Shortly after the Los Angeles Kings’ acquisition of defenseman Luke Schenn and center Vincent Lecavalier from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for prospect Jordan Weal and a 2016 third-round draft pick, we joined a media conference call with GM Dean Lombardi, where he shared the following comments…
On what he sees in Lecavalier and Schenn:
“We had identified, even in training camp and moving forward, certain areas that we thought we might like to upgrade as we were watching our team this year. One of the issues was strength down the middle. I think, as we were working through this, particularly the way our division and our conference is, strength down the middle is imperative, [especially] having that size. I think the logic here is there’s a lot of history of this. I think Vinny, at this stage of his career, it’s been made clear to us that it’s all about getting one last chance to win it all. I think he’s hungry. Given his mindset and the fit on this team, I think it’s a potentially great fit in his role. That’s the key.
“When you look at the history of things like this, with teams that have a chance to maybe do some damage, whether it’s a Bill Walton — a top player — when he went to the Celtics. A guy here, Bob McAdoo, went to the Lakers. A guy like Darryl Strawberry and (Cecil) Fielder going to the Yankees. These were all top guys who, near the end of their career, wanted a chance to win and were willing to accept a lesser role. So maybe they weren’t the players they were when they were MVPs and everything else, but the willingness to accept a lesser role and fit in as still very productive players. We’ve watched [Vinny] and certainly it hasn’t worked out there in Philly the way he wanted. The other thing with top guys at this stage of their careers is, it’s good for them to see a chance to do some serious damage, to keep them motivated. It was very clear to us, in talking to him through this process, that this is the No. 1 thing on his mind. So you look at a Kopitar and a Carter and a chance to put this guy in the mix, we think it’s a fit and it’s certainly worth a shot, to see if this will work.
“So that’s the logic there, and in terms of Luke, one of the things that was clear was the loss of Matt Greene for the year, we’ve lost a physical element back there that we think is showing up. We see a lot of Matt Greene in Luke. He’s still a young player; we think there’s some room to grow. The idea is, he’s very familiar with Drew Doughty and some of our players. It’s a chance for him to come in and just be himself, and not have to worry about being a top pick and all the expectations and everything else. He kind of reminds me of where Matt Greene was when we first got Greener. These guys are important guys in the mix. The way we were able to put this deal together over the last month, it was a chance to maybe take a swing at filling two holes with one deal. We’ll see, but that’s kind of logic to the whole thing.”
On claims that Lecavalier will retire after this season:
“The player made it clear to us that was his intention. Going forward, given the players we have to sign, it was imperative. We could give him what he wanted, which was a serious shot at going out as a winner, but we could not make that commitment going forward. It kind of fit where he was in his career and his life and the way he described it. He wants one last shot at it and he’s going to retire after this year. Otherwise, with the players we have to sign, this would not work. So that was a key element in this, in terms of us making this work.”
On the possibility of re-signing Schenn after this season:
“I think we have to see how it works. It kind of gives you flexibility. You’re dealing with a 26-year-old. I think there’s still some upside in this kid. Again, there are a lot of similarities between him and Greener. I think the important thing right now is just to come in, fit in, do your role and then go from there. We’ll see how it plays out, but in terms of the element he brings, with our top-four guys, I think he could be a valuable asset to the overall mix. And I like the fact, too, that Drew Doughty is very familiar with him as a person and has played with him throughout his junior career and a lot of tournaments and things. I think Drew is going to take him under his wing and get him relaxed, and let’s get our game to where it’s capable of going.”
