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Mediator can’t resolve Kings-Oilers dispute regarding Colin Fraser; Next stop: Gary Bettman?

Jul 19, 2011, 9:14 PM EDT

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Dean Lombardi, AP

Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi isn’t very shy about sharing his opinions. On occasion, he’ll call a Kings player out, as we’ve seen when he criticized Jack Johnson’s lack of structure during his college days at Michigan and Dustin Penner’s perceived lukewarm hustle.

Those are just comments about his own players, though. When other teams make Lombardi mad, things get even more interesting. The Kings general manager has been so incensed by the state of Colin Fraser‘s health (Fraser came to Los Angeles in a trade that sent Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton) that he said: “I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton’s word.”

It was the second instance in which the Kings felt that the player the Oilers sent back in the deal wasn’t healthy enough for their liking. The original deal included Gilbert Brule, but that trade was put on hold when it became clear that Brule wasn’t 100 percent.

The NHL decided to use a mediator to try to resolve the issue between the two teams, but Helene Elliott reports that the session wasn’t successful. Elliott reports that the Kings’ next step would be to file a formal grievance with the league, which would force NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to figure out a solution.

It’s unclear what, exactly, Bettman would do if the buck stops at his office. Maybe the Kings will decide that it’s not worth it, although Lombardi seems like he might want to bring some Zeus-like vengeance upon the Oilers front office. While the latest developments indicate that it might be tough to maintain peace, perhaps Edmonton can sweeten the deal a little bit to soothe some of the wounds (or at least make it certain that Smyth will be back in the fold).

Lombardi’s been pushing all the right buttons – for the most part – during a landmark off-season for the Kings. His show isn’t done yet, though, as he still needs to re-sign star defenseman Drew Doughty and write the last chapter of this saga. We’ll keep an eye on that entertaining situation as the summer unfolds.

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