We continue our ongoing coverage of L.A.’s trade with Carolina by checking in with Mike Futa, Kings Vice President of Hockey Operations. As noted in our initial article following breaking the trade on twitter, Futa and the 28-year-old defenseman have a history together, going back to their days in the Ontario Hockey League. Here are some of the key takeaways from our chat with one of Dean Lombardi’s right-hand guys…
Futa on Sekera and the trade:
‘I had him drafted in Owen Sound, in his first CHL junior career. He was always a fitness nut, always a total character kid with an incredible work ethic. He was the league’s defenseman of the year [ed. note” named Most Outstanding Defenseman in 2005-06]. He was a total competitive gamer. Mike Stothers, our coach in Manchester, coached him, as well. So, I known him very well and kept in touch with him on a yearly basis and maintained our friendship away from hockey. I’ve followed him [in the NHL, as well]. He was drafted, then went through some tough times in Buffalo, and… I don’t know if he wasn’t in the coach’s good graces or what have you, but he struggled with some injuries and when he was traded to Carolina, it was just like a fresh start. I think we started to see the real, true Andrej Sekera, as far as what he brings to the table at the NHL level.
“Last year was probably his best year, production-wise, but any time a European player is wearing a letter at the National Hockey League level, it kind of tells you what type of leadership quality he has. And, again, with the stuff that has gone on this year, with the off-ice situation, and the injuries on defense, having that hole, when his name came up, it was easy for me to see, from what I knew of him, plus our pro scouts have done a bunch of due diligence. He’s very [positively] rated on their charts, from where his pro career takes him. Rob Blake, Mike O’Connell, Nelson Emerson, myself, and the entire group did a ton of video on him playing against the big boys in Anaheim and San Jose to see how he held up to that. He was good; he was really good.
“When you get down to it, obviously we’re going against some teams that we compete against in the Western Conference for his services, and we were fortunate enough [to get him]. This probably wouldn’t have happened three weeks ago. But the team has really rallied again and found a way to get themselves back in this. I think Dean wanted to reward them by addressing an area that we felt really needed to be addressed – with the injuries, and just the overall need for depth on the backend with NHL experience.
“It all came together yesterday. You don’t ever want to have to pay anything for an asset, especially when we feel we have drafted well, certainly developed well, and the job the main coaching staff does with these guys. But, there was a price to paid, and we felt with our depth in the organization, to give up a prospect that is probably a few years away, it was tough, but was doable. The first round pick is protected should we falter down the stretch here. That doesn’t in any way, shape, or, form kind of devalue it. But, ultimately you have to give them something to add something that is going to help you win. We also look at, although it looks like a rental player right now, depending on how he does, and how certain circumstances unfold out of our control, he might not be a rental. There are a lot of aspects about it that are appealing to us.”
On Sekera’s lack of Stanley Cup playoff experience (only eight games), despite having 470 regular season games under his belt:
“Well you can look at that [as he is inexperienced in the post-season] or you can look at that as he’s going to be hungry. It’s something he’s been dying to be part of his entire career. Some guys, in spite of their character are in situations in certain times in their career, where the teams they are on just aren’t playoff teams. Obviously, you’d love to have a guy who has 70-100 NHL playoff games under his belt, but he was part of a rebuilding team in Buffalo and was then traded to a team that is rebuilding in Carolina. I think his work ethic and personal accomplishments more than make up for the circumstances he was in that he was on non-playoff teams.
“He’s an older guy he’s played a lot of games. You’ve seen of our young guys get battle tested in a hurry on this team. [Sekera] has already been partnered with Robyn Regehr in the NHL, there is chemistry there. He’s won a World Championship with Marian Gaborik. He’s been a part of successful situations. Not that hockey doesn’t matter in Carolina, by any stretch, because it most certainly does. But they’ve kind of had a year where they’ve been out of it with all their injuries and not really been competing for the big prize. He could stay there in anonymity and have a big free agent payoff or you can get thrust into a market that’s striving for another championship and he’s going to be battle tested and that’s the kind of kid; he wants that challenge. So, we’re excited about that.”
On some people calling Sekera a Poor Man’s Voynov:
“(Laughs) I don’t know. I’m never a big fan of… I get it, but he’s Andrej Sekera. He’s an incredible skater. Slava Voynov is his own entity – he is an exceptional player that has taken it to another level in the playoffs. There are a lot of similarities, I guess, in the fact they’re both smart players, they’re both puck movers. But, I think Slava has an edge to his game that makes him even more successful and sometimes harder to play against. Rej is by no means a soft player, but he protects the puck very well. He can keep it away from you when you’re battling for pucks. He’s more of a stick-on-puck, dangle guy, as opposed to a smash mouth, get in your face and chop you down kind of thing. There are a lot of differences in their games. The fact that they both move the puck well, and can see it well and they’re very intelligent players, but I’m not totally sold on the poor-man’s analogy. I think [O’Connell] called him [Andrei] Markov-lite, so now he’s Markov-lite and Poor Man’s Voynov. I prefer that he’s Andrej Sekera.”
On the importance of keeping defenseman ranked on the Kings Top 10 Prospects list:
“It was huge, huge and that was part of it. We’ve also have three or four kids coming out of junior hockey that have run out of CHL eligibility, they’re ready to turn pro, as well. It’s not a matter of wanting to give up Roland [McKeown]. It’s more, we feel that if there’s a position that we might have a bit of a riches at, it’s that type of player. Dean [Lombardi], I thought, did a masterful job of kind of steering them away from kids that we felt that there’s been a lot of time already invested in and that are much closer to being NHL players. And you named two of them there [Forbort and Miller], as well as guys like Shoresy and some of our current roster players that have kind of gone through the warehouse with our development team and have really earned their stripes and are very close to being Kings, as opposed to moving guys like that. They were very interested in a prospect that’s a ways away from playing, he has a ton of upside and is an incredible skater and has all the acumen and stuff, but he’s a ways away from being an NHL player. Thus, we were comfortable with the asset that they wanted, at the end of the day.”
For detailed noted following a 30-minute conference call with Lombardi yesterday – where he discussed if the Kings have other plans before the trade deadline, the Sekera trade, Tanner Pearson coming back, Kyle Clifford’s new contract, and the Slava Voynov situation – click here.
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