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Mission accomplished for Kings, Oilers

by Dan Rosen

The L.A. Kings traded Lubomir Visnovsky to the Oilers for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. Watch Lubomir Visnovsky highlight video
The Edmonton Oilers were looking to add a top-flight offensive defenseman. The Los Angeles Kings, while hoping to shed some salary, were also in the market for an elite faceoff man and another gritty, physical blueliner.

The Oilers and Kings turned into perfect trading partners Sunday by completing a three-player trade that, at least on paper, fills the needs of both sides.

To Edmonton goes defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who in his five NHL seasons has tallied 279 points in 499 games. To L.A. goes center Jarret Stoll, who becomes a restricted free agent Tuesday, and defenseman Matt Greene.

"Although it is tough to see good players and good people move on, we feel we've made a step towards improving our overall offense," Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said in a statement released by the team. "Lubomir is a world-class defenseman, who has been one of the premier offensive defensemen over the past five years."
Visnovsky, also a two-time Olympian for Slovakia, has given the Kings tremendous service in his five years, so much so that they rewarded him with a five-year, multi-million dollar contract extension last summer that takes him through the 2012-13 season.

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Visnovsky's 67 points in 2005-06 made him the only defenseman in Kings history to lead the team in scoring for a season. He followed that with 58 points in 2006-07, but dipped to just 41 points and a minus-18 rating this past season.

The prospect of having Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray at the points on the Oilers' power play seems enticing to Lowe. Lombardi, though, shed Visnovsky's salary for a pair of players in Stoll and Greene, who combined could wind up costing less than the Slovakian defenseman.

Stoll, who lives in Los Angeles, is also coming off a sub-par season. He had 36 points and a minus-23 rating in 81 games. Stoll's best season came two years ago when he helped the Oilers reach the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. He finished the 2005-06 regular season with 68 points on 22 goals and 46 assists, and added 10 points in 24 playoff games. Limited to just 51 games the following season due to a concussion, Stoll still had 39 points on 14 goals and 25 assists

"I definitely wish it could have worked out and I could have rebounded and had a great year and proved a lot of people wrong," Stoll told the Edmonton Sun. "That's the kind of person I am. I know, looking back at last year, that I can be a better player. That's what my whole focus was on this summer. I know how I can play and I'm confident in my game and what I can bring. I'll just bring that to another organization now."

Stoll is also bringing his ability as an elite NHL faceoff man to Southern California. He won 55.1 percent of his draws this past season (667 of 1,229). Stoll won 55.6 percent of his faceoffs in 2006-07 and 56.8 percent in 2005-06.

He also led the Oilers with 122 hits this past season, and with his hard shot has been known to be stationed at the point on the power play. Twenty-six of Stoll's 59 career goals have come with the man-advantage, including eight this past season.

Greene, meanwhile, gives the Kings another steady, stay-at-home defenseman. He was limited to 46 games this past season due to an ankle injury and managed only an assist and a minus-3 rating. Greene, though, is 6-foot-3 and weighs 223 pounds.

"It's never easy to give up a player of Lubo's caliber, but for the direction of this franchise, this exchange allows us to add two players who fit the long-term vision for this team," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said in a statement. "We appreciate Lubo's service and outstanding play these last seven years in Los Angeles. He was not only a great player for us, but a class act."

This trade is another layer to the facelift Lombardi is putting his team through.

The Kings, who still haven't hired a replacement coach for Marc Crawford, already traded forward Mike Cammalleri at the draft, where they selected defenseman Drew Doughty with the No. 2 overall pick and took nine players overall.

What the Kings do when the free-agent market opens for business Tuesday remains to be seen, but Ladislav Nagy and Rob Blake will both become unrestricted free agents, and centers Stoll and Patrick O'Sullivan will be restricted.

As for the Oilers, it is being reported in Edmonton that this is only the first of what could be multiple moves by Lowe. Soon-to-be restricted free-agent defenseman Joni Pitkanen could be on the trading block now that Visnovsky is in town.

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