Blake impressed with additions

Times Staff Writer

While some franchises such as the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers made splashes this summer with big-name free agent signings that included Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the Kings quietly added their own mix of under-the-radar-type free agents.

And Kings veteran defenseman Rob Blake likes what he sees.

“It usually takes a while to shape the team the way you want, but Dean Lombardi has transformed things incredibly in just a year with the additions that he made,” Blake said of the team’s general manager.

“Dean is going to stick with his game plan. He’s not going to give up on some young guys just because there’s a trade deadline.”


During the off-season, Lombardi signed forwards Ladislav Nagy, 28, Michal Handzus, 30, and Kyle Calder, 28, and defensemen Brad Stuart, 27, Jon Klemm, 37, and Tom Preissing, 28. All these players were brought in to fill distinctive roles for the Kings, who have slowly developed depth within the organization.

Lombardi “knows how to add to a group,” Blake said. “If you look at our roster, we have three groups: 25 and under, 25 to 35 and 35 and over. He’s got that whole thing filled in and that’s just going to keep turning over year after year until you have a really developed team.”

A big key to the plan is timing. If the Kings are to be taken seriously, they will need young players such as forwards Michael Cammalleri, 25, Anze Kopitar, 20, and Dustin Brown, 22, and defenseman Jack Johnson, 20, to take big steps this season.

“They are the future, but those guys are taking more of a role immediately,” Blake said. “Just look at Kopie. He’s not a rookie any more. He played some and we consider him a big part of our team.”

After helping Canada’s junior team to seven wins and a tie against Russia in an eight-game Super Series, defenseman Thomas Hickey, the Kings’ No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, the Kings’ No. 1 pick in 2006, made their first camp appearances Tuesday. Coach Marc Crawford said he was impressed with Bernier’s quickness. And Blake, who was paired with Hickey, gave the 18-year-old high marks.