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Stoll, Fraser stay aboard; Pearson joins

Kings re-sign two veteran centers, then draft 19-year-old forward with the 30th overall pick in the NHL Draft

Saturday, 06.23.2012 / 12:30 AM / Los Angeles Kings | News
By Rich Hammond
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Stoll, Fraser stay aboard; Pearson joins

On a day when most teams bring in fresh blood, the Kings also retained parts of their championship team, as they re-signed centers Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser to multi-year contracts.

During the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, the Stanley Cup champion Kings confirmed that Stoll agreed to a three-year contract and Fraser agreed to a two-year contract. Stoll’s deal is worth an average of $3.25 million per season, while Fraser’s is worth $825,000 per season.

Both players would have become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Also, Tanner Pearson became the newest member of the organization when the Kings selected him with the No. 30 overall pick in the first round. The Columbus Blue Jackets had the option to take the Kings’ pick, as part of the Jeff Carter trade, but the Blue Jackets elected to take the Kings’ 2013 pick instead.

Pearson finally got to enjoy a draft day. A 6-foot, 198-pound winger from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, Pearson was draft-eligible in 2010 and 2011 but was not selected.

Pearson, who turns 20 in August, made a big jump this season, though. In 2010-11, he totaled 15 goals and 27 assists in 66 games. This season, he totaled 37 goals and 54 assists in 60 games. His 91 points ranked first on the Colts and third in the OHL. Pearson also was a member of Canada’s World Junior Championships team before his season ended in March with a broken leg.

Pearson is expected to be healthy and ready for the start of training camp in September.

``There’s an upside that comes with his ability,’’ said Mike Futa, the Kings’ co-director of amateur scouting. ``The one thing I learned, through my few months there dealing with Darryl Sutter, is that if you’re going to play, you’ve got to be able to make plays. This kid makes plays. He can really pull the trigger.

``You’ve now got kids coming up through the system, like Tyler (Toffoli) and this kid, it’s just natural for them to put the puck in the net and make plays, which is good to have coming. You need that. We’ve got some good size coming up, and there’s a lot of depth in the back end, but now we’re adding some players who, it’s natural for them to put the puck in the net and make offensive plays.

Pearson, who was ranked 25th among all North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, is listed as a left winger but has said he’s a natural center who has spent significant time at right wing. He played for Barrie under coach Dale Hawerchuk, who spent 16 seasons in the NHL as a center.

``I think my confidence in myself changed a lot, throughout last summer,’’ Pearson said after his selection. ``I got a good summer of training. I did want to get noticed this year, and I got a good opportunity to play in a top-six role and I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip away from me. So I knew I had to do everything to keep that spot.’’

Pearson’s day to compete for a spot on the Kings’ roster is probably a couple years away, and the Kings’ two signings Friday seemed to guarantee that there won’t be many roster spots up for grabs in September when the Kings reconvene for training camp, at least not at center.

The Kings’ top two centers, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, had already been locked up with long-term contracts. Now the Kings have retained Stoll and Fraser, who centered their third and fourth lines, respectively, and also have been popular, positive presences in the locker room.

Stoll, who turns 30 on Sunday, had offensive numbers far below his career averages in 2011-12, as he totaled six goals and 15 assists in 78 games. Stoll also, though, gave the Kings valuable defensive minutes as a shutdown-line center and a penalty killer, and is regularly the team’s top faceoff man.

The Kings acquired Stoll from Edmonton in a 2008 trade, then signed him to a four-year contract worth an average of $3.6 million. In 593 career games, Stoll has 119 goals and 198 assists.

Fraser has now completed an odd, but rewarding, year-long journey with the Kings.

Last June 26, the Kings acquired Fraser, along with a seventh-round draft pick, from Edmonton in exchange for Ryan Smyth. Initially, the Kings intended to trade for Gilbert Brule and a mid-round pick, then buy out Brule’s contract, but balked after they believed Brule was not sufficiently healthy.

The Kings then took Fraser, only to become infuriated with the Oilers after they discovered that Fraser would require foot surgery. After a late-summer recovery, Fraser joined the Kings’ lineup in mid-November and became a regular contributor as a reliable fourth-line center.

Fraser, 27, has played 291 career games, with 18 goals and 31 assists.