming in. But the one thing that was good about it was because we lost a lot of guys – we don’t like losing them – but the benefit of it was Toffoli, Vey and Pearson became the top line, and teams all keyed on them. So they learned to play in a tough environment, where if we had all the players there we probably would have had, they fall to the three hole, where generally you break them in, but they’re not getting the focus. But they’re arguably our best players, but they’re still very young. They moved right to the top, and if you went down there, you’d see they’re going right after them. And that’s a good sign, because teams know that these are three good [players]. And they handled it. Linden Vey’s come a long way. And so that was the good point of having three 20-year-olds on the same line – that they’re drawing the toughest checkers and everything else, and they’re going after them and they’re holding up.”

On whether Linden Vey’s progress was catalyzed by the move to center:
“No, clearly becoming a pro. It’s the same thing as Tyler. His first thing after the draft, he couldn’t do one push-up or pull-up and he was proud of it. It’s like, ‘Why do I have to do this for?’ So it’s a tribute to the development guys – what you see is maturity as a man as much as a player. And what happened is they’re pushing each other. It’s because Tyler has figured it out, and then Linden – you’ve got two kids there, one is the leading scorer in Ontario, and the other was the leading scorer in the west. So you’ve got a little bit of this going, ‘You’re not going to beat me.’ Now Tyler decides to start working. ‘I’ll stay with him.’ And it’s kind of what you like to have. And Pearson kind of figured out the work because he went through a draft, so he actually started figuring out, ‘I’ve got to get back to work.’ If you look at their bodies, they’re a long way from being men. But the point is they get it. And then Toffoli comes in here now and sees how hard Jarret Stoll and these guys work. Now you’ve got it going. That goes back to what started this whole thing. That’s culture. Again, that takes time, and you can lose that in a hurry if you start shuffling guys in and out and stuff.”

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