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The 'C' Stands for Conflict

Hockey: With contract talks stalled, Blake resigns captaincy of Kings, questions future with team.

September 22, 2000|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The only change so far is in the embroidery, a change that recalls a happier time, when Rob Blake was captain of the Kings.

Blake hasn't been traded. He doesn't want to be, and Dave Taylor, the Kings' senior vice president and general manager, says the team doesn't want to trade him.

Blake is still under contract with the Kings.

For one more season.

And then?

That was the question Thursday, when Blake acknowledged doubt about his future with the Kings because of difficulty in negotiating a new contract. The team has made two offers, accompanied, Blake said, by an ultimatum, which he refused.

"It's nothing that couldn't be settled," Blake said. "I always wanted to stay here. That's always been my first choice."

It's also the team's first choice, according to Taylor.

"The Los Angeles Kings' first priority is to keep Rob Blake in a Kings' uniform for the foreseeable future," Taylor said in a statement.

For now, the foreseeable future is July 1, 2001, when Blake's contract expires.

Or earlier, because the Kings' second priority is apparently to get something of value for Blake via trade, rather than nothing, which is what they would get if he leaves as a free agent.

"In light of . . . the fact that Rob will become an unrestricted free agent when his current contract expires . . . we must assess the long-term impact that Rob's decision to reject the offer will have on the club," Taylor said in the statement.

The veiled threat of a trade is what led Blake to resign his captaincy and give up the "C" patch on his uniform, something he coveted.

"I take a lot of pride and responsibility in being the captain, and when you are told you might not be around for the whole season, it's extremely difficult to do the job," he said. "Rather than it being a distraction later on in the season, it's best that someone take it on now."

Since negotiations began in August, the Kings have made two offers to extend Blake's contract, which will pay him $5,267,500 this season. The first was believed to be for five years at an average of $6 million per year. The second was believed to be three years at an average of $7.5 million per.

It was accompanied by an ultimatum, Blake said.

"The way it was outlined was either 'take this or leave it,' and I'm not going to take it," Blake said.

His agent, Ron Salcer, is a bit puzzled by the Kings' stance.

"I represented Dave Taylor in all of his contract negotiations and he was never bullied," Salcer said. "Nor do I think he would accept being bullied."

The ultimatum came a day after training camp opened, and Blake pondered his next move before talking with Coach Andy Murray about resigning the captaincy.

"I said at that time, 'Rob, think about it and we just won't have anybody as captain in training camp,' " Murray said Thursday.

King Notes

The goalie order has been juggled and Stephane Fiset and Steve Passmore are scheduled to face the Mighty Ducks at the Arrowhead Pond tonight. . . . Jamie Storr and Marcel Cousineau will be in goal Saturday against San Jose in Bakersfield.

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