The last round of waiver wire placements came in, and to the surprise of some veteran Rob Scuderi and summer signing Michael Latta were among those placed on waivers to head to the AHL.
With the 37-year old Scuderi, his camp was already poised to be a difficult one with a healthy Matt Greene, Tom Gilbert, and young guns Kevin Gravel and Derek Forbort pushing for spots. Unfortunately an injury also set the wily vet back as Darryl Sutter admitted to Kings Insider Jon Rosen that Scuderi had "Had a tough camp."
At his age, with one year left on his contract, it is hard to know whether or not Scuderi will accept assignment to the NHL or potentially retire. The latter is certainly a worthwhile option, but Scuderi with all his 783 games of NHL experience could be a valuable asset to a young Ontario Reign D-corps.
Michael Latta, 25, also joined Scuderi on the waiver list after having signed with the Kings on a one-year contract for 600K this offseason. While Scuderi's move was a little more "Writing on the wall" -ish if you will, Latta's comes as a surprise considering the Kings had trouble last season with their bottom six forwards leaking goals. Latta's strong defensive numbers and young age were certainly factors in his acquisition by L.A. The Kings also probably wanted to push current fourth line forwards Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford, and Andy Andreoff to have good camps and good offseasons considering between Clifford and Nolan scored a whopping three goals (All Clifford) last season. Latta is the second free agent signing to head to the minors, as fellow summer acquisition, Zach Trotman, also was waived earlier last week as the Kings trimmed down their roster. Both players seemed to struggle with the different style system and structure of the Kings in their preseason action. While it is unclear what the plan is now with Scuderi, Latta, and Trotman, they could be seen back up with the Kings at some point this season if they can put in a good learning shift with Ontario. The Reign start their season later this week against rivals San Diego.
This is good news for some of the other players that survived the cuts. Nic Dowd and Derek Forbort, who were both waiver eligible, were not placed on the morning list and will therefore start the season with the Kings. Kevin Gravel also has seemed to survive the cuts, as he was seen this morning taking line rushes at practice despite being waiver eligible. (EDIT: But, since Pearson's suspension takes a roster spot, it is anticipated Gravel will go down)
(Gravel is 53 for the record)
Despite fantastic camps from Kurtis MacDermid, Adrian Kempe, and Paul LaDue, it should come as no surprise that all three were missing from Kings practice today in El Segundo as they theoretically make their way back down to Ontario. The trio really seemed to turn heads this camp, and all three play a very different and valuable style for the Kings. While the amount of depth at defense and forward really makes it difficult to send all three down, they are likely first names on the docket for mid-season or injury plague call-ups should they happen. Michael Mersch was also among those missing from Kings practice, and he too is waiver exempt. For Mersch it still seems like there is a small bit of work today from dot to dot through neutral ice before he is up for good. His goal line to faceoff dot game is very strong at this point, but the transitional game is still a work in progress.
The Kings also will hold on to Tom Gilbert and Matt Greene, as both seemed to do enough to earn a place on the Los Angeles back line. While the Kings can still send down Gravel without risk of losing him, it seems that the team will run with two extra defensemen. That leaves their forward group with just one extra forward.
The formerly injured Nick Shore did take line rushes this morning, swapping in and out with Nic Dowd apparently.
With the way the defense is lined up for the moment, the Kings are going to be running with 13 forwards. With a healthy Shore but an injured Gaborik and suspended Pearson the Kings can keep hold of PTO and feel good story Devin Setoguchi for the time being. Setoguchi, who has made quite an impression with the Kings, was not among any news this morning in terms of either a contract OR a cut. Teams have until tomorrow afternoon to finalize rosters, and it looks as though Devin Setoguchi is going to be amongst the LA Kings opening night starters. It seems more than likely that once Pearson's two-game suspension is finished, Gravel would be the odd-man out unless the Kings wanted to risk losing someone to waivers and/or make a trade to free a roster spot.
With the current make-up of the roster it does look like the Kings may be focusing moreso on a top 9 skill group versus a traditional 6-6 split. However it remains to be seen how they will line up their center group. It is still highly possible we see Nic Dowd in a 2C position, with Shore and Andreoff lining up 3C and 4C, with Jeff Carter filling in on Kopitar's wing until either Pearson or Gaborik are healthy. Lewis could also be in play for the 4C job if the Kings opt to use Andreoff at wing, a place we theorized he would best fit in the middle of last season
The real decisions for the Kings will come upon the return of Marian Gaborik in a few weeks. Assuming Setoguchi stays (Which we will edit once confirmed one way or the other), the Kings will have no waiver exempt forwards and will have one too many players. Among the group of Dowd, Shore, King, Clifford, Nolan, and Andreoff. This may be a 4-6 week tryout of sorts. Once Gaborik returns someone will have to be moved out to make room.
Barring a massive change and an impending contract for Setoguchi, it looks as though the Kings have formed their roster for opening night. Now, let the roster theory crafting begin, and look for a lineup preview sometime tomorrow!
The Kings open the season Wednesday night on the road at San Jose on NBCSN.
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