Dean Lombardi

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My Favorite Goal: Jarret Stoll completes Kings’ upset over Canucks

Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, Jake Abrahams, the Managing Editor of NHL Content at NBC Sports and a Los Angeles native, takes us back to one of the best memories from the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run.

If there was one team most likely to breeze through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was the Vancouver Canucks. They had experience, having made it to the previous year’s Cup Final, as well as momentum, having closed the season on an 8-1-0 tear to claim their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy.

Their first round opponent, the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Kings, made a midseason coaching change, didn’t clinch a postseason spot until their 81st game, scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL, and hadn’t won a playoff series in over a decade.

Canucks in four, or five at most, right?

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Dean Lombardi took over as Kings general manager in 2006, and one of his first major moves was acquiring center Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene from the Edmonton Oilers two years later.

Both were classic Lombardi types: rugged, hard working glue guys that every championship team has in its lineup. Stoll excelled in the faceoff dot, and was one of LA’s best penalty killers. Importantly, he also had a wicked shot. He only had six goals in 2011-12, the fewest of his career to that point, but his quick release could be difficult to deal with.

For example, the year prior, he converted on nine of 10 shootout attempts. No one has ever gone 9-of-10 or better, before or since. And he pretty much always shot top shelf, on the glove side. Goalies knew where he was shooting, and still couldn’t stop it.

The Kings won Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver, prompting the Canucks to bench Roberto Luongo and start Cory Schneider in Game 3. He held his own, but LA won 1-0 to go up 3-games-to-none. Schneider only allowed 1 goal again in Game 4 – a Canucks victory this time – and then played well in Game 5, which went to overtime with the score tied 1-1.

At that point, a Vancouver win would have made things interesting again. Two in a row against the inexperienced Kings, with Schneider breathing new life into the defending conference champs, and perhaps things turn out differently.

But all Stoll needed was one chance.

Early in OT, the Canucks were a bit too casual breaking out of their own zone. Trevor Lewis forced a turnover at the blue line, springing Stoll towards the goal on his off wing. With his traditional leg kick, Stoll fired and beat Schneider top shelf – on the blocker side.

Game. Series. Kings in 5.

LA carried that momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup, going 16-4 in the postseason. That dominance was hardly predictable considering the Kings’ best 20-game stretch during the regular season saw them produce only 13 wins.

They remain the only team in the salary cap era to win the Cup in 20 or fewer games. They are the only 8 seed to ever win the Cup.

Stoll didn’t score another goal that postseason, but it didn’t matter. That OT winner on April 22 in Vancouver was the first sign that nothing was going to stop this team.

NHL suspends Slava Voynov through 2019-20 season

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The NHL suspended former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov through the 2019-20 season (both the regular season and playoffs) for “unacceptable off-ice conduct.” However, the league also revealed that “Voynov’s eligibility to play in the NHL will be restored (assuming good behavior) no later than July 1, 2020.”

That “unacceptable off-ice conduct” stems from Voynov’s domestic assault arrest in October 2014, which prompted an indefinite suspension at the time. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described “acts of domestic violence directed at [Voynov’s] wife,” Marta Varlamova, in the league’s statement.

“I have determined that Player Slava Voynov engaged in acts of domestic violence directed at his wife,” Bettman wrote. “Today’s ruling, while tailored to the specific facts of this case and the individuals involved, is necessary and consistent with the NHL’s strongly-held policy that it cannot and will not tolerate this and similar types of conduct, particularly as directed at a spouse, domestic partner or family member.”

The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman reached out to the NHLPA regarding a possible appeal on the decision, with the union responding that they’re “reviewing the decision.” The Kings, who own Voynov’s NHL rights, provided a similar statement, via Dillman:

Voynov, 29, would be 30 at the time of his potential July 2020 reinstatement. Voynov last played six games for the Kings in 2014-15. While the Kings stood by the league when it came to suspending Voynov, they also handled the situation in questionable ways. That included strange salary cap-related comments from then-GM Dean Lombardi, and allowing him to skate with teammates. The latter action prompted the league to fine the Kings $100K for breaking the terms of Voynov’s suspension.

After leaving the U.S. while facing possible deportation related to his domestic assault charges, Voynov spent the 2015-16 through 2017-18 seasons with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL. Voynov won a gold medal with Russia during the 2018 Winter Olympics, and had hoped to return to the NHL during the 2018-19 season. Voynov was photographed with Vladimir Putin after winning that gold medal:

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via Getty Images

Voynov applied for reinstatement back in November 2018, prompting what the league deemed “a fairly comprehensive investigation.”

As The Athletic’s Katie Strang detailed in June 2018, any potential suitor for Voynov would be wise to consider some of the graphic, disturbing details of the incident. Police reports indicated that Voynov “punched, kicked, and choked” his wife, while Strang’s account including additional disturbing details.

(Consider this a content warning, as this information can be graphic.)

Court documents detail how the fight continued when the two arrived home and the contents are equally grim. In one motion, filed on behalf of the District Attorney’s office, it states that Voynov “wrapped both of his hands around Ms. Varlamova’s neck and began to squeeze, making it difficult for her to breathe.” Voynov, according to the motion, “continued to choke her while repeatedly pushing her to the floor of the bedroom,” telling her to “get out,” that there would be “no more money for her,” and that she would be “gone.”

