Q: Don, first of all, could you just comment on the move you made today, acquiring Rostislav Klesla
and Dane Byers from Columbus for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto?
"Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks because up until Ed Jovanovski got injured we had really been focused up front and merely trying to help with a little more depth at our center ice position. But when Ed Jovanovski got injured we felt very vulnerable on our blue line, especially on the matchup, the defensive matchup role, penalty killing role. So, the long and short of it, we searched to hopefully find a top-four defenseman who can match up against good players, and this Klesla deal really came up today. It was one of those things where we had to give to get. We gave up a very good player, and a popular player in Scott Upshall, and one of our leading goal scorers, but the reason we could give Scottie up was because of the emergence of Mike (Mikkel) Boedker. If anyone’s been paying attention to us the last half dozen games they know he’s been an inpactual player, he’s playing all kinds of minutes, pointing the power play, making plays, scoring points, so we felt we need to get him more ice.
"And in Klesla, we get a big, former, very high (draft) pick; fourth overall with Columbus. I think at this stage in Rusty’s career a change in scenery is going to be good for him. I think it’s a fresh start for him. (Coyotes Assistant Coach) Dave King was his first head coach for a number of years. We felt like we had good insight into the player and the personality and the fit for our group, because so much of what we do is chemistry mix here. We look at him with Mike Rozsival as a tandem that can play against anyone in the West, and if we can straighten up our penalty killing a little bit I have no concerns about our scoring. I don’t see that as an issue whatsoever. I think we will be fine there, so hopefully we’ve made ourselves a little better."Q: Do you have any concerns about Klesla’s “injury prone” past?
"That is certainly a legitimate question. He has had a couple injuries the last couple seasons. He had a bad hip a year ago where he missed a lot of time. And right before the All-Star Break he bruised his knees, but he’s 100 percent now. He’s was going to play tomorrow night in Vancouver, but instead he’s going to play in the desert, in Glendale, here and help us beat Dallas, God willing.
"So, really, with the injuries, it’s always a risk, but he’s a big, strong guy, he has a good contract for us. We thought he’s a guy, long-term, that fits into what we’re trying to do here. We thought we had good puck movers. Sami Lepisto was a good player, worked hard, but I just think the bigger, stronger matchup defender was what we need. And that was really a priority for us today."Q: How do you think the Pacific Division changed with some of the moves made today?
"We were looking at a little more depth up front if we could find it. But if you could see the price that was being paid, I was adamant not to get into any “A assets.” I still believe, as a franchise, we can’t be boring into our future for a little more success now. I don’t think it's right. I think we need to do the right things long-term and that’s hold on to our assets, hold on to our high draft assets. So, realistically there really wasn’t a point where I thought we were close on anything, and quite frankly, I thought LA picking up (Dustin) Penner, when you can add a big, strong guy and don’t take anything away from your team, that’s a good move for LA. Certainly short-term it’s a good move, they paid a price for him, but the proof will be in the pudding in the next 20 games of the regular season and the playoffs.
"So, part of our deal, too, is when you look at our team now we would really like to get Brett MacLean
back here and give him a chance to see what he can do. Viktor Tikhonov
is a guy that is dying to get up here and we talked today about getting him back here at some point. The good thing about Viktor is that he can play wing or center. He’s a good checker and a good penalty killer, so this sort of fits."Q: Can you share with us some of the things that Dave King told you about Rusty that helped you make your decision?
"He said you’ll be surprised by his skill level. He’s been used more as a matchup defenseman. I know some people talk about his footspeed a little bit, but he was very high on him and the idea that he’s a legitimate three/four in this league in a matchup role, which is really the profile that we were looking for. There were some other defensemen out there that were a little more offense, a little more puck movement per say, lighter. But he fit what we thought we needed right now. And if you look at the way we’re structured, if you look at our right side with Rozsival and certainly Derek Morris
and Adrian Aucoin
, we’re rock solid. It was just the left side to defend was a little light for us.
"He’s an intelligent player and we talked to Radim Vrbata
and did all the homework to make sure he’s the right fit for us. And certainly we feel that he’s going to be good and we keep our fingers crossed that we made the right choice."Q: How do you think Boedker will play now that he’s no longer moving back and forth between Phoenix and San Antonio?
"I hope he keeps playing the same way he did. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all for a young player. We messed this up, and I’m guilty. I started here by throwing Mike (Boedker), Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov
right in the NHL right off the bat. It’s the wrong way; it’s the absolute worst thing we could’ve done, in hindsight. Poor Wayne (Gretzky), as the coach was trying to win with young players. As you can see it’s a very tough league to win in with 18- and 19- and 20-year-old players. So if you’re a developing team and you’re not worried about the playoffs, sure you can play them.
"So, in Mike’s case, he’s worked hard, he was ready to play at the start of the year. We sent him down, we brought him up, he played great, we sent him down again, we brought him up. And for the last month we thought “we have got to get this guy in our lineup.” He has speed, strength. It’s not just the games. You watch the practices out here, he just jumps off the map. Would we have rather kept Scottie? Sure, we would’ve kept more depth, absolutely. We like Scottie, he’s a very charismatic player, but on the other side we feel like we can replace that offense with what we have and we get a very good defenseman."Q: Was it your feeling that Scottie wasn’t going to re-sign here?
"No, not at all. We never got into any discussions at all with Scottie contractually, like every other player we have here. So that was not the reason why we made this deal."Q: Did you do this deal because Ed Jovanovski’s status the rest of the year is unknown?
"There’s a question on whether if and when he can get back here. If Jovo was not hurt would we have done this deal? Probably not, quite frankly. That would not have been our primary focus."Q: You thought you were done (shoring up the defense) with the Rozsival deal?
"I thought we matched up pretty well, but the more you play these games. these games don’t get easier. They get harder; they get harder around your own net, harder around your own zone. And our whole scheme is good defense and when you start to look at who you’re throwing out in the penalty killing units; the left side, right side, we’ve just been a little off the last three or four games, so I think this is a great long-term play.
"One of the facts is that Scottie was unrestricted. That’s real. Sami Lepisto, again, was a good player. He worked hard for us, but we feel we got a legitimate heavy, weighty defenseman that can match up." Rusty is signed through the 2013-14 season, correct?
"Is that what it is? Yea, he has another three years beyond this season. But it’s a good number for a top-four defenseman. It fits for what we need to do...It really shapes up nicely and allows the emergence of (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson and certainly Keith Yandle
as he is becoming an impactful player as well.'
MORE TO COME..