LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi Makes Two Big Moves On Deadline Day

Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi
spoke to the media about the Penner trade at Staples Center
in Los Angeles on February 28, 2011.
Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images and the Los Angeles Kings
LOS ANGELES — Nearly forty hours have elapsed, at the time of this writing, since the National Hockey League’s 2011 trade deadline at noon Pacific time on February 28. Now that the ice chips have settled, it is a good time to take a close, calm look at the trade that brought left wing Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings.

Indeed, on that day, the Kings sent defenseman prospect Colten Teubert to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange, along with a first round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional third round pick in the 2012 draft.

That third round pick in 2012 will become a second round selection should the Kings win the Stanley Cup this season.

Teubert, a tough, rugged defenseman with a mean streak was selected by the Kings in the first round (13th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-4, 195-pound native of White Rock, British Columbia played 39 games with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate) this season, scoring two goals and contributing eight assists for ten points with 57 penalty minutes.

For some background on Teubert, check out:

Penner, 28, has played the last four seasons with the Oilers, scoring 93 goals and adding 93 assists for 186 points with 189 penalty minutes in 304 regular season games. This year, he has scored 21 goals and has tallied 18 assists for 39 points with 45 penalty minutes in 63 games.

The 6-4, 245-pound native of Winkler, Manitoba got his start in the NHL with the 2005-06 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now the Anaheim Ducks), scoring four goals with three assists for seven points in 19 games. He scored 29 goals and added 16 assists for 45 points in 82 games in the 2006=07 season, and contributed three goals and five assists for eight points in 21 playoff games, helping Anaheim win the 2007 Stanley Cup.

In 405 career NHL regular season games with the Ducks and Oilers, Penner scored 126 goals and has tallied 112 assists for 238 points with 261 penalty minutes. In 34 playoff games, all with Anaheim, Penner scored six goals with eleven assists for 17 points with 14 penalty minutes.

In four of his five full seasons in the NHL, Penner has scored twenty or more goals, with a career high of 32 goals and 31 assists for 63 points last season. He has also missed just five games since the 2006-07 season.

Penner, who was originally signed by Anaheim as an unrestricted free agent on May 12, 2004, will earn $4.25 million this season and next season. He has one year left on his contract ($4.25 million is also the salary cap hit next year), and will wear jersey number 25 with the Kings.

For the last few months, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi has been the target of heavy criticism for failing to acquire a left wing who could add some scoring punch and help the Kings’ often struggling offense.

In no uncertain terms, critics all over the World Wide Web and other media chastised and ridiculed Lombardi for not pulling the trigger. Many pointed to his history, both with the Kings and the San Jose Sharks, one where he never made the big deal, let alone a blockbuster trade.

But by the time the deadline came and went, it was Lombardi who made the biggest deal on deadline day, probably sending shockwaves through the souls of those waiting for him to play Let’s Make A Deal.

What pushed Lombardi over the edge was how his team has performed of late.

“It’s more the players, they drove me to this,” said Lombardi. “The way they went on that road trip and said, ‘you know what, Dean, we’re for real. Get us some help. Make us a better team without taking anybody out of the room.’”

“That’s where the push comes, and where you’re really saying you want to help these guys because they deserve it,” added Lombardi. “We’re glad we’re able to do it while making sense now and in the future.”

Indeed, right wing Wayne Simmonds, who was often mentioned as likely to be included in just about any deal, is still a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

“It’s something we generally insisted on,” Lombardi emphasized. “To take a guy out of our room would be that ‘fill a hole, create a hole’ thing. That allowed us to keep our focus.”

“Certain players were not negotiable, and, as far as taking a guy out of our room, that was clearly something we were not interested in doing,” Lombardi added. “This was a deadline where we were going to make our team better, not take people out of the room. I’ve done enough of that in the past.”

The Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Philip Anschutz-owned conglomerate that owns the Kings, was supportive.

“Our team deserved this,” Lombardi said. “Ownership was certainly prepared for it. They were very much behind, if the right player is there, they gave me the financial wherewithal.”

“It doesn’t mean you get stupid, or anything, and we paid a good price here,” Lombardi added. “But, at this stage of the franchise, that [dressing] room and those coaches have done a good job. It was time to get them some help.”

The players were appreciative of Lombardi’s efforts.

“It’s a great message to all the players,” said defenseman Jack Johnson. “We’re excited that they did it.”

“I’m glad I get to play with [Penner] instead of against him,” added Johnson. “He’s a good player, hard to play against. We’re excited to have him, all the guys are. It’s a real exciting thing for us, going into the playoffs, that we’re putting all the chips in to win this.”

For the Kings, the ability to focus on improving the team instead of building the franchise or tearing it down to start over, is a refreshing change, and that’s putting it mildly.

“You think of where we were five years ago, I can always think [back] to the first three years of just selling during this period,” said Lombardi. “It’s not a lot of fun. We had to do it, but nobody enjoys it. You’re essentially making your team worse. Last year, we were kind of a buyer on the perimeter. It’s a lot more fun than three years ago where you’re trading guys for [draft] picks. But that’s part of the process.”

That process, one that some do not understand and more are not patient enough to wait out, is to draft well and develop your prospects. Indeed, for the first time in franchise history, the Kings have done just that and now have prospects that other teams covet, a drastic, night-and-day change from the first 39 years of the Kings’ existence.

To be sure, those prospects are now valuable assets that the Kings can either bring up to the big club, or use in a trade to improve their team, which is exactly what they did in this case.

“A lot of those kids—it’s nice to have them for yourself, but this is the situation where your scouts come through for you,” Lombardi explained. “They’re always a big part of trades, because if they don’t get you the player—all three elements are necessary to build a team. But if you don’t draft, you’ve got no chance to use trades, and free agency is not going to work—if it’s only free agency without something from within, that doesn’t work.”

Penner has a scoring touch, but is not a 40-50 goal per season sniper. In other words, he is not the game-changer the Kings still need, giving critics of the deal more ammunition, stating that Penner was not the player the Kings should have pursued.

Indeed, critics taking that stand pointed to players such as Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Rick Nash, New Jersey Devils left wing Zach Parise, and Dallas Stars center Brad Richards. Some also coveted Florida Panthers winger David Booth.

Nash and Parise (who is out with a knee injury and is not expected to return this season) were both pipe dreams for impatient fans, and were not available. Slightly more realistic was going after Booth, but Florida general manager Dale Tallon moved several players off his roster at the deadline, and was not about to trade away a player he plans to build around.

The most coveted trade target was Richards, but, as it turns out, he was not a realistic option for any NHL team, as Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said that he would only consider a trade if he got an offer that “…knocked his socks off.”

Translation: he wanted roster players (plural, not singular), first round draft picks, top prospects—he wanted a mint for Richards, a price the Kings would have been foolish to pay.

And they didn’t.

“There were a few things we were looking at, but I think it’s fair to say that, by last night, we had zeroed in, and it was, realistically, only [Penner],” Lombardi explained. “It’s like a funnel. Thirty days ago, it was this big. It narrows down and narrows down. As of last night, this was our only real option.”

Despite not being that game-changer, Penner should help the Kings up front.

“I think he’ll be a good fit here,” said Lombardi. “He was a big contributor to Anaheim, but [he got a big offer sheet from Edmonton], big expectations. Here, he knows the guys on the team—[defenseman Matt] Greene and [center Jarret] Stoll spoke really highly of him. He can fit right in and just be himself. This guy could be a big help.”

“It all starts with the scouts giving you tools to go out and pursue players of this stature and at this time,” added Lombardi. “That’s big. As you’ve seen, I do kind of trend towards guys like Stoll and [left wing] Ryan Smyth, guys who have been to the [Stanley Cup] Finals. That served me well with guys like [Mike] Ricci when I was up [in San Jose].”

“When you look at a guy’s resume, particularly when you’ve got a lot of young players, that can be invaluable. The other thing I like is that when you’re starting to get a reputation of being hard to play against, I think adding a big man like this, the thought of playing him with [center Anze] Kopitar, that’s got to be pretty imposing. If you’re a defenseman lining up [against them], that can’t be fun, and that’s the way you’re going to win, ultimately, in the playoffs.”

Head coach Terry Murray indicated that Penner would indeed play on left wing with Kopitar, and he likes what Penner brings to his team.

“We’ve watched him over the years, we like what we saw, with his big body, his ability to cycle the puck, his offensive zone play, he’s got great hands, he’s a good finisher,” said Murray. “He’s been right through the final game. He’s got a ring on his finger, so he knows what the compete [level] is all about, [what] the battles are about. It’s a good add for our team.”

“Come in, be a good player, and fit into the locker room. We’ve got a good group of guys in there.”

Speaking of Greene and Stoll, both former Oilers (along with Smyth), Lombardi said that he sought their opinions on Penner.

“Once you see something that’s a possibility, you know you have some players you respect,” Lombardi explained. “It’s not everybody that you can open that window to. These are quality people in that room, and because our room is so close, they’re starting to get that feeling that they’ve been through wars together. It’s their team. I think they’ve taken ownership of this team, and, in a certain moment, I’ll solicit their opinion.”

Speaking of opinions, Frozen Royalty is going to go along with those who declared Lombardi and the Kings the big winner on deadline day. Not only did he make the biggest, most significant deadline day trade, but he did so without giving up a player off his roster. Moreover, Teubert is not likely to become anything more than a number four or five defenseman at the NHL level (think Matt Greene). As such, the Kings improved their team, now and for the future, and did not give up a fortune to do it.

Further, they also did not have to give up top prospect Brayden Schenn, who just about every NHL general manager is drooling uncontrollably over.

In a related move, one that could prove to be equally or more important down the road, also on February 28, the Kings signed right wing Justin Williams, 30, to a four-year contract extension valued at $14.6 million, with a salary cap hit of $3.65 million per year.

Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams (right) signed
a four-year contract extension on February 28, 2011.
Photo: Los Angeles Kings
This season, Williams has been the Kings’ most consistent forward, scoring twenty goals and adding 29 assists for 49 points in 63 games.

Williams told Heidi Androl of KingsVision on that contract negotiations have been going on for a little more than one month.

“I haven’t had much to do with it, but I’m happy it’s done,” he said. “I’m happy to be here, and I’m happy to be part of the team. I know they showed a lot of confidence in me by signing me. I, in turn, want to make them look good.”

“The deal got finalized last night,” he added. “When it got finalized, Dean called me, congratulated me, and I told him that I wanted to make him look like a real good GM for making this deal. I want to be here when everything gets well, when everything’s going good. I’m here to bring a championship.”

Lombardi stressed the importance of the signing.

“It helped me sleep last night because what you dread in the building process is taking a step backwards in rushing to try and take two steps forward,” he noted. “I think the ideal way to build a good team and foundation is a methodical process. If you spike too early, chances are, you’ve got some flaws in the foundation, and you don’t want to go backwards.”

“Justin’s certainly among the top three of our forwards in terms of skill,” he added. “I just couldn’t imagine having to replace that, and want to get better in the off-season. I don’t want to be saying, ‘oh, I’ve got to replace this,’ [I don’t want to] go back to go where I was and then try to get better.”

That Williams committed long-term is a sign that the Kings are moving towards becoming a contender.

“I think that says a lot,” said Lombardi. “This is a guy who spent his whole career on the East Coast. For him to commit here, I don’t think it would’ve happened two years ago. He fits in with the group.”

“This team is really on the upswing right now,” said Williams. “We’re a team that’s really building well, and coming together as a team. We’ve been playing well as of late, and that’s what you want to be going into the playoffs because anything can happen. Once you get in, you’ve got a real good shot.”

Williams’ contract is also significant in terms of giving the Kings room to maneuver under the salary cap, and should allow them to be a significant player in the unrestricted free agent market this summer.

Richards, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, could be a target for Lombardi.

“We’re set up now, contractually, where we can focus entirely on getting better,” Lombardi emphasized. “Obviously, Drew [Doughty’s] contract is up, [etc]. These are guys who aren’t going anywhere. We have a couple of guys who I think we’re going to be able to sign.”

“It was a huge thing for the franchise that he took a reasonable number, and to be able to do the deal the next day, it kind of came together,” Lombardi added. “I’m as happy about that as I am about, not to belittle the deal, but I’m very much as happy about Justin as I am about [the Penner trade].”

Williams can now focus his efforts on the stretch drive to the playoffs and beyond.

“There’s still twenty games left in the season, so we got crunch time to go through,” he noted. “But it definitely feels good, getting into a groove, getting healthy, and really feeling good out there, and that you’re being productive.”

“It’s good to know that the team really believes in you. They’ve put their money where their mouth is, and now it’s time for me to show what I can do.”

Raw audio interviews

(Includes post-game audio from the Kings’ 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on February 28; edited to remove extraneous material and dead air)

Dean Lombardi (10:03)

Jonathan Quick (1:20)

Jack Johnson (1:17)

Dustin Brown (1:44)

Terry Murray (7:18)

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4 thoughts on “LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi Makes Two Big Moves On Deadline Day

Add yours

  1. Great article Gann. I am still doubtful of Penner b/c of his lack of consistent effort. We went through this with Frolov, another big, talented and amazingly inconsistent left wing. Hopefully Murray can get more out of Penner but so far,\ I see as many minuses as I do pluses in this deal.

    Also, I am very glad we were able to lock up Williams. He has a lot of jump and a high skill level that we need. Now if only he can stay injury free.

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