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Kings GM Dean Lombardi: “Would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton’s word”

The Kings and Oilers have a bit of history from their old Smythe Division battles. There was that small trade in 1988 between the two teams that changed the NHL. But this—this is a new, ridiculous chapter that will stand apart for years to come.

In the latest development in the Kings/Oilers/Ryan Smyth trade saga, the Kings want further compensation from Edmonton because they were less than truthful about Colin Fraser’s injury. As the story goes (from the Kings’ perspective), they were told that Fraser was mere days away from being medically cleared to play. When Fraser’s foot was checked by LA’s doctors, they found both a cyst on the injured foot and a blood disorder that will cause him to miss the next four months. This is on the heels of Steve Tambellini trying to send the Kings Gilbert Brule—a player who the Kings planned on waiving. The only problem was that Brule hasn’t fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last season; meaning the Kings would be unable to waive him as they had planned. One trade, two players, two shady medical situations.

When speaking to Hall of Fame NHL writer Helene Elliott of the LA Times, Dean Lombardi finally let loose with his feelings on the entire situation. Needless to say, he’s less than pleased with the Oilers’ honesty throughout the process.

“The bottom line for me, I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton’s word.”

There’s not much gray area there. But he wasn’t finished. He continued, this time talking about the Oilers not disclosing the injuries of players they were attempting to trade:

“In my 20 years I’ve never had this happen once, let alone twice in one week. And people used to think maybe I was crazy but when I was scouting for Philly, Edmonton was my favorite city because of the history of the building and the crowds seemed like honest, working-class people. You still had a blue-collar feel at times. And I don’t think this conduct is emblematic of that city at all.”

It’s always nice to see a general manager speak his true feelings. Of course, the situation boils down to a he said/she said situation at its core. Lombardi and the Kings say that the Oilers told them that Fraser was going to be cleared to play and his foot injury wouldn’t be a concern. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and the Edmonton organization don’t quite see it the same way. We’re not sure what their position is on the situation as they’ve refused to comment. But as Kings’ ownership has worked to find a suitable remedy, the Oilers have not responded to their requests either. All we know at this point is that the Kings have decided to “look at our legal avenues.”

Needless to say, there isn’t much sympathy in Edmonton today. David Staples of the Edmonton Journal doesn’t exactly see it the same way as Lombardi:

“If Lombardi has a real complaint, he can take it to the NHL. He’s apparently known for shooting off his mouth about the integrity of others.

Until Lombardi does take formal action, this comes off as something of a snit fit from a GM not used to having a star player holding a gun to his head and demanding a trade to a single specified location.”

It’s safe to assume that the Kings “legal avenues” will be some sort of grievance filed with the NHL. It shouldn’t come as any surprise as one of the craziest trades in recent memory has just hit another speed bump. To recap:

  • Ryan Smyth asks for a trade
  • Smyth says he didn’t ask for a trade
  • It’s confirmed that he asked for a trade “for family reasons.”
  • Reportedly gets traded at the draft
  • Trade can’t be completed because the player the Oilers were sending out of town was so injured he couldn’t be waived.
  • NHL lawyers are brought in and agree that said player cannot be waived.
  • New players brought in to send to LA.
  • New player even more injured than previous player.
  • Edmonton claims they (and their doctors) know nothing about the major injury.
  • Kings are left fuming.

Got all that? Because there will surely be more to this story. At least it helps fill the offseason…

‘It was frustrating for me,’ says Tarasenko after struggling offensively versus Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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St. Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko has opened up about his play in the Western Conference Final versus the San Jose Sharks, who held the talented forward off the score sheet in five of six games.

It wasn’t until the third period of Game 6 that Tarasenko finally broke his slump, scoring twice as St. Louis tried one last desperation comeback attempt. It didn’t work. The Blues were eliminated and the Sharks are in the Stanley Cup Final.

“They played really tight and they backchecked so hard,” said Tarasenko, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s just experience. It was frustrating for me. I wish I could do better. I’m supposed to do better.”

After a 40-goal regular season, the 24-year-old Tarasenko’s point production through the first two rounds — versus Chicago and Dallas — was solid, with 13 points in 14 games.

But the Sharks kept him in check.

His lack of production became a key focal point as the third-round series carried on. Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock, who signed a one-year extension to stay in St. Louis, admitted Tarasenko was “learning hard lessons” against the Sharks and that he had to fight through the tight checking in order to produce offensively.

As the series continued, Hitchcock added that Tarasenko just needed to play within the system, and that getting away from that is perhaps a “natural tendency” for young players pressing to make things happen in crucial situations.

There had been talk about a rift between Tarasenko and Hitchcock, especially after video replays showed the two in a brief but heated exchange at the bench during the first round. Of course, the coach later downplayed it.

As the Blues’ playoff run ended, there was speculation about why, exactly, Tarasenko didn’t address the media on the same day the rest of his teammates did.

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Ben Frederickson:

More importantly, Tarasenko’s no comment closed the book on his season without addressing the elephant in the dressing room.

There is growing speculation of friction between Tarasenko and the Blues. Is there a rift between the star and his club?

If I’m a member of that front office, I sure would have liked a player under contract until 2023 to squash such a story on Saturday.

On the subject of any perceived issues between the Blues organization and Tarasenko, both parties responded:

 

 

The Russians say they’re in ‘negotiations’ with the NHL to get Voynov into the World Cup

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Yesterday in Pittsburgh, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that Slava Voynov was still suspended and, because of that, would not be allowed to play in the upcoming World Cup.

Bettman also said that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation had been told as much.

However, it seems the Russians — who last week added Voynov to their World Cup roster — still haven’t given up on trying to get the 26-year-old defensemen into the tournament.

From Russian News Agency TASS:

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation is holding negotiations with the organizers of the World Cup – the NHL – concerning the issue of national team’s defender Vyacheslav Voynov,” the RHF’s press service told TASS on Tuesday adding that besides the Russian and US sides the negotiations also involve Rene Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation hopes that the organizers of the international competition will make a positive decision on the issue and the defender will be allowed to be included in the roster of the Russian national team,” the RHF added.

Known in the United States as Slava Voynov he played in the past for NHL’s Los Angeles Kings before the North American Hockey League suspended him over domestic violence charges and the player returned last autumn back home, where he is currently playing for the national team and KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg club.

Time will tell if the Russians can convince the NHL to change its stance. They could sure use Voynov, given the relative weakness of their defense. But Bettman did not sound yesterday like he was open to a negotiation.

The Russians, for the record, have maintained that it’s not the NHL’s decision to make.

So perhaps that’s the big question here — who has the final say on the matter? Officially, the World Cup “is a joint effort of the NHLPA and the NHL, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation.”

It’s just not entirely clear how that bit of boilerplate applies to the Voynov situation.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.