After all the hand-wringing and head-scratching that went on this summer over the Kings roster, it’s all about to become crystal clear in the next 48 hours. Some people will like the results, others won’t. Regardless, there are several tough choices ahead for GM Dean Lombardi, coach Darryl Sutter and their key lieutenants.
Based on everything we’ve been able to gather – and let’s be honest, at the time of the this writing, perhaps even Lombardi still isn’t 100% sure what he’s going to do – here’s how we see things shaking out…
As noted in our summer salary-cap articles, NHL teams are allowed a maximum of 23 roster players. Certainly you can have fewer, but you can’t have more. They also need to spend no more than $62.9M in salary to reach their final list.
With that in mind, most of the time you’ll see a team comprised of two goaltenders, seven defensemen and 14 forwards. To protect against any issues with Willie Mitchell’s knee, the Kings are expected to start the year with eight defensemen, which means initially they’ll only have room to carry 13 forwards. At some point, say 10 games into the season, when Lombardi and Sutter are comfortable with his health, one of the ‘extra’ defensemen will have to go and another forward can then be added to round out the roster.
Like always, you might reconfigure the lines differently if you were the coach (and so would we), but this is what Sutter is likely to pencil in come opening night later this week in Minnesota…
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Matt Frattin – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Jordan Nolan
Robyn Regehr – Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell – Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin – Matt Greene
Three healthy scratches:
- Dan Carcillo, Keaton Ellerby, Alec Martinez
That roster would give LA just over $600K in remaining cap space.
There are also a few other assumptions built in:
- Goaltender Martin Jones will be in Manchester, as will forwards Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey. The challenge with Vey moving forward is this – he might be slotted as a possible replacement for Jarret Stoll a few years down the road, but he’s a more naturally suited to be a second line center. With the Kings committed to Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards long-term, a top-6 spot isn’t going to open up for him in LA. Plus, his body type and skillset would eliminate using him in a fourth line role. Thus, his options are limited with the Kings. On the other hand, Pearson will be in LA sooner rather than later for reasons explained in the Kings Top 10 Prospects article we posted just before camp opened.
- Tyler Toffoli, the only player from last year’s playoff roster who can be sent to the AHL without requiring waivers, doesn’t look to be with the Kings to start the season. However, once that eighth defenseman is cut/traded (pending the final sign off on Mitchell), Toffoli should re-join the roster. One more point here, don’t get too excited if you’re a Monarchs fan – this doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll start the year in Manchester. The Kings have another play here. They could assign him to Ontario, where the ECHL schedule doesn’t start for almost another month. That would give them an opportunity to keep Toffoli on the West Coast and prevent him from being injured in a game setting. It’s an idea, call it a possibility.
- The two most likely candidates to be cut/waived/traded once they’re ready to add Toffoli back to the roster would be Martinez and Ellerby. That’s not a knock on either player, just the reality of the numbers game. There’s only going to be seven defensemen on the roster at some point soon and at least six of those spots look to be locked up already – by Doughty, Greene, Mitchell, Muzzin, Regehr and Voynov. That leaves only one spot for either Martinez or Ellerby. The good news is that decision will most likely not occur for about a month.
- Jeff Schultz will be put on waivers come Sunday morning. Final rosters aren’t due to the league office until Monday morning, but Sunday is the last day to put guys on waivers. With a newly signed one-year contract at just $700K, it’s very likely the 6-foot-6 defenseman will get scooped up by another team. If he doesn’t, he’d gladly be welcomed in Manchester – and best of all, wouldn’t require any sort of re-entry waivers if the Kings ever wanted to call him back up later in the season.
- There’s another option here, although it’s a remote option. They could put Robyn Regehr on waivers or trade him. The upside of doing so is it would free up some salary, making room for a trade later this season (i.e. if somebody gets injured or to add reinforcements at the trade deadline). However, there’s probably a less than 10% chance they’d go this route at the present time. It would make much more sense to do something like this after Mitchell has fully convinced everybody his knee is going to be just fine. If they were to waive (or trade) Regehr, that would allow Muzzin to be paired with Doughty… leaving Martinez and Ellerby to alternate playing time as the sixth defenseman. All of that said, Sutter and Lombardi both value experience – something Regehr has. So, this idea would have to be considered a longshot.
- Look for goaltender Mathieu Garon to be offered a contract and start the year with Manchester. More on that story here.
Now that we’ve laid out the scenarios though, Lombardi will probably just make a trade.
What do you think? Take the roster POLL here.
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