LOS ANGELES--The Linden Vey era in L.A. ended almost before it began Saturday, the Kings trading the young center to the Vancouver Canucks for a second-round pick in the NHL's entry draft at Philadelphia.
It was a move they knew they had to make sooner or later. The Kings would have had to put Vey on waivers in October if he didn't make the team out of training camp, meaning they would have lost him for nothing.
Even though Vey, 22, showed a lot of promise in an 18-game cameo last season, the Kings had so much depth at center that there probably was no room for him on their NHL roster.
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi made the deal Saturday, primarily so they could draft defenseman Roland McKeown from Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League at 50th overall. McKeown is considered a quality all-around defenseman and there had been speculation that he might slip into the first round.
So the Kings apparently received good value in the deal, although Lombardi was quick to point out: "We'll find out in three years. On paper and where we had him ranked, we said, 'OK, let's do this deal.' We did have a number of other teams interested (in Vey), for draft picks. But we didn't have a face on it.
"That's the way we had it structured. We'll do this deal if it's there -- or we were going to wait and deal with some other teams."
In Vancouver, Vey will join a Canucks team that landed a pair of Ducks, center Nick Bonino and defenseman Luca Sbisa, a day earlier in the trade for Ryan Kesler, which stood out as the most significant transaction in the two-day draft, which wrapped up Saturday.
If the Canucks can't beat L.A., maybe they can be L.A.
Michael Futa, the Kings' newly promoted vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel, called McKeown an "exceptional skater" and said: "He played (Drew) Doughty-like minutes at the junior level. And probably played a little too much and kind of got exposed trying to do too much down the stretch.
"He's already an NHL skater, a great athlete. And as he fills out, he's only going to get better. That was really the only name we had on our list that we felt would allow us to make the Vey deal and be getting value or better."
Vey was looking forward to the opportunity of joining a team in transition.
"Vancouver is such a great hockey city," Vey told The Vancouver Sun. "You look at the fans and support you have for them in B.C. I remember going there for a game this year and I actually made a call to my girlfriend and said: 'You know, one day, I'd just love to be part of Vancouver and get a chance to play here.' And then a couple of months later, I get traded there."
The Kings and the St. Louis Blues led the draft with 10 picks apiece, while the Ducks were one of four teams with the fewest selections, five. But Anaheim made its top pick count Friday night, selecting forward Nick Ritchie 10th overall.
According to Ducks chief scout Martin Madden, Ritchie caught their attention during the OHL playoffs when his team was down 3-1 in the series to McKeown's team, Kingston.
"Nick decided he was going to put a stamp on that fifth game," Madden said. "He made that top pair very uncomfortable by dump-and-chase and finishing his checks. But he also took the puck to the net and used his size and power to his advantage.... He played pretty well up to that point in that series, but that took him to another level."
Three of the Ducks' five picks were defensemen, something they have become particularly skilled at identifying and developing. Madden indicated that the prospects drafted Saturday are "four, five or six years" away from the NHL.
"At the end of the day, we look at talent and how they fit the Ducks identity," Madden said. "This year it happened that those three picks were defensemen."
Lombardi's off-season to-do list is almost complete. He needs to re-sign restricted free agent Dwight King and said Saturday he will try to acquire a No. 3 goalie who probably will spend the year playing in the American Hockey League for Manchester (N.H.)
Among the players the Kings drafted Saturday was one with hard-edged hockey blood lines -- Jake Marchment, selected 157th overall, whose uncle Bryan played 926 NHL games for nine teams. The 10 picks made for a long two days for Futa and his staff, but the Kings won two of the last three Stanley Cups by relying heavily on home-grown talent.
"It's a long process, it's a grind," Futa said. "We were so spread out, picking last in almost every round most of the time, it really made it difficult for us to package a bunch of things up together to move up. There were times in the first round, a couple of players had slid a little bit, and we tried to use some of our bullets."
Futa's day with the Stanley Cup comes Tuesday, and from there, he will attend development camp. So much for that summer vacation.
"I'll spend some time with my daughters with it," he said. "I've got three little girls, a 9-year-old and identical twin 7-year-olds. They're getting spoiled. They think they get this thing every two years."
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