'Core player' Visnovsky is likely to stay put

Times Staff Writer

Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky probably will remain with the Kings, team officials said Saturday at a meeting with season-ticket holders.

Visnovsky, the subject of several trade rumors, is a "core player" who "we'll look to sign this summer," Ron Hextall, assistant general manager, told fans. He later qualified that by saying, "Well, I would never say never, but it would take a lot."

Visnovsky, whose 37 points rank him in the top five among defensemen in the NHL, was selected to play in the All-Star game Jan. 24. He has one year left on a four-year, $8-million contract.

Still, although Visnovsky appears to be an untouchable, General Manager Dean Lombardi indicated the Kings would now start to look to next season as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches.

"With the way the team is now, we will end up being sellers while many other teams are buyers," Lombardi said. "We can end up getting good young players and picks."

Still, the Kings are buyers in the goaltender market, at least for the bargain-bin variety. Lombardi is believed to be seeking a goaltender to plug the hole that was created by injuries to Dan Cloutier (hip surgery) and Mathieu Garon (broken finger).

That left the Kings with Barry Brust, who played in only his eighth NHL game, against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, and Yutaka Fukufuji, who Saturday became the first Japanese-born player to appear in an NHL game.

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Rookie center Anze Kopitar was selected to play in the YoungStars game Jan. 23. He has 12 goals and ranks second among NHL rookies with 41 points.... Defenseman Aaron Miller hobbled off the ice in the third period against St. Louis, but a Kings official said it was an equipment problem.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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