It’s time to look at the Kings’ goalies. Fill in your own punchlines below. Going back for one moment, thanks to a couple readers who pointed out that defenseman Peter Harrold is actually a restricted free agent this summer because of some fine print in the CBA. Now on to the goalies:
BARRY BRUST (2-4-1, 3.70 goals-against average)
Contract status: Restricted free agent
It’s impossible to blame Brust for his struggles with the Kings. He’s an AHL goalie at best who was thrust into a difficult situation. He had his moments with the Kings, although they were fleeting, and he has put up solid numbers in the minors, so hopefully he won’t be too scarred by his experienced here. But with young goalies Jonathan Bernier, Jon Quick and Jeff Zatkoff all sitting in the Kings’ organization, I’m not sure how much of a future Brust will have in L.A. The internal competition could be tough to overcome in the next couple years.
SEAN BURKE (6-10-5, 3.12 goals-against average)
Contract status: Free agent
Signed as a stopgap measure, at the height of the Kings’ injury problems in goal, Burke provided an immediate boost but then showed why he was a 39-year-old goaltender playing in the AHL before the Kings grabbed him. Burke allowed at least three goals in each of his last 13 full games and lost his last 10 decisions. There’s really not much analysis needed. At his age, Burke is capable of having a good game now and then, but his skills are eroding, as they do for every goalie at some point. Give him credit for lifting spirits in February, and pat him on the back for a solid career, but it’s pretty much finished.
DAN CLOUTIER (6-14-2, 3.98 goals-against average)
Contract status: Signed through 2008-09
Looking back, it’s easy to see that there was something wrong. Early in the season, even in preseason, Cloutier was shaky early in games and had problems defending the near post. He never looked like his former self, the guy who one had a 2.27 goals-against average in Vancouver. I’m not convinced he was physically ready to start the season. I’m not sure why the Kings thought it was worth giving him a two-year extension before he played a regular-season game. I’m also not sure why they didn’t keep Jason LaBarbera around as a third goalie until Cloutier proved he was OK (which, of course, he never did). So it started bad, and got worse when the hip condition was discovered. Cloutier is, by far, the most important King going into next season. He should be 100 percent physically. If they can get him turned around mentally and keep him focused, he could be solid. Otherwise he will be a $3.1-million anchor.
YUTAKA FUKUFUJI (0-3-0, 4.37 goals-against average)
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Take what was said about Brust, and multiply it by two. Fukufuji wasn’t even ready for the AHL this season, yet found himself in the NHL because of injury problems. Fukufuji’s debut was fun, and got some attention because of his status as a Japanese groundbreaker. But I don’t see much of a future in the NHL for Fukufuji. He showed some decent instincts but he’s listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and, well, he’s neither. He might serve as a decent depth guy for the organization, but don’t count on seeing him in the NHL.
MATHIEU GARON (13-10-6, 2.66 goals-against average)
Contract status: Free agent
In two seasons, I never quite figured out Garon. There were times when I was certain he was on the verge of grabbing the No. 1 goalie spot, and then he immediately fell on his face or got hurt. Here’s what I conclude from that: some guys are just better as a 1-A or backup goalie. They thrive in the role and things start to fall apart a little when they get the No. 1 spot outright. Garon might be in that category. He might. I’m not sure, and he might go to another team and prove me wrong. But it just seemed as though he had the capability to be brilliant in short bursts, but perhaps he’s not the guy you want to rely upon for 70 games. From talking to him at the end of the season, I got the impression that Garon will move on, even if the Kings want him back.
Even though he didnt play for the Kings, its worth noting that Jason LaBarbera had a MVP-caliber season in the AHL and that hes a restricted free agent this summer. Unless a major shakeup in goal takes place — and I wouldnt be stunned by that, knowing how frustrated Dean Lombardi has been — I would fully expect LaBarbera to be on the roster next season, maybe even as the No. 1 goalie. Its also worth noting that in the middle of the season, there were discussions about brining Bernier out of juniors to the NHL. Ultimately they decided against that, but it speaks to how desperate the situation was. So heres the (brief) recap of the contract situations:
SIGNED THROUGH NEXT SEASON (OR BEYOND): Dan Cloutier
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Barry Brust, Yutaka Fukufuji, (Jason LaBarbera)
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Sean Burke, Mathieu Garon