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KINGS NOTEBOOK: HNILICKA TRADE COMPLETED.

Byline: Matt McHale Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO - Goaltender Milan Hnilicka forfeited nearly $300,000 of guaranteed money to complete a trade with the Kings and compete with Cristobal Huet for the team's backup job.

According to league sources, Hnilicka (nuh-LEECH-kah), 30, renegotiated his original deal from the Atlanta Thrashers, which had a team option for 2004-05 at 2.5 million or a $300,000 buyout.

Under terms of the new agreement, Hnilicka, 30, will receive $1.1 million of this season's contract from the Thrashers. The Kings pick up around $280,000.

The option year and the buyout were dropped, but Hnilicka can earn performance bonuses equaling $300,000. The money is not guaranteed.

Kings general manager Dave Taylor refused to comment on terms of the new deal. But he was able to keep the contract from extending beyond the end of the season when, the collective-bargaining agreement expires between ownership and the players union.

But the Kings clearly cut their payroll in goal.

Last season, Felix Potvin earned $3.3 million after the Kings exercised his option. Backup Jamie Storr made $1.59 million. The club offered him $1 million to return but he declined and became an unrestricted free agent. Storr took a starting job worth $2 million in Russia.

Roman Cechmanek, a former teammate of Hnilicka's in their native Czech Republic, is the Kings' starter after being acquired from Philadelphia last June.

Cechmanek, 32, will make $3 million this season and $3.5 million next year. But Huet, beginning his second year, is on a two-way contract. He will make $450,000 during his time in the NHL, $90,000 on the minor-league portion.

Huet appeared in 12 games at the end of last season and played well enough to convince the Kings to dump Storr.

Hnilicka has far more experience than Huet. He has appeared in 119 career games with Atlanta and the New York Rangers. Two years ago he was the starter for the lowly Thrashers, appearing in 60 games. Last year he was 4-13-1 with a 3.56 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.

Lifetime, he is 29-66-13 with a 3.30 GAA.

``It is difficult to judge him on his record because Atlanta did not have a good record,'' Taylor said. ``But he played well in the minors last season (11-2-1, 2.56 GAA, .922 save percentage for the Chicago Wolves) and has some international experience.''

Before he left for Russia, Storr said teams were unwise trying to cut corners with its goaltenders.

He took over last January for the Kings after Potvin went down with a season-ending knee injury. Storr was not able to hold the job, and the team thought his salary was too high.

``They are trying to take advantage of the unrestricted free agents by squeezing them,'' Storr said. ``With the CBA up next year, teams are trying to make do with a lot less. It's dangerous.''

Taylor said after getting Cechmanek for a second-round draft choice last June, he thought he did not need a backup in Storr's price range.

``Roman's history is to play about 55 games a year,'' Taylor said. ``That only leaves 25 or so games, and we feel good having Hnilicka and Huet compete for that role.''

Matt McHale, (818) 713-3622

matt.mchale(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 17, 2003
Words:552
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