Is it time for Kings GM Dean Lombardi to make an aggressive move?

If there were two words to describe the way general manager Dean Lombardi is rebuilding the Los Angeles Kings, they would probably be “competent” and “patient.”

Yet for all the points made about how the Pittsburgh Penguins rebuilt their team based on draft picks, their GM Ray Shero also had the nerve to make bold moves at or around the trade deadline. From the James Neal deal to acquiring Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin, Shero hasn’t been afraid to roll the dice to get things done. Perhaps that confidence trickles down to his team, too.

In other words, at some point, Lombardi must realize that there is a difference between being patient and being complacent. It’s respectable that he wants to build the team slowly, but maybe the group deserves a reward for putting together such a great run amid a 10-game road trip? Helene Elliott points out the differences between Shero’s aggressiveness and Lombardi’s conservative moves (or lack of moves).

While the Kings sit outside the top eight in the West and Lombardi dithers about filling a hole he recognized last summer, Shero’s Penguins on Monday acquired power forward James Neal — a three-time 20-goal scorer — and defenseman Matt Niskanen from the salary-dumping Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. It’s a great deal for the Penguins, who lost Sidney Crosby indefinitely to a concussion and Evgeni Malkin to season-ending knee surgery.

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The Kings, who were interested in Neal but not at the cost of a top defenseman, have looked at Florida’s David Booth and Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky but have made it known they won’t trade prospect Brayden Schenn. It would be surprising if Lombardi does anything bigger than his usual and tedious mid-range deals. The Ducks thought they’d be buyers, but if goaltender Jonas Hiller continues to be plagued by lightheadedness they’ll fall too far out of contention for anything to make a difference.

As you can see, Elliott mentions Booth and Hemsky as possible targets. Let me offer two other players who would make a lot of sense. (Note: these are suggestions for targets, but these guys aren’t guaranteed to be available.)

Dustin Penner – There was a point in which it seemed like Penner would be nothing more than a punchline for bad offer sheet deals … until the market readjusted and Penner found his game again in Edmonton. Now his contract actually seems reasonable.

That’s not to say his game lacks blemishes as he’s not exactly a future Selke candidate, but the big winger can get to the front of the net and score tough playoff goals (like he did for the Anaheim Ducks).

Tim Connolly – As we discussed last night, Connolly is a speedy and skilled guy who could be a nice change of pace for Los Angeles. Rather than having a traditional second-line center, the Kings could use Jarret Stoll in defensive situations and Connolly when they need firepower. It often pays to have that kind of flexibility.

One unique thing that Connolly might have going for him: he has lower trade value with an expiring contract. The Buffalo Sabres would likely be willing to move him for less than those other teams would, considering those players are a bigger part of their teams’ respective futures.

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Anyway, those are just a few suggestions for the Kings. What do you think? Should they take a bigger risk than normal or play it close to the vest? Let us know in the comments.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.