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Some pressing issues exist

Draft may be over for Kings and Ducks, but one team still needs a coach and other needs clarity from key player.

June 22, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Topics around the draft floor Saturday ran the gamut, ranging from Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer's plans, Kings defenseman Rob Blake's future and the successor to Marc Crawford behind the Kings' bench.

Oh yes, Ducks General Manager Brian Burke was teased about working somewhere other than Toronto, for once. How about New York?

Banter aside, there was the second day of the NHL entry draft. The Kings had seven picks in rounds two through seven, grabbing Russians (Vjateslav Voinov, No. 32 and Andrei Loktionov, No. 123) and a pint-sized, fierce competitor Justin Azevedo of the Kitchener Rangers, at No. 153, among others.

The Kings acquired center Brad Richardson from Colorado for a second-round draft pick. Richardson split time between the Avalanche and the American Hockey League last season.

The Ducks took nine players Saturday, and including Friday's selection of Jake Gardiner in the first round, the Ducks ended up with five draft choices as a byproduct of Edmonton's offer sheet last summer to Dustin Penner.

"Sleeping dogs," said Burke, refusing to revisit that controversy, which put him at odds with his Oilers counterpart Kevin Lowe.

This two-day gathering was about peering into the future. But this coming week will feature pressing issues for the Kings and Ducks.

Burke could find out about Niedermayer's status today, as to whether he will play next season or retire. "His wife had a baby yesterday," Burke said. "I'm pretty sure talking to me is not high on his list of things to do."

Then there's the other veteran defenseman in Southern California, captain Rob Blake. Kings' GM Dean Lombardi says he already has met with the 38-year-old Blake and will have additional discussions with him this week.

Blake will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, as will another former Kings' defenseman, Brad Stuart, who was sent to the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings at the trade deadline in February.

The Kings can't say whether they would make a run at Stuart yet because of tampering rules, but he was considered a good fit in the dressing room.

Additionally, their coaching search will move to the forefront. The only person the Kings interviewed, informally, is their associate coach Mike Johnston. It appears unlikely they will pursue former Lightning coach John Tortorella.

"We'll sit down here after the next couple of days, put down definitive identity, just like a player," Lombardi said. "We have to clear our heads and see exactly what we need for this team now. There's at least 25 people that have contacted us. We're not in any hurry. We're going to talk to [Johnston] again."

As expected, the Kings' buyout of goalie Dan Cloutier's contract became official at noon Saturday, the team said.

"It didn't work out for me or for the organization," Cloutier said in a phone interview with The Times.

"I was unfortunate to get hurt early in my first season and never recuperated. Always tried to come back too early and it didn't help me or the organization.

"I was terrible most nights and shouldn't have been playing. But I'm an athlete and when they give you the opportunity to play, you're going to say yes."

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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