Entering the second month of the 2010 NHL free agency season and the Los Angeles Kings seem to be heading into the 2010-2011 season with a nearly identical team to last years. Rich Clune, Corey Elkins, Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson are all coming back on one year contracts, Alexie Ponikarovsky was brought in to replace newly departed, and frequently disgruntled forward Alexander Frolov, and Ilya Kovalchuk is still not a King, but at least for the meantime, not a Devil either. But is this tactic setting up the Kings for disappointment this season? Or are the Kings right where they want to be?
In April of 2006 Dean Lombardi was hired as Kings General Manager and asked for 5 years to turn the Kings into Stanley Cup contenders. Since then, Lombardi has turned the Kings around from cellar dwellers to a playoff team. Entering the final year in his 5 year plan, things seem to be right on schedule. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty showed signs of greatness this past season and Wayne Simmons, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick also provided proof that they are up for the challenge of bringing Los Angeles it’s first Stanley Cup. Along with the rapid growth of Lombardi’s 11th overall pick in the 2006 Draft, 21 year old goaltender Jonathan Bernier, the Kings seem to be set between the pipes for years to come.
In addition to establishing a solid young core of players for this King’s team, I would also like to applaud Lombardi on not breaking the bank to sign Kovalchuk. By not giving in to his outrageous contract demands, Lombardi has managed to maintain a good bank role to aid in resigning 20 year old Norris Trophy Candidate Drew Doughty and key role players Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds to long term contract extensions. No doubt Lombardi saw what happens when a team signs a free agent superstar in order to win but also needs to resign young talent with zero cap space in the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
There’s no denying that Lombardi has the Kings best interest in mind and why he’s known as one of the NHL’s most strategic General Managers. All Kings fans need to remember, is “good things happen to those who wait.”