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Old 02-08-2008, 06:08 PM   #205
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A former Los Angeles Kings defenceman understands what it's like to be the coveted prize and to also be in control of the situation.

It was just over a decade ago that the Detroit Red Wings called the Toronto Maple Leafs and made a pitch to acquire the services of Larry Murphy.

Murphy's contract included a no-trade clause, meaning he had the final say as to whether he'd doff the Maple Leaf in favour of the winged wheel.

"(Leafs GM) Cliff Fletcher called me in a few days before the trade deadline and sounded me out, to get an idea of places I might be willing to go," recalled Murphy, who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie with the Kings in 1980-81.

When Fletcher called to inform him of Detroit's offer, Murphy talked it over with his wife and opted to make the move.

It was a wise decision that earned Murphy back-to-back Stanley Cups with Detroit in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Fast forward to this season and a current King finds himself in the catbird's seat.

Kings captain Rob Blake is the most coveted prize up for grabs as the Feb. 26 trade deadline fast approaches.

Blake wasn't in the lineup Thursday as the Kings dropped the Wings 5-3 at Joe Louis Arena.

In fact, he wasn't even in Detroit.

Expect that scenario to continue through the rest of the NHL season, unless the Wings happen to cross paths with the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

According to highly-placed league sources, Anaheim is where Blake will be headed at the trade deadline.

He wouldn't even be required to move house to play for the cross-town Ducks and since Blake owns a no-trade contract, he can make that call.

That's not the only reason why Blake won't be coming to Detroit.

A non-displaced fracture of the left ankle kept Blake out of the lineup Thursday.

A desire not to displace themselves of their future will keep the Wings from making a move for Blake.

In return for Blake, word is the Kings are seeking a player off a club's roster, a top prospect and a high draft pick.

As a rental player -- Blake will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end -- that's a hefty price.

Detroit moved a similar package last season to grab Todd Bertuzzi, the big forward who was supposed to put them over the top. That didn't work out very well at all, but it's got nothing to do with why they won't be willing to pay the Kings' ransom for Blake.

The Wings, who figure they will be contenders for years to come, won't to be willing to part with young defencemen Jakub Kindl or Jonathan Ericsson, likely targets that the Kings would pursue.

Instead, they'll pursue a depth defenceman. The Wings learned a harsh lesson last spring in how quickly a defensive corps can thin out when they lost both Mathieu Schneider and Niklas Kronwall to injury.

The Ducks don't possess Detroit's option of patience. They must win now.

Moves to bring back defenceman Scott Niedermayer and forward Teemu Selanne from self-imposed exile further skewered Anaheim's salary cap.

The Ducks won't be able to keep all their current pieces in place for next season.

Along with Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, Blake would give them an unprecedented three Norris Trophy-winning blue-liners and the right to call themselves Cup favourites.

The price for Blake will be one Detroit is unwilling to pay, but considering how they've loaded their guns for this season, it will be a price the Ducks can't afford not to pay.
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