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Lombardi Begins Kings’ Overhaul

Times Staff Writer

In a clear statement Saturday that the Kings are set to rebuild, General Manager Dean Lombardi traded Pavol Demitra, the team’s top forward, to the Minnesota Wild in a draft-day deal.

The Kings received center Patrick O’Sullivan, the American Hockey League’s fourth-leading scorer, and the Wild’s first-round pick -- 17th overall. They also shed $4.5 million from their payroll for each of the next two seasons because Demitra had signed a three-year, $13.5-million contract last summer.

“This is the philosophy we have to follow, where we are and what have to do to be a top team,” said Lombardi, who added, “Just being good enough isn’t going to be good enough here anymore.”

Following that philosophy will require time -- and patience, the Kings hope, from fans, who watched the Kings collapse and finish 10th last season in the Western Conference.

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Demitra had 25 goals and 62 points in 58 games last season. He sat out 10 games because of a leg injury in January and 14 games because of an eye injury and concussion after the Olympic break.

Lombardi used Demitra to improve the team’s pool of young players. O’Sullivan, a second-round pick in 2003, had 47 goals and 93 points with the Houston Aeros last season. The Kings, who had drafted goaltender Jonathan Bernier in the first round, used the Wild’s pick to take center Trevor Lewis.

“The deal was twofold,” Lombardi said. “We were able to strengthen our reserve with young players and get a player who is ready for a shot in the NHL.”

The deal also puts the Kings well under the salary cap, projected to be $44 million next season. The Kings will not re-sign Jeremy Roenick, who made $4.94 million last season. But Lombardi said that although he would explore the free-agent market next month, he would be cautious in spending the money.

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Volatile forward Sean Avery, one of the Kings’ six restricted free agents, was expected to be given a one-year contract and a short leash, a league source said. Avery’s season was marked by controversial moments.

Dustin Brown, Michael Cammalleri, Eric Belanger, Mathieu Garon and Mike Weaver are the other restricted free agents. Joe Corvo and Mark Parrish are the team’s most prominent unrestricted free agents.


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