Fill in the blanks

It’s too early for this, but what else are we going to talk about? I was thinking about all the prospects out there, and who might fit where with the Kings. So let’s take a look at the depth chart, as it stands now minus unrestricted free agents and including only “established” NHL players:

First line: O’Sullivan-Kopitar-Brown
Second line: Cammalleri-(BLANK)-Frolov
Third line: Calder-Handzus-(BLANK)
Fourth line: Ivanans-Armstrong-(BLANK)

First pairing: Visnovsky-Johnson
Second pairing: (BLANK)-Preissing
Third pairing: (BLANK)-(BLANK)

Goalies: (BLANK)-(BLANK)

So, how would you fill in the gaps? Free agents or prospects? Which ones? Here’s a list of potential prospects:

Forwards: Brian Boyle, Marc-Andre Cliche, Matt Ellis, Gabe Gauthier, Trevor Lewis, Oscar Moller, Matt Moulson, Brady Murray, Scott Parse, Teddy Purcell, Wayne Simmonds, Lauri Tukonen, Kevin Westgarth, John Zeiler.

Defensemen: Peter Harrold, Patrik Hersley, Thomas Hickey, Alec Martinez, Joe Piskula.

Goalies: Jonathan Bernier, Erik Ersberg, Jason LaBarbera, Jon Quick, Daniel Taylor, Jeff Zatkoff.

If you’d like to re-sign any of the Kings’ free agents, there’s Rob Blake, Kevin Dallman, Jeff Giuliano, Jon Klemm, Ladislav Nagy, Brian Willsie.

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Manchester update

The blog server appears to be working today, so I’ll give this whole posting thing a go. Don Fulton tracked down coach Mark Morris, whose Manchester Monarchs are in dire straits, down 3-0 to Providence and facing elimination tonight. Don also has an interview with Jeff Zatkoff ready to go. Here’s what Morris had to say about the Monarchs’ situation:

On being down 3-0 in the series.

“We’ve gotten great goaltending from both Bernier and Quick, and I don’t think we have to hang our heads at all. We had those two goals disallowed (in Game 3), that in our opinion, were both good goals, and we didn’t have a whole lot of things go our way. I really believe that we are really on the verge of winning any one of those games. These are the types of battles that are going to make these guys better hockey players.”

On the absence of Brian Boyle:

“That was a huge blow. Brian is such a physical presence, guy who played half the season as a defenseman and still lead the league in rookie scoring. I can’t say enough for what he has meant to our hockey club. There aren’t too many 6-7, 250-pound people that can replace him. He’s been a huge presence in front of the net on the power play, and a good face-off man. He knows how to distribute the puck and he is a hard guy to hold. My guess is that his recovery time is going to be too lengthy unless we are able to turn this thing around.”

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Player evaluation: LaBarbera



This season: 45 games, 17-23 record, 3.00 goals-against average, .910 save percentage.

Positives: Actually made it to the NHL this season and did a strong job during points of the season. His size (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) remains his clear strong point and his positioning is usually solid. When he’s able to stay healthy and get in a rhythm, LaBarbera is able to build some confidence and is capable of long stretches of good play.

Negatives: LaBarbera has still yet to show that he can make it through an entire NHL season without significant injury or without being replaced because of substandard play. He tends to be a little streaky — but most goalies are — and while his size is a positive, it also limits his mobility.

Looking ahead: Once again, LaBarbera will enter training camp battling for a job. It’s been the same way every season since 2005. LaBarbera would have to be considered the favorite to earn the No. 1 job, although certainly not an overwhelming favorite. He will have to hold off Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Bernier, and possibly others, in order to win the job outright.

Contract situation: Signed through 2008-09 (cap number of $825,000 next season).

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Player evaluation: Ersberg



This season: 14 games, 6-5 record, 2.48 goals-against average, .927 save percentage.

Positives: Surprisingly, Ersberg emerged as a bright light in an otherwise dark and grim goaltending situation. Before the season, the Kings believed Ersberg would need a full year of minor-leagues seasoning, but he had two shutouts in 13 starts. The rest of the goalies combined for one (LaBarbera) in 69 starts. For the most part, Ersberg looked sharp and composed and showed great rebound control.

