EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – In 48 tumultuous hours, Robyn Regehr went from an underachieving team in upstate New York to the defending Stanley Cup champions on the Pacific coast.
Now that Regehr has wrapped his head around all the changes, the bruising defenceman is eager to chase his first NHL title with the Los Angeles Kings.
“I’m really happy to be with a team that can win, with a team that has done it in the past and wants to do it again,” Regehr said at the Kings’ training complex Wednesday.
Regehr went through his first practice with the Kings two days after they acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres for two draft picks. Regehr should play a big role immediately for the Kings, who believe the hard-hitting, shot-blocking veteran will fill the only major hole in their lineup.
The deal went down quickly for Regehr, who realized other teams were looking at him while the Sabres’ season foundered.
“I was asked to waive (a no-trade clause) after dinner, and I was gladly accepting,” Regehr said. “I talked to my wife about it, and she was happy. She’s always wanted to be down in Southern California and spend some time here, so we were excited that way. The team, the fit and the coaching, what they did last year here, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to hopefully do that again.”
Regehr will wear No. 44 for the Kings (20-13-3), who began Wednesday in fifth place in the Western Conference after wrapping up an outstanding five-game road trip. Los Angeles’ sturdy defence in front of Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Jonathan Quick was the backbone of its championship run, and the Kings are hoping Regehr fits right into coach Darryl Sutter’s system.
And though Regehr will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, he isn’t just a trade-deadline rental to Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi, who said “there’s a good chance we can retain him” for next season and beyond.
“We’ve got a lot going for us,” Lombardi said. “We think we’ve got a chance to have him here for a number of years. … This guy’s character is off the charts. He’s no picnic to play (against).”
Regehr said he’s not thinking about his future beyond Thursday’s game against Minnesota.
“All I’m thinking about is right now, and how I can get up to speed personally here with the team and what they want me to do as quickly as possible,” Regehr said.
Los Angeles lost Matt Greene to a back injury in its season opener, and Willie Mitchell won’t play this season after undergoing a second knee surgery this week. That’s why Lombardi has been looking for a tough, experienced defenceman for several weeks to bolster a blue-line corps that includes talented youngsters Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov, but relies heavily on Rob Scuderi to do much of the dirty work that will be picked up by Regehr.
“We were really zeroing in on a certain type of player, and your market gets kind of finite,” Lombardi said. “Losing guys like (Greene and Mitchell), it’s safe to say I’ve been looking for this all year.”
Greene has been skating with his teammates for the past week with hopes of returning somewhere around the start of the playoffs, but Lombardi said Mitchell is out for the year—and maybe longer.
“At least we’ve got some finality that he’s not coming back this year … and there’s some legitimate concern whether he plays next year,” Lombardi said of Mitchell, the oldest player on last season’s championship team.
Lombardi’s only other move at the deadline was to ship depth defenceman Davis Drewiske to Montreal, giving a chance to play to the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. Drewiske couldn’t crack the Kings’ lineup this season, particularly with the impressive emergence of puck-moving youngster Jake Muzzin last month.
“I like our team, and I think we addressed the biggest need,” Lombardi said.
Regehr played three seasons in Calgary under Sutter, calling him a “very demanding coach” who makes his players better. Sutter moved into the Flames’ front office in 2006, but Regehr hasn’t forgotten what Sutter wants.
“I know the style is a very similar style that he asked us to play in Calgary,” said Regehr, who fell one game short of a Stanley Cup title with Sutter and the Flames in 2004. “I should be able to brush the rust off a little bit.”