These clubs should also know that Varlamova’s seven-year-old daughter was reportedly at home at the time of the incident, and apparently, it did not end there.

PHT will monitor this situation for updates, which might see a decision from the NHLPA regarding an appeal.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Signing Toffoli and Jones a ‘priority’ for Kings

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Dean Lombardi touched on a number of topics during a conference call on Tuesday. Among the issues the LA Kings GM discussed was his team’s number of free agents.

Lombardi said getting restricted free agents Tyler Toffoli and Martin Jones under contract was a priority for the club.

Toffoli set career highs in goals (23) assists (26) and points (49) in 76 games this season. The 23-year-old had a $716,666 cap hit in 2014-15.

Jones appeared in 15 games for the Kings this season posting a 4-5-2 record to go along with a 2.25 G.A.A. and a .906 save percentage. The 25-year-old sees his two-year, $1.1 million deal expire this year.

“We’re working toward, is signing Toffoli and Jones. That’s been our priority,” said Lombardi. “You saw, during the season, we were fortunate to get (Jordan) Nolan done and (Kyle) Clifford done and (Alec) Martinez and (Jake) Muzzin and (Tanner) Pearson.

“We want to finish that off, with those seven or eight players that are not even in their prime yet, to keep them in the fold. That’s something that we’re actively pursuing.’’

The Kings are also working on a deal with pending unrestricted free agent Andrej Sekera. The 28-year-old split the 2014-15 season between the Carolina Hurricanes and Kings scoring three goals and 23 points in 73 games while averaging nearly 22 minutes a night in ice time.

“Sekera, the only thing I can say is, I think we have — which is not always easy to get — the parameters of a number,” said Lombardi. “Often times, it’s hard to get a number, to see if you can plug it in. So I think we have the range that it would take (to sign him). Now have we countered with an offer yet? No. That’s all I can say on that one.

“I can say that I don’t think the number is outrageous. I think he’d like to stay here, so by virtue of that, you work at it and he ends up in some of your schematics there.”

The Kings also have to make decisions on the likes of Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams among others. The club also has to decide on what to do with Mike Richards who spent time in the American Hockey League this season.

As Rich Hammond outlines in his piece, Lombardi has a complicated list of scenarios to determine who will be back for the 2015-16 season.

Kings to educate players on domestic violence and drug abuse

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Following a season, which saw two players arrested in a seven-month span, the L.A. Kings have decided to address the team’s off-ice issues.

“I think both incidents generated a lot of discussion during the year. Clearly at the meetings and the debriefing at the end of the year, it was the number-one topic, before we even got to the hockey,” said Kings GM Dean Lombardi on Tuesday via a conference call. “The first thing you look at is, were there any signs that we should have been aware of, in both of these incidents? You look at yourself, as managers and coaches. I think we were very good in terms of communicating with our players and go out of our way to try to know them personally, as human beings.

“I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve always had that kind of family effect around there. But clearly we could do more.”

In October defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested for domestic assault.

Then in April, Jarret Stoll was arrested for drug possession in Las Vegas.

“We neglected to educate our players,” said Lombardi. “We spend time teaching them systems, nutrition and everything else, but we missed a big step here, in terms of ensuring that they understand right and wrong.

“That has to be reinforced, not only as a human being but as somebody who is a representative of your community.”

Lombardi announced that former NBA player Chris Herren would talk to the players about drug abuse.

The club is also in the process of setting up a domestic violence group that will talk to the team.

Lombardi confirmed that he had met with Stoll following his arrest.

“It’s safe to say, in all honesty, it was probably the most difficult meeting I’ve had in my career,” said Lombardi. “Probably one of the most gut-wrenching meetings I’ve ever had in my entire career, and I’ve had meetings with lots of players.”

The 32-year-old, who was a part of both Stanley Cup wins, is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Voynov’s trial is scheduled to begin on July 6.

Kings’ Lombardi on Richards: ‘There’s very much a possibility he’ll be back’

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Following his demotion to the American Hockey League in late January, Mike Richards has put together three goals and 14 points in 16 games with the Manchester Monarchs.

The production has Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi talking about a possible recall for the 30-year-old.

“We’re running him through some tests right now,” Lombardi told Sportsnet on Thursday. “I mean, the one thing about Michael everybody knows, when there’s big games or critical moments, he’s always there. And we just gotta get him up to that capacity to be able to do that.

“But there’s very much a possibility he’ll be back.”

Prior to being demoted, Richards was having one of the worst seasons of his career. He had just five goals and 15 points to go along with a minus-7 rating in 47 games while averaging a career-low 13:42 in ice time.

Richards carries a $5.75 million cap hit in the NHL and has another five seasons remaining on his deal.

If his AHL production can translate back to the NHL level it’d be beneficial for all parties involved.

“The only thing I can say about this group, it’s been a group that’s essentially been together now for five years and they never let themselves down, they never quit,” Lombardi said. “They almost like having their backs against the wall. The one way you’re able to sleep at night is you know they’re a group that cares.

“That’s our strongest asset in terms of this team is 20 guys who care about each other and either way you know they’re going to be out there fighting.”

Richards is certainly a part of that group and could be an asset if he can rediscover his game at the NHL level.

Related: Quick silences Canucks to push Kings into Wild Card spot