The Kings’ options are limited. They’re nearly hitting their heads on the NHL’s $69-million salary cap for next season, but since they’ve just won their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons, maybe the best move is keeping their roster relatively intact for 2014-15.
It seemed the minute the Kings announced Tuesday they agreed with Matt Greene on a new four-contract that Willie Mitchell’s days with the team were over. Mitchell is simply caught in a numbers game on defense. The Kings are up against the salary cap for starters, and they have plenty of options if they don’t re-sign Mitchell, a 37-year-old who helped them win two Stanley Cup championships. Mitchell wanted to re-sign with the Kings, preferring to remain in Southern California. He might get one of those wishes if he signs with the Ducks, who could use another veteran D-man.
Here’s a list of Kings defensemen under contract, with expiration dates: Greene (2017-18), Drew Doughty (2018-19), Alec Martinez (2014-15), Jake Muzzin (2014-15), Robyn Regehr (2014-15) and Slava Voynov (2018-19).
Here’s what Mitchell had to say recently about his future:
“I mean, there’s lots of moving parts. I get it. There’s Willie Mitchell the player. There’s the salary cap, and then there’s as a GM you structure your team so, hopefully, you can have success over a long period of time. So I get it. If you’re asking me if I want to play hockey, hell yeah, and to be honest, I think probably this playoffs is the best hockey I’ve played.”
The Kings and defenseman Matt Greene agreed Tuesday on a new four-season contract worth a reported $10.5 million. Greene, 31, was due to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but the Kings moved quickly to keep him off the open market. It also could mean veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell, who also can become a UFA next week, does not return to the Kings.
Greene has been with the Kings since arriving in a 2008 trade with the Edmonton Oilers, helping the team win Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and ’14. The defensive-minded defenseman had six points, including two goals, in 38 games this past season. He also had four assists in 20 playoff games.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter went with the status quo for Game 2 after saying one day earlier that defenseman Robyn Regehr “probably” would play for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Game 1 of the second round series against the Ducks.
Sutter stayed with Matt Greene on Saturday, keeping Regehr out of the lineup for the 15th consecutive game. Sutter said it was a difficult to put Regehr back into such high-level competition after a layoff that reached five weeks Saturday.
“Darn right it’s a consideration when you think about it,” Sutter said Sunday.
Injured defensemen Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr aren’t expected to play for the Kings in Game 2 against the Ducks on Monday. Mitchell could miss his third game after he was hurt in the Kings’ victory in Game 6 of their first-round win over the San Jose Sharks. Regehr was sidelined in the first period of Game 1 Saturday.
Matt Greene replaced Mitchell and Jeff Schultz is set to fill in for Regehr.
Schultz said he spoke briefly Sunday with Kings coach Darryl Sutter about his role.
“He just said, ‘Just go out there and play,’” said Schultz, who spent the regular season with the Kings’ American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., and was recalled last week after Mitchell was hurt. “It’s hard to replace a guy like Robyn, but I feel like I’m capable of doing a similar job of what he can do.”
Of watching Game 1 of the series from the sideline, he said, “It looks like a lot of fun out there. The Ducks are a team that is heavy on the forecheck and they come hard. It’s just a matter of getting back, moving pucks up and getting out of our zone.”
Sutter declined to speak about the conditions of Mitchell and Regehr. “It does me no good to talk about the injured players, just helps the other team,” Sutter said after the Kings held an optional skate at the El Segundo HQ.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell won’t play in Game 7 of the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the Sharks tonight in San Jose. Mitchell was injured during the Kings’ victory in Game 6 at Staples Center. Matt Greene will play for only the second time in the series. He played in Game 2 and was a minus-4.
“It’s always fun to play a high-stakes game like this,” Greene said after the Kings’ skate Wednesday morning. “I want to come in and help out. Just have to establish our game and get a good forecheck and turn pucks over. Did a good job of that in Game 5. Play good defense. Play a good team game.”
Veteran defenseman Matt Greene participated in Thursday’s non-contact practice, but there’s still no timetable for his return to the Kings’ lineup from an upper-body injury. He remains on the injured-reserve list and it certainly seemed unlikely he could play in Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders.
“Feel good. I feel good now,” Greene said. “You can’t replicate skating. The first couple of days are always tough. It’s good though. Coaches get out there and pound you for the first couple of days. It’s no fun, but it’s good. I think I’m getting closer (but) I don’t think you can put a date on it yet.
“But I think I’m getting closer. I’m getting more comfortable.”
Greene sat out all but five regular-season games last season after undergoing back surgery. This latest injury is unrelated to his back troubles.
The Kings held an optional practice Sunday, which meant there was a spirited soccer kick-around in the parking lot behind their El Segundo facility. Only a handful of players took the ice with assistant coaches John Stevens and Davis Payne and goalie coach Bill Ranford. Rookie goalie Martin Jones, still awaiting his NHL debut, was joined on the ice by injured defenseman Matt Greene plus injured forwards Matt Frattin and Trevor Lewis. Forward Tanner Pearson also skated.
The Kings placed defenseman Matt Greene and forward Kyle Clifford on the injured reserve list and recalled goaltender Martin Jones and forward Tanner Pearson from the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the American Hockey League. Greene and Clifford have unspecified upper-body injuries. It’s believed Greene’s injury is not related to the back surgery that sidelined him for almost all of last season. Clifford suffered a head injury during the Kings’ victory Saturday over Vancouver.
The Kings think quite highly of the 23-year-old Jones, who was 9-2-2 in 13 appearances for Manchester this season. He also has a 2.24 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and one shutout in his fourth season with the Monarchs. Pearson, 21, had 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 15 games in the minor leagues. He made his NHL debut during the Kings’ second-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks. He was scoreless in the Kings’ Game 3 loss.
After he watched the Kings give up two power-play goals in the first period Saturday against the Nashville Predators, after he saw their penalty-killing unit surrender at least one goal for the six consecutive game, coach Darryl Sutter decided to say something.