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Exit Interview: Blake on Next Season and Player Re-Signings

Cal Petersen’s future is still in the air, but Blake hasn’t lost hope.



The sports world moves fast. And less than 24 hours after being eliminated in the first round, the Los Angeles Kings sat in front of the media on Sunday to conduct exit interviews.

Nearly every player conducted an interview and Rob Blake answered questions as well.

One of the more difficult situations for Blake to navigate this summer is the situation in net. 

Joonas Korpisalo was solid down the stretch and Pheonix Copley saved the season, but there's still a $5 million man down in Ontario. 

Cal Petersen's future is still in the air, but Blake hasn't lost hope.

"We've got to get Cal to be an NHL goalie," said Blake on Petersen's future. "That's why we signed him to (his contract). It was a tough start to the season and situation. He was really good about going down and playing games (in Ontario) but it's a big summer for him to come back and compete."

"Yeah, hopefully," said Blake when asked if Petersen is expected to start the season on the Kings' roster. 

That's a positive outlook for Petersen's future in Los Angeles. Most people expect Blake to try and find a way to move his contract this summer. But through this season both Blake and McLellan have said they haven't lost faith in Petersen.

This summer will prove how true that is.

Another difficult task for Blake this summer will be re-signing Vladislav Gavrikov. Blake spent a lot of capital acquiring Gavrikov, and Joonas Korpisalo, so losing him this summer would be tough. 

"Cap wise most likely," said Blake when asked if re-signing Gavrikov will be his most difficult task this summer. "Listen, I'd love to bring that exact team we had yesterday (Game Six), full health and run through a whole season. I know that's not possible because of the cap situation and, ultimately, the amount of UFA signings and all of that. But (Gavrikov), we all understood lefty and righty balance, but when you can put four really strong defenders in your group of six to be able to combat some of the star players in the league."

The man that came with Gavrikov in that trade also needs a contract. And Blake is planning on sitting down and trying to work out a deal. 

"We've got to look at all these different options," said Blake. "We have three different UFA's, Korpisalo, Gavrikov. Today I can't answer that right now. Salary cap will play a big part in what we do there."

The last big name UFA this summer is Gabe Vilardi and the big conversation surrounding him is, do the Kings lock him up long-term?

"Yeah, the CBA kind of, different kinds of options with Gabe because of his age and that," said Blake on his interest in signing Vilardi long-term. "We need Gabe to be able to play full seasons. I think you're starting to see a little bit of his potential, which is real good. He was committed this year, not on the offensive side, on both sides."

As always, Quinton Byfield was a topic of conversation on Sunday. The feeling hasn't changed with him, he's improving and needs to continue improving. 

"I think (Byfield) took steps this year to be a prominent player on this team, where he wasn't last year in the playoffs," said Blake. "So, that's a step forward. A liked him at wing there, ultimately, we still probably feel that he will be a centerman because he can do both. His effectiveness with his length, turning pucks over, I thought when he joined that line with Kopitar and Kempe it gave us some balance throughout the lineup. That's a transition piece, whether it works or not, we're excited that he came into the lineup and became an effective player for us."

Blake was then asked if Byfield needs to be a more productive goal scorer moving forward. 

"Yeah, he's 20." answered Blake.

In the last two summers, Blake's gone out and improved the roster with external additions. Whether it was Kevin Fiala last summer or Phil Danault and Viktor Arvidsson the summer before. But it doesn't sound like we'll see similar moves this year.

"It's more shaping probably this summer," said Blake on how he can improve the roster this summer. "Growth from some more players getting into the mix, pushing that leadership group. I'm not sure it's as easy to go out and add like it's been in past summers because of the salary cap situation for the year. Based off where the cap ends up and different things, a lot of teams end up in that situation. But, a competitive group, we need to find a way to be better."

The Kings still have plenty of young players in the AHL waiting for their chance. 

Getting them up and into the lineup could be the additions this team needs to take that next step, but it isn't always easy graduating players.

"Eventually, yes," said Blake on graduating players from Ontario to the Kings. "That's the hope every year, a few young guys come in and command spots. Like I said, Byfield and Kupari probably come in this year and commanded full-time spots throughout the playoffs and played important roles."

But, if players take that next step, that means opening up spots on the roster and moving established players.

"Potentially yes," said Blake on potentially moving established players to make room for young players. "You can only carry 23 players so, however, that works out."

The one big name on Kings fan's minds is Brandt Clarke, Clarke was terrific for the Barrie Colts in the OHL playoffs and is a player who can command a spot on the roster. 

"That has to play itself out, Clarke will be the one player that will be pro for the whole season, that's the difference," said Blake on Clarke's future. "Spence was here this year, got some time with us. Tobi Bjornfot, same type of thing. Clarke will be the new defenseman coming in full-time. There's not the nine-game or ten-game issue or anything next year. He steps in and becomes a pro full-time."

Blake then clarified what "pro full-time" means regarding to NHL or AHL.

"He's eligible for both," said Blake. "But I think the way he played those nine games, it was a difficult decision at that time. He went down and did everything possible asked of him in the OHL and throughout the playoffs. So, I expect him to compete for a spot and help this team."

Blake has a busy summer ahead of him. But, it's going to be a different kind of summer.

The Kings are long past looking to tear things down and rebuild. But cap space issues mean he can't go out and make a big splash in the open market as he's done the last two seasons. 

Re-signing Gavrikov, Korpisalo and Vilardi, I imagine, are priorities one, two and three on his list.


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