Kings GM Lombardi being patient with Voynov
LOS ANGELES — Dean Lombardi, one part parent and one part NHL general manager, worked both roles the other day when he talked about the growing pains of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov.
Lombardi, the Kings’ GM, does not have children, for the record. But you could say that he has 23 of them, the Kings’ roster, on any given day.
Voynov, 23, has struggled to start the season, often looking like a faint imitation of the defenseman who was rewarded with a six-year, $25 million contract in the summer.
He got better in the first two games of this four-game trip but failed to tie up Teddy Purcell’s stick on Tampa Bay’s second goal and got beaten on the outside in Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Lightning. Later, Voynov did get the lone Kings’ goal, his first of the season.
“I think he knows that he can be better and that’s the most important thing,” Lombardi said earlier Tuesday after the Kings’ morning skate in Tampa.
Voynov is a minus-two and has two points, a goal and an assist, in seven games. His ice time in the Lightning game was a season-high 25 minutes 47 seconds.
Lombardi said that contract negotiations in the summer told him a lot about the young Russian’s frame of mind.
“The way he handled his situation in terms of his contact — not even attempting to use Russia as leverage even though they were offering him the world, I think says how much he wanted to be here and be part of this team,” Lombardi said.
“That action itself tells you how much he cares. He’ll figure this out.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter was particularly pointed at the morning skate in Raleigh, N.C., before the opening game of the trip, saying that Voynov had a tough training camp and probably could have put in more work in the summer.
This isn’t the first time a youngster has struggled in the NHL after signing a lucrative contract. Nor will it be the last.
“It’s a huge adjustment for a young player, to get a long-term deal that’s significant money,” Lombardi said. “That’s just the reality of the way it is. It’s a huge adjustment for them and their life and life’s priorities. We tend to overlook that.
“We’ve seen it with so many players. In the end, if they care, they’ll figure it out.”