OTTAWA -- It was the day after Christmas and Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was making his way through the long-and-winding security line at Los Angeles International Airport. He was on his way to the Czech Republic for more viewings of Steve Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Co. at the World Junior Championships.
There was the small matter, however, of the security worker who recognized him and put his arm on Lombardi. No, this had nothing to do with the bottle of shampoo being too big in the carry-on luggage or a laptop computer.
“He told me he will be patient with the building process, but he refuses to wait another 40 years,” Lombardi said. “I think I can deal with that.”
It’s a telling story on the eve of one of the most important draft picks in Kings franchise history, a selection process often littered in the past with questionable moves and suspect judgment. Round 1 is tonight.
In its first 17 years, the franchise was without a first-round pick 10 times because it traded it away. Lombardi is being more patient than that.
He confirmed Thursday night that he has had offers from three teams in the last two weeks for the No. 2 pick (widely expected to be Doughty, a defenseman with the Guelph Storm). The most recent proposal came Tuesday, essentially a three-for-one deal -- a current player, a prospect and a draft choice for the pick.
But Lombardi went to Kings ownership, as he had with the other two, and recommended they reject the offer. He said everyone wanted to keep the selection.
That hasn’t often been the case. The Kings had one first-round pick from 1969 to 1979, and that pick, Tim Young in 1975, was traded a few weeks later to Minnesota for a second-round pick the next year.
“That’s unbelievable, that would be like me trading [goaltender Jonathan] Bernier for a second-rounder later that summer,” said Lombardi, who became general manager in April 2006.
The more recent miscues are still haunting the Kings. They had two first-round picks in the 1997 draft and went with Olli Jokinen at three and Matt Zultek at 15. Zultek did not complete a shift in the NHL.
Going at No. 4 to the New York Islanders was goaltender Roberto Luongo (now with Vancouver), and he would have solved the Kings’ woes at that position for the next decade.
One of the best drafts in franchise history is widely considered the 1980 crop, which yielded Larry Murphy, Jim Fox, Bernie Nicholls and Daryl Evans. Of course, Murphy was traded to Washington in another dud deal, in 1983, unraveling the good work of getting a No. 1 pick, fourth overall.
“Top defenseman, right shot,” Lombardi said of Murphy. “Maybe there’s a little analogy [to tonight], if you think about it. Larry Murphy, probably the best defenseman they ever drafted in the first round. Blakey [Rob Blake], the best one ever.”
Lombardi was teased about making another Murphy-type deal.
“Now, the Kings draft second, and hopefully we’ll get it right this time,” he said.
He did get a joking congratulatory phone call from team governor Tim Leiweke, who complimented him on swinging a deal for Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for the Kings’ No. 2 draft pick and Mike Cammalleri. That was one of the more outlandish media reports circulating here, and Lombardi laughed it off.
The price for Malkin, even if he were being shopped, would be much higher, probably Kings defenseman Jack Johnson (a close friend of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby), and going from there. And Lombardi has been consistent about keeping the likes of Johnson and Anze Kopitar. More plausible would be Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky or Cammalleri, who has one year left on his contract, getting moved during the two-day draft. So far, there appears to be more interest in the former than the latter.
Vancouver could be one possible destination for Cammalleri because his former agent, Mike Gillis, is the Canucks’ new general manager. Cammalleri grew up in the Toronto area, but the Maple Leafs don’t have much to offer in terms of up-and-coming players.
Round 1: Today, 4 p.m., Versus
Rounds 2-7: Saturday, 7 a.m.,
ON THE WEB
Scott Niedermayer is given more time to decide whether to return to the Ducks or retire. Go to latimes.com/ducks.