On the ease of players coming over from other teams and fitting into the Kings room:
“We talk about this during the year. A lot of people forget, even though this team has won two Cups, a lot of its best players were just entering their prime. They’re not only becoming better players, it’s becoming clear to me that the leadership that we’ve always envisioned, whether it’s Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty and Kopitar and Carter, that’s a pretty strong nucleus with a pretty strong resume. And it’s their team. If you look at the players I cited, with Walton, it was clearly Larry Bird’s team and Parish and those guys. With the Yankees, it was Jeter and Rivera. Those guys knew, but they also respected those players. Even though they were older, they saw that those guys win, and it was great for both parties; very much so. For guys at that stage of their career, that’s probably the best thing for them, that you don’t have to carry the mail, but we’ll put you in a slot and you might be the best guy in the league in that slot. So it’s still being a top player; it’s just your role. Because you have players that are entering their prime and starting to learn that leadership, you’re able to do things like this that certainly wouldn’t have fit in the past. Maybe we’re at a different stage of building.”
On rumors the Kings kicked the tires on Lecavalier last summer:
“We have some kids who have done a good job. Shore and Andreoff have made great strides. I think this allows us to be a little more patient. These guys have to come in and help us win. It’s not playing in a league; these kids are held to a higher standard, but you’ve got to be able to put them in an environment that allows them to make their mistakes and maintain their confidence. Sometimes you have to back off a little, in terms of your expectations. So that’s kind of the thing you’re looking at. It gives you the flexibility to be a little more patient with Shore and Andreoff. You have to remember what’s happened here. Regardless of the off-ice stuff, when we won before we had Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll. Those are veteran players. They knew how to win. Well it’s a very different look, in terms of breaking these kids in now behind Kopitar and Carter. So this allows you to get a proven guy who can do this job, as well as be patient with those kids and allow them to mature at their own pace and not force them because you’re under the gun and you’re expected to win every night.
“When you’re planning your team in the summer, these aren’t knee-jerk things. You look at your team and say, `You have a hole here, you’ve got a hole here potentially.’ Some get filled and some don’t, and some guys don’t meet their expectations. So you talk in the summer. Hex and I had been talking about something like this from October. It just kind of expanded out and it takes time. That’s the other thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to wait on this. The thing about this is, the price is certainly reasonable, I’m not locked into next year and I think it’s important that we pulled this [off] as soon as possible, to get them into the fabric of the team. I didn’t want to wait. This is something, we looked at these as potential holes or potential areas to get better. It’s important, particularly the way this team is — it’s a very tight team — and it allows them to get in here and have a longer feeling-out process and get comfortable. Then if it doesn’t work, you’re still in position, in March when the deadline is, to maybe make an adjustment. So part of this, even going forward, when I was talking to Philly I said, `If we’re going to do something like this, if I’m going to take a Vinny, I have to have him now, because there is going to be a break-in period for him as well as Luke.’ Luke is going to have a different role here. I thought the timing of this was fairly important to me, to try to get this done early, versus let it drag on and drag on. Hex and I have been at this for two or three weeks and he knows all my tactics, so it’s like negotiating with myself. It’s like looking at myself in the mirror. It’s why he beat me up.”
On the overall experience of making a deal with Hextall, his former protégé:
“It’s pretty neat. I don’t think it’s any secret what I think of him and how important he was to our process. We’re all really, really proud of him, and you watch what he’s done there in a short period of time, I can see what he’s doing. This is a good deal for Philadelphia. This works for them. You can see what he has on his plate and what he’s doing. That’s what we talked about. We’re at different stages. We even talked about where he was when he was here, in the building process. This deal is a very good deal for him. But that’s the way a deal should be. Hopefully it works out for us, but also allows him now a lot of flexibility in terms of getting certainty in going forward and building his team. Hopefully this is one that works for both of us, like every deal should.”
On Weal’s future:
“I think he’s certainly still got a chance to play. He got a snapshot of things, but the reality is, the way we’re headed here — Carter and Kopitar we don’t anticipate going anywhere. We’re breaking in Shore. You’ve got Andreoff and one of our best prospects in the minors, [Nic] Dowd. So probably this is a good opportunity for him to see if he can, in fact, stay in this league. I think it’s also a real benefit for him that Hexy knows him and brought him along, because Hexy ran [our] minor-league team. But, the reality is, it probably was going to be difficult for him to break into this lineup with this group right now.”
For my take on the trade, click here.
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