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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS / SPECIAL PULLOUT SECTION

Kings Initiate Changes

Hockey: Four older players, including Courtnall and Ferraro, told they're unlikely to return.

April 21, 1999|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Kings are looking for a few good men.

Make that a few good young men.

Four Kings over 30 were told Tuesday during end-of-season evaluations that they might have to look elsewhere for employment by Dave Taylor, the team's senior vice president and general manager.

The Kings retain the rights to the four--winger Russ Courtnall, 33; defensemen Doug Bodger, 32, and Dave Babych, 37; and center Ray Ferraro, 34--until July 1, when they will be unrestricted free agents.

"We talked in general terms," Taylor said of his conversations with the four. ". . . [But the youth movement] will affect them. Decisions on them have to be made by July 1, and we're not sure how some of the young kids will be until training camp."

For most of the incumbent Kings, it was a radical departure from the past.

"Last year, they said they wanted to sign me right away," Courtnall said. "Now they say they want to wait.

"I've got to wait until July 1, but my brother and I have talked about ending our careers together."

His brother, Geoff, has two more seasons on his contract with the St. Louis Blues.

"It was no 'yes,' no 'no,' " Bodger said. "It was, 'You did a good job for us, and we know your situation and we've got some young guys. . . .' "

Bodger is considering retirement, but the others say they still want to play.

Ferraro had talked of retirement early in the season, but finished with 13 goals, 18 assists and a desire to continue playing, as does Babych, who came from Philadelphia less than a month ago in the Steve Duchesne trade.

"I was told that they can't commit right now," Ferraro said. "They're interested in going with young guys. . . .

"I'll know by July 1 if they're interested in me, and I just asked them to give me a call, one way or the other."

King Notes

Defensemen Doug Bodger, Sean O'Donnell and Rob Blake will play for Team Canada in the world championships. . . . Center Olli Jokinen will play for Finland, joining King property Aki Berg, a defenseman who played in that country this season after spurning a King contract offer. . . . Winger Vladimir Tsyplakov will play for Belarus and winger Craig Johnson for the United States, which will have former King assistant Jay Leach on its staff. . . . Jason Blake, who scored his first NHL goal Sunday in an amateur tryout game with the Kings, signed a three-year contract. . . . Defenseman Mark Visheau, 25 and out much of the season because of illness, also can be an unrestricted free agent and probably won't be retained.

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