Negatives: Ersberg’s play generated a lot of excitement, and that’s understandable, but it’s also wise to remember that he had a 2.92 goals-against average in Manchester and hasn’t yet dealt with the rigors of being a full-time NHL goalie. That’s not to say he wouldn’t thrive in that role, but what has he really proved at this point?

Looking ahead: It will be interesting to see what happens with Ersberg this summer. If things work out, Ersberg will at least be in the mix for a roster spot, with Jason LaBarbera and Jonathan Bernier likely serving as his primary competition.

Contract situation: Restricted free agent.

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Player evaluation: Cloutier

We’ll do the last of the player evaluations today, with everyone’s favorite position: the goalies. We’re going to do a separate set of evaluations for the prospects, which will include Bernier and Quick. So why not start with…




This season: 9 games, 2-4 record, 3.43 goals-against average, .887 save percentage.

Positives: Well…hmmm. Cloutier did have one shining game, Feb. 21 against St. Louis, when he stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 5-1 victory. Then again, that game against the second-worst team in the Western Conference.

Negatives: It’s easy to pile on Cloutier, but it’s just been an unfortunate situation all around. He tried to play while hurt during 2006, and that’s admirable, but his acquisition/signing was just a disaster, in every sense of the word. The one thing he can be blamed for is the way he turned on the organization, which publicly supported him throughout all his troubles.

Looking ahead: The summer could go in a couple different ways. The most likely outcome is that Cloutier will have the final year of his contract bought out. There’s a chance he could end up in a long-term-injury situation, but regardless, it’s almost certain that he won’t be on the Kings’ roster next season.

Contract situation: Signed through 2008-09 (cap number of $3.1 million next season).

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Player evaluation: Visnovsky



This season: 82 games, 8 goals, 33 assists, minus-18 rating.

Positives: This depends on which Visnovsky you’d like to talk about: the one who, during the previous couple seasons, established himself as a potential Norris Trophy candidate, or the one who looked tenative and overmatched this season. When he’s on his game, Visnovsky is, pound-for-pound, a very strong defenseman with great puck-moving skills and good offensive instincts.

Negatives: So, what happened to that guy last year? It certainly looked like a new player on the ice this season, and not in a good way.

Looking ahead: It’s hard to say what went wrong with Visnovsky. A popular theory is that he got overwhelmed, mentally, by the combination of a big contract extension (which kicks in next season) and the fact that he was named an assistant captain. The hope within the organization is that he will settle down and return to previous form.

Contract situation: Signed through 2012-13 (cap number of $5.6 million next season).

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Player evaluation: Preissing



This season: 77 games, 8 goals, 16 assists, minus-6 rating.

Positives: With Preissing’s game, it’s all a matter of expectation. He’s not the fastest or the strongest or the biggest, but he manages to play a solid, responsible game for the most part. Any team expecting Preissing to log huge minutes or play the point on the power play is going to end up disappointed, but in a defined role, he’s a solid veteran.

Negatives: A relative lack of size and strength will always hold Preissing back. At age 29, it’s hard to see Preissing ever evolving into a top-flight defenseman or a reliable power-play contributor.

Looking ahead: Preissing is a solid fourth or fifth defenseman, and not a bad player at the price the Kings have locked him up at. The problem is the Kings need better defensemen around him, so that his ice time can be managed better and his mistakes aren’t magnified.

Contract situation: Signed through 2010-11 (cap number of $2.75 million next season).

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Player evaluation: Klemm



This season: 22 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-5 rating.

Positives: Klemm has made a career out of being a grinder. He will never end up with many points, but does what is asked of him, which is to work hard, fill a handful of different roles and be a mentor for the younger players. Klemm did his most important work this season while serving as team captain for the Manchester Monarchs.

Negatives: In an ideal world, Klemm wouldn’t even have played as much as he did for the Kings this season. There’s definitely value in having a grinder, but Klemm is 38 years old and already had reached the point in which he was a marginal NHL defenseman. There isn’t any real speed or offense in Klemm’s game.

Looking ahead: It might be the end of the road for Klemm, unless both sides see value in bringing him back in a minor-league leadership role. Klemm basically did what was asked of him, although not much more.

Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.

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