Odds and ends: Pionk, Sutter, Vegas - LA Kings Insider

DOWN TO TWO? I shared on Twitter yesterday that Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Neal Pionk, the 21-year-old college free agent who decided to turn pro after his sophomore season, was down to a small handful of teams he was considering signing with, and one of them was the Kings. Then, today:

That’s from a USHL scout; yesterday, Duluth television reporter Zach Schneider spoke with Pionk and said that a decision is likely coming after the weekend. Pionk, a skilled right-defenseman, has whittled a large group of suitors down to two or three teams, and Los Angeles is still one of them. There’s no sense which way he’s leaning – “right now it’s up in the air,” I was told yesterday – but Chicago has recently been a team you’d want to avoid getting into tug-of-wars with over NCAA free agents. For a pair of teams that have been pressed up against the cap in recent years, landing Pionk would be a boon for either one. The right-shot blue liner had seven goals, 34 points and a +24 rating in 42 games with the Bulldogs and turns 22 on July 29. He’s six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds and appears to be the type of skilled puck-moving defenseman who could benefit a transition game and with continued development appears to be the type of player that could find success in the modern NHL. He’d be a good get if L.A. is able to land him.

DARRYL. Via Gary Lawless of TSN 1290 Winnipeg:

Not that it would really be questioned because of the success he forged in Los Angeles and his willingness to help in John Stevens’ transition, but the base appears to have been laid for a strong relationship following his departure from the organization, and that’s important towards alumni relations and team pageantry. Given his success and Dean Lombardi’s success doing what no other coach and executive had done with the Kings, the endgame needs to be pristine ties between the team and those who blueprinted and executed two Stanley Cup runs. Sutter has always spoken highly of his employers. “I’ve been lucky to work for Mr. Anschutz, Mr. Gund, Mr. Wirtz, and Harley Hotchkiss and Doc Seaman,” he said in 2013. “I couldn’t pick in pro sports better owners. When you think about it, that’s a pretty spectacular group.”

GOLDEN DEALS? this is going to be a big story come June. Vegas, according to General Manager George McPhee, is “open for business to any teams seeking to protect their players” and will gladly take draft picks that could entice them to take or disregard certain players. Via John Wawrow of the Associated Press:

“If they want to give us draft picks to encourage us to take a certain player or leave another player alone, we’re open-minded and we’re going to listen to everyone,” McPhee said. “You usually build your team, historically, through the entry draft, so we’d certainly be interested in acquiring picks.”

Teams must submit their Protection List by 2:00 p.m. PT on Saturday, June 17. The 30 players selected will be revealed during the NHL Awards on June 21 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Rules of the expansion draft, via NHL.com:

* Vegas must select one player from each presently existing club for a total of 30 players (not including additional players who may be acquired as the result of violations of the Expansion Draft rules).
* Vegas must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
* Vegas must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the 2017-18 season.
* Vegas must select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season’s upper limit for the salary cap.
* Vegas may not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.

REMINDER: The draft lottery is this Saturday, and the results will be revealed during live NBC coverage in the United States shortly after 5:00 p.m. PT. The Kings have a 4.5% chance of winning the lottery for the first overall pick and a 14.4% chance of earning a top-three selection.