LA Kings extend contracts of Lombardi and Murray, add assistant John Stevens

The Los Angeles Kings signed general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Terry Murray to two-year contract extensions through the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, solidifying their leadership after the club’s first playoff appearance in eight years.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings signed general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Terry Murray to two-year contract extensions through the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, solidifying their leadership after the club’s first playoff appearance in eight years.

The Kings also gave two-year extensions to assistant general manager Ron Hextall and hockey operations vice-president Jeff Solomon, senior director of communications Jeff Moeller said.

Los Angeles also hired John Stevens as an assistant coach, signing the former Philadelphia Flyers head coach to a three-year contract to replace Mark Hardy.

Lombardi, Murray, Hextall and Solomon each had one year remaining on their contracts, but the Kings’ owners clearly are pleased with the franchise’s direction. Los Angeles made the playoffs this spring for the first time since 2002, tying the franchise record with 46 victories while finishing sixth in the Western Conference. The Kings lost a six-game series to the Vancouver Canucks.

Lombardi, the San Jose Sharks’ GM for seven seasons, took over a struggling franchise in April 2006 and steadily built it into a contender with enviable top-line talent and a solid farm system. He drafted defenceman Drew Doughty, already a Norris Trophy finalist at 20, and acquired veteran Ryan Smyth, who played a major role in the Kings’ playoff return last season.

He also hired Murray, who will turn 60 next month, to develop his young roster in 2008. The former head coach in Washington, Philadelphia and Florida is 80-64-20 in two seasons with the Kings, leading them to 101 points last season — third-most in franchise history.

Stevens spent parts of the past four seasons running the Flyers, going 120-109-34 and taking Philadelphia from the NHL’s worst record in 2006-07 to the Eastern Conference finals in 2007-08. He was fired last Dec. 4 after a slow start and replaced by Peter Laviolette, who led Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals.

Stevens played for the AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms during the 1996-97 season while Murray was the Flyers’ head coach.

With their leadership structure secure, the Kings can focus on hosting the NHL draft for the first time this weekend. Los Angeles also could be a player in the free-agent market, with fans clamouring for the club to take a run at impending free agents Ilya Kovalchuk or Patrick Marleau.

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