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Norstrom Sees Glimmer of Hope

September 30, 1999|JIM HODGES

Mattias Norstrom is an incurable optimist. He still holds out hope of being on the ice in Nashville when the Kings open their season Saturday night.

It won't happen, barring several changes of heart and a transfer of funds, but the Kings are talking with Norstrom's agent about a contract, and that's a change in itself.

And King Coach Andy Murray is talking with Norstrom.

Murray said Wednesday he had spoken with the unsigned defenseman for the first time and told him "we needed to get him here for a few days of practice before he could play; and that I would have loyalty to the guys that we have here. I'd love to have him in the lineup."

Norstrom and the Kings have been negotiating since July without making real progress. Exchanges of three-year deals were far apart, and a one-year, $1.3-million offer from Norstrom was countered by a one-year, $1.045-million rebuttal by the Kings. And then there was silence.

Now that has been broken. There has been no concrete offer, but the Kings are talking about a four-year deal.

"I feel now for the first time that I can be optimistic," Norstrom said. "Now is the time to get creative on both sides."

Norstrom, who is popular with his teammates and respected because of his work ethic, has drawn support from them. Dave Taylor, the Kings' senior vice president and general manager, has taken time to talk with team leaders--among them Rob Blake, Norstrom's defense partner, and Luc Robitaille--to explain the team's stance in the negotiations.

Blake, who was extremely critical of that stance a week ago, was subdued Wednesday.

"What was said was between [Taylor] and me," Blake said. "It doesn't matter if I understand [the Kings' position] or not. My say isn't going to change anything. We need him. That's the bottom line."


The Kings trimmed their roster by sending center Len Barrie to Long Beach of the IHL and wingers Jason Podollan and Bill Huard to Lowell (Mass.) of the AHL.

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