Matthew Barry broke the news Thursday about Matt Greene undergoing shoulder surgery that will have him sidelined 3-4 months for rehab. He also pointed out that when he suffered a knee injury last year that was supposed to keep him out 2-3 weeks, he came back after 10 days.
Still, it seems there is no possible way Greene will be ready for the start of the season, and this leaves the already thin defensive roster practically in a state of emergency.
Here is the rest of the Kings current roster of defensemen:
Drewiske played 42 games last year, and spent the later half in Terry Murray's dog house due to his lack of physicality. At age 25, Drewiske only has 59 NHL games under his belt.
Harrold is technically a utility player, and splits time between forward and defense. He is a reliable won't-screw-up fill-in guy for scratched players. He is not a player that anyone plans on for a full-time starting line-up position.
That leaves the Kings with THREE actual defensemen with at least ONE full season of NHL experience.
There are a few prospects that could be ready to make the jump:
Johan Fransson - Age 25 - Clearly has a good hockey name if nothing else. I've read mixed reports, though mainly very positive, but it is tough to compare the Swedish Elite League to the NHL. Hockeysfuture.com says, "An excellent skater with loads of offensive potential," but also, "can still improve his defensive game and at times he is a bit risky," yet, "Fransson led the entire team being +9 after the regular season, as a SEL rookie," but, "He is likely to spend at least another season in Europe." Who knows if the Greene injury changes that sentiment.
Thomas Hickey - Age 21 - Still very young for an NHL defenseman, but when I saw him at prospect camp last summer I thought he could be ready. His biggest setback is his injury problems suffered last season in Manchester. However, he came back in the playoffs without missing a beat and reportedly was one of the team's best players during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals. I would love to see him get a shot this year.
Alec Martinez - Age 23 - Perhaps Fransson's opposite in term's of hockey name. Still, reports from his AHL experience are always very high, yet his brief stint at the beginning of last season was cringe-worthy. Wouldn't be surprised to see management give him another shot, but Kings fans, including myself, would like to see what some of the other options are in the flesh.
Jake Muzzin - Age 21 - Kinda came out of nowhere (Signed as a free agent on Jan. 4, 2010) to challenge Hickey as top contender to make the big squad this season. Reports are that his size and grit make up for where he trails in skating and puck movement, though only slightly, to Hickey. Supposedly very good all around and plays with a Pronger-like edge.
Viatcheslav Voynov - Age 20 - Perhaps the most discussed Kings defensive prospect. Plays with a high defensive maturity level (think Drew Doughty but from Russia, not Krypton). Should have a solid NHL career, but most recently threatened to sign with a KHL team if he does not make the NHL this season. That fact might make it worthwhile to give him an extra long look, however, I'm sure that Dean Lombardi does not like that kind of tactic from a young player. Think about when Bernier was frustrated with being kept down before last season- what happened to him? He assigned to the AHL.
Though there is some decent, nay impressive talent to choose from, one would think that this option alone will not suffice. Lombardi needs to pick up at least one veteran defenseman to help fill out the roster.
There are still some free agents available. For example:
Kim Johnsson - Age 33 - 09/10 Salary: $5,300,000 - Holy crap. I had no idea he was making that kind of scratch. Probably only worth about half that, maybe $3.5MM, although I have always asserted that guys with feminine first names have to be bad-asses.
Paul Mara - Age 29 - 09/10 Salary: $1,675,000 - Competent defender. Limited offensive capabilities. Would at least be an inexpensive veteran.
Shaone Morrison - Age 26 - 09/10 Salary: $1,975,000 - Similar to Mara, wouldn't excite anybody but would be another reliable defender. I'm against it purely due to the spelling of his name.
Brian Pothier - Age 32 - 09/10 Salary: $2,500,000 - Eh.
Ruslan Salei - Age 34 - 09/10 Salary: $3,275,000 - Good leadership qualities, stable defensive presence, not a complete slouch with the puck. Also not hugely intriguing.
Matthieu Schneider - Age 40 - 09/10 Salary: $1,550,000 - HAHAHAHAHA. HA. Honestly, could happen. Yikes.
Aaron Ward - Age 36 - 09/10 Salary: $2,500,000 - Think of him as a somewhat pricey replacement for Sean O'Donnell. Also has that one thing that GMs always look for, the uh, what's it called? Oh right, a Stanley Cup.
Sooo, that's about it. Yeah. Any defenseman that has offensive upside or above-average puck movement skills was snatched up on July 