AUDIO: Includes audio of the media conference call with Dean Lombardi discussing the Andrej Sekera trade on February 25.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Even before the Los Angeles Kings lost defenseman Slava Voynov to his indefinite suspension, resulting from him being charged with domestic violence against his wife, it was no secret that they were looking for help on their blue line to fill the void left by big, physical, stay-at-home defenseman Willie Mitchell, who they could not fit under the salary cap last summer.
With both players out of their lineup, the Kings struggled, especially in their own end. That continued until their current eight-game winning streak, prompting President/General Manager Dean Lombardi to acquire defenseman Andrej Sekera from the Carolina Hurricanes on February 25, in exchange for defenseman prospect Roland McKeown and a conditional first round pick.
As first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the conditions for the first round pick are: if the Kings make the playoffs, the pick will be in the 2015 National Hockey League Draft. If not, the pick will be in the 2016 draft.
As reported by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, none of Sekera’s salary was retained by Carolina.
McKeown was the Kings’ second round selection (50th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Sekera, 28, is a nine-year NHL veteran who has scored 30 goals and has contributed 25 assists for 155 points, and has a +3 plus/minus rating with 130 penalty minutes in 470 regular season games with the Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres.
The 6-0, 201-pound native of Bojnice, Slovakia has also played in eight playoff games, scoring a goal and earning a +1 rating with eleven penalty minutes.
“He’s a smart player,” said Lombardi. “The mix of seven [defensemen] that we have is something that I thought this was a definite chance to upgrade this team.”
“Most people would consider this kid a player who can play in your top four…unless there’s a surprise [trade coming], this is one of the better defensemen on the market,” added Lombardi. “It’s the one area of the team that we felt…could be targeted, in terms of an upgrade, and that means as a group.”
Sekeras is a left shot defenseman, but can play the right side.
“He actually played [the right side],” Lombardi noted. “He was paired with Robyn [Regehr] when they were in Buffalo. Both him and [Alec Martinez] have the ability to move over there.”
Lombardi believes that Sekeras will fit right into the Kings’ strong team culture.
“The thing about him, number one, he’s a competitive guy,” said Lombardi. “We have no issues, as far as him fitting in here, with this group. No question [that] he’s going to be hungry, and whenever you look at your back end, it’s a mix type thing. The things he can bring to us—he’s very mobile, and even though he’s not big, he certainly competes.”
Lombardi stressed that this move was a long time coming, and was not prompted by the fact that defenseman Alec Martinez has been sidelined by a concussion.
“It’s fair to say—when everybody was healthy, we [were already looking at] that hole [in their defensive corps],” Lombardi explained. “This is something we had been looking at prior to Martinez getting hurt…this was something we’d been looking at as we monitored the Voynov situation all year.”
“We had been talking about this—that’s the way, generally, these deals go,” Lombardi elaborated. “I started talking about [winger Marian] Gaborik last year in December, so this has been an ongoing thing.”
Lombardi said that he did not seek permission to speak with Sekeras before the trade, leading many to believe that he will be a rental player for this season’s playoff run, and then become an unrestricted free agent this summer. But that might not be the case.
“I could’ve gotten permission [to talk to Sekera], but no, we didn’t have any discussions along those lines,” said Lombardi. “It’s similar to like we did with Gaborik. He came in during the last year of his deal, and we were able to see where it all fits.”
“As you’ve seen lately, we’ve been focusing on our own, making sure that we keep that younger group of players together,” added Lombardi. “That certainly doesn’t rule it out, down the road, but I don’t think it’s something we’ll look at right away. It’s similar to Gaborik. We don’t feel that we’re under the gun to get it done now.”
Earlier in the season, even with Voynov on long-term injured reserve and no longer impacting their salary cap directly, Lombardi indicated that because of his uncertain status, it would be difficult to make deals.
So what changed?
“I don’t think anything’s changed,” he said. “It was just that we had to evaluate and analyze a lot of things. I think, having worked through the process, we were comfortable making the deal at this time.”
“It’s not so much that things changed,” he added. “There are a lot of moving parts here. The one thing about this team: what they’ve accomplished here the last three years, and the way they appear to be responding the last couple of weeks—I’ve always said that the players dictate a lot of what you do, and given what they have accomplished and the way they’ve responded here, you sit in this seat and you say, ‘you know what? Let’s get aggressive here, and make this team better, as we expect them to make [themselves] better.’”
Indeed, the Kings’ current eight-game winning streak played a large part in Lombardi’s decision.
“Factoring that into the price we paid, yes, it’s a steep price, [not to mention] factoring in the things we had to analyze with Voynov,” Lombardi noted. “But when it comes down to it, it comes down to your players. Given how far they’ve gone the last three years, and the way they respond to adversity, I think that lends itself to being more aggressive. If this was a team that had gone out in the first round the last couple of years, or whatever, you back off.”
“[Given] what they’ve accomplished, and the way they keep fighting through, it’s almost like you owe it to’em,” Lombardi added. “That’s what your level of aggressiveness gets, in terms of what you pay, and the moving parts that are involved, overall, in terms of the Voynov situation.”
“They made me start working, to go out and get’em some help, or try to improve them.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dean Lombardi (21:03)
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