Dean Lombardi made his way to the locker room after Game 5 of the Western Conference Final and the emptiness sank it so deep, it practically echoed through the corridors of the United Center. The Los Angeles Kings' general manager was understandably too emotional to talk immediately after his defending Stanley Cup champions were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, but the unfiltered Lombardi described it to reporters fewer than 24 hours later. "I walked in the room when it was over and, pretty much like the players -- dead silence and you're staring at nothing," Lombardi said in a conference call Sunday. "There's almost no emotion. You're almost frozen. I don't know what that means. There's so much going through your head there's nothing going through your head." Lombardi, who said he spoke with coach Darryl Sutter until 4:30 a.m. and went to sleep an hour later, greeted the new day with his head filled with questions about his roster when the lower salary cap kicks in this summer. L.A. is in a deli of a pickle with eight unrestricted free agents and three restricted. The gist: Lombardi said that the re-signing of defenseman Robyn Regehr last month doesn't mean they can't bring back pending unrestricted free agent veteran Rob Scuderi. Lombardi also indicated he would like to bring back underachieving left wing Dustin Penner, whose $3.25 million salary this season broke down to $1.625 million per goal in the regular season. "I'm going to try everything I can to bring the pieces back," Lombardi said when asked about Penner. "It's going to be a little more difficult." Budding star defenseman Slava Voynov is due a raise from his $787,000 salary this season after he again proved his worth as a terrific offensive defenseman with 13 points in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games. At 23, Voynov has already played in 38 playoff contests. Defensemen Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Keaton Ellerby are also set to become restricted free agents along with bottom-six forwards Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis. Lombardi does have a movable piece in restricted free agent goalie Jonathan Bernier, a potential No.1 stuck behind Jonathan Quick, whose 10-year, $58 million contract extension kicks in next season. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the salary cap will drop to $64.3 million for 2013-14. "We've taken this to nuclear science now in terms of how you put these equations together," Lombardi said of the cap challenge. "There's a bit of a vise here that certainly you couldn't project it … we've got a challenge here, but I'm confident that we can meet it. It's something that's unfortunate." Lombardi had no update on defenseman Willie Mitchell, who missed the season because of surgery to clean up cartilage in his knee in early December and had setbacks that Lombardi later revealed to be career threatening. "I'll probably leave it at that now," Lombardi said. "It's possible [to be career threatening]. It's a day to day thing in terms of his progress. He's at least making progress, but problem is it's the same progress as before …. your guess is as good as mine." Perhaps more disconcerting was the non-news that top center Anze Kopitar was not dealing with an injury during the playoffs. Top line teammates Dustin Brown (partially torn knee ligament) and Justin Williams (slight shoulder separation) revealed their ailments Saturday, but Kopitar said there was nothing hindering his lack of production – three goals and nine points in 18 postseason games -- that forced Sutter to demote Kopitar to the third line. "In regards to being injured during these playoffs, there was no significant injury that I suffered," Kopitar said. "Everything was normal. A few bumps and bruises." Kopitar, a legitimate Selke Trophy candidate when he's in top form, looked limited in his upper-body movement, which prompted speculation from a possible shoulder injury to a hand or wrist injury. Lombardi also indicated there was nothing significant holding Kopitar back and talked about Kopitar needing to use this as a learning lesson for next season.
Kings hope to keep majority of team intact
NHL.com | Jun 9