Wednesday morning, the Kings were scheduled to practice at 11am.
A few minutes before players were set to take the ice, an email was sent to media members reading – “The LA Kings have cancelled the on-ice portion of their practice this morning and will hold an off-ice workout. … The team will return to the ice tomorrow for morning skate at 10:30 a.m. at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo ahead of their game against the Arizona Coyotes at 7:30 p.m. PT.”
Soon thereafter, it was learned that goaltender Cal Petersen had been placed on waivers.
It’s not about the overtime loss to Seattle on Tuesday night. There’s always more to the story than a single moment.
— Can't see Petersen getting claimed right now. Another team won't sign up for the contract term (2yrs remaining).
— He'll go to AHL & find his game. Cal is a legit NHL goalie.
— In the meantime, #GoKingsGo save 1.1M of his $5M cap hit while he's in AHL.
— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) November 30, 2022
This season, Petersen has played in 10 games, starting nine of them. He has a record of 5-3-2. While not bad — not great, yet not bad — on the surface, it’s the additional metrics that are worrisome. Just start with his .868 save percentage. It’s the lowest of his professional career.
Using only his NHL games, Petersen had produced the following save percentages:
2018-19 – 0.924 in 11 games
2019-20 – 0.922 in 8 games
2020-21 – 0.911 in 35 games
2021-22 – 0.895 in 37 games
2022-23 – 0.868 in 10 games
Going back to the three years he spent with AHL Ontario:
2017-18 – 0.910 in 41 games
2018-19 – 0.896 in 38 games
2019-20 – 0.906 in 37 games
In his first two NHL seasons, playing less than 20 combined games, Petersen carried a roughly 2.62 goal against average. Over the past two seasons — while playing 35 and 37 games, which are more than respectable sample sizes — he had consecutive years of identical 2.89 GAA. This season? He’s up nearly a full goal, currently holding a 3.75 GAA.
Goaltending is a unique position; it’s a phrase repeated at every level of the sport for as long as anybody can remember. Specific to Los Angeles, Petersen wouldn’t be the first goalie to apparently struggle under the weight of heightened expectations.
Jamie Storr is perhaps the most obvious example when it comes to the Kings. Selected seventh overall at the 1994 Draft, the Brampton, Ontario native played 205 games in LA over 10 years. To say he never reached his full potential would be an understatement.
More recently, perhaps Jack Campbell is another comparison. Selected 10th overall by the Dallas Stars at the 2010 NHL Draft — held in Los Angeles, ironically enough — he nearly didn’t make out the other side. Campbell burst onto the scene as the next great American goaltender and eventually landed in the ECHL by 2015-16. He had only played a single game in the NHL and it didn’t look like he was likely to return to that level ever again. Later that season, the Stars traded Campbell to the Kings for defenseman Nick Ebert (a previous seventh round draft pick). LA paired him with the right goaltending coach and resurrected his career over the next couple of years. By 2018-19, Campbell had a .928 save percentage in 31 games for the Kings. As they were going through a rebuild at the time, they eventually traded Campbell and Kyle Clifford to the Toronto Maple Leafs. This past offseason, he signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Oilers.
Why has Petersen been struggling? Only he truly knows the answer to that question.
About an hour after word spread that he was on waivers, I received a text from an NHL player (not on the Kings).
“What is going on in LA?” it read. “He’s one of the best goalies I’ve seen.”
Two things instantly came to mind. And they’re both tied together, even though they happened more than 10 years apart.
In the fall of 2009, Sean O’Donnell told me Jonathan Quick would win a Stanley Cup as an NHL goalie. At the time, Quick had one year of NHL experience. He had played 44 games in the 2008-09 season.
The second memory stirred up was a tweet from Robin Lehner in August 2021. He was asked for a list of his Top 5 goalies in the NHL. Petersen was on that list, coming off of his first real season in the NHL. He had played 35 games in 2020-21. About a month after Lehner’s tweet, Petersen signed a three-year contract with the Kings carrying at AAV of $5 million per season.
It’s been a rough go since then.
However, the two memories are a reminder of something. Players know; game recognizes game, as the kids say.
Which is why today’s text felt important.
Petersen will find his way back to the NHL.
Lead photo via ALo Images
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