According to LAX security footage and various flight manifests, all of the Kings prospects have safely arrived in Los Angeles for Rookie Camp, minus just one name. Per hotel records, the others have checked in and are eagerly awaiting their physicals and conditioning tests tomorrow.
Goaltender Martin Jones is the lone player not in town, thus his official contract holdout is now underway.
Originally signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent in the summer of 2008, his three-year Entry Level Contract kicked in when he turned pro in 2010 coming off a stellar year in the WHL, where he was named Goaltender of the Year. During his rookie season with Manchester, Jones posted an overall record of 23-12-1 to go along with a 2.25 goals-against-average (GAA) and .924 save percentage. He also manned the crease during the AHL All Star Game and was named the league’s Rookie of the Month for December 2010.
Over the past two seasons he’s essentially been a .500 goalie though, going 18-17-2 in 2011-12 and 27-25-4 this past season. He’s also had a GAA around 2.60.
Per CapGeek, his NHL cap hit was $525,555 last year, so the Kings only needed to offer him a 10% raise to qualify him and retain his rights – which they did in early July.
Sources have confirmed to MayorsManor that Jones wants more money than what the Kings are currently offering, hence the impasse.
What does all this mean for Manchester and the back-up goaltending situation in Los Angeles as camp opens?
At the moment, four other options are on the board:
JF Berube – Drafted by LA in 2009, the most logical question for Berube is if he’ll be promoted to the AHL or start his third straight ECHL campaign. He turned pro in the summer of 2011 after being one of the elite goalies in the QMJHL the year prior. Last season, his second with the Ontario Reign, Berube lowered his GAA to 2.24 and looked unbeatable for long stretches. The French-Canadian standout was originally expected to battle Jones for the starting job in Manchester this season. But, given the latter’s holdout, combined with the status of the next two players on this list, all bets are off for the moment.
Mathieu Garon – As we reported earlier today, Dean Lombardi and crew have invited the 35-year old veteran netminder to training camp. Garon has played for a total of six NHL teams, including LA from 2007-09 and most recently with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 323 NHL games he has a career record of 139-122-29 with a 2.83 GAA and .904 save percentage. Over the past four seasons he’s been paid $1.2 – 1.3 per year. That’s currently a bit out of the Kings price range at the NHL level though, so it will be interesting to see how things develop while he’s in camp on a tryout. Curiously enough, his last AHL stop was with Manchester in 2004-05.
Matthias Niederberger – Signed by Manchester (not Los Angeles) earlier this summer, he’s on an AHL-only contract. The move was curious at the time, but perhaps it’s being viewed as insurance against Jones having a prolonged issue with the team. Regardless, the 5-foot-11 German-born netminder has spent the past two years with Barie in the OHL. For the Colts, he recorded 29 and 35 win seasons. Last year, he also had a 2.34 GAA and an impressive .933 save percentage. Perhaps the most notable aspect of his contract is that he can’t be sent to the ECHL, which otherwise would’ve seemed his most likely destination once Jones agrees to a new deal.
Ben Scrivens – Acquired by LA in the Jonathan Bernier trade with Toronto, he’s believed to be earmarked as Jonathan Quick’s back-up this season. Given the Kings very limited cap space, the fact the Maple Leafs provided an extra $500K in the trade to pay part of his salary would seem to give him every advantage over Garon for an NHL roster spot heading into camp. Scrivens would also require waivers to be sent to Manchester and it’s doubtful he would clear. Thus, his entire situation is complicated. He’ll arrive at Kings camp with 32 games of NHL experience and a rather pedestrian 11-14-2 record.
We spoke with Berube about the opportunity in front of him in an interview posted on MayorsManor over the weekend. Check it out now by clicking here.
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