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Kings Go Hard After Another Richards

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

Members of the Kings’ front office staged a one-day invasion of Toronto with a singular mission: win over Brad Richards, the prime target in this summer’s free-agent market.

The NHL’s signing period for unrestricted free agents started at 9 a.m. Pacific time Friday, and the Kings wasted no time in making their substantial pitch to Richards -- a seven-time 20-goal scorer -- in the office of his agent, Pat Morris.

In a meeting that lasted more than two hours, the Kings made their offer to Richards. The presentation had a multi-media aspect as well, as the Kings showed Richards a video that included greetings from Kobe Bryant and other local athletes and celebrities.

The Kings’ traveling party included team governor Tim Leiweke, general manager Dean Lombardi, coach Terry Murray, assistant coaches John Stevens and Jamie Kompon, co-director of amateur scouting Michael Futa, scouting operations coordinator Lee Callans and vice president of communications and content Michael Altieri.

"This was a high priority for the Kings and a high priority for AEG and ownership," Leiweke said from Toronto. "We spent a lot of time on it in the last few weeks. The staff, Dean and his team, and Mike Alteri, did a phenomenal job on the presentation. We were well-prepared. We were well-organized. We were well-briefed. He was shocked as to how much we knew about him. I thought Terry Murray and his team did a great job of making him understand where our team is at today and where he would fit in.

"We were with this young man for over two hours, and longer with the agents. I was impressed that they gave us as much time as they did. I'm very impressed by this guy. He has a lot of choices, probably offers that are going to be better than ours, but I definitely think we have him thinking."

Richards is widely considered to be the top free agent available this summer, and was expected to be courted heavily by the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay and Toronto.

The Kings kept a low profile, insistently publicly that they would seek only a "mid-range" free agent. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the team spent weeks on a campaign designed to impress Richards and convince him to come to Los Angeles.

Last summer, the Kings took a high-profile swing at the market’s top free agent, Ilya Kovalchuk, and ended up in the middle of a messy process in which Kovalchuk took weeks to pick a team, then had his contract with New Jersey voided and renegotiated.

Leiweke expressed confidence that Richards’ situation would not be a lengthy one.

"My guess is this is not going to take long, for them to make a decision," Leiweke said. "They're not leveraging anyone. I admire the way they've done it. I am appreciative of the amount of time they allowed us to have."

Richards, 31, scored a career-high 28 goals last season with the Dallas Stars. Richards won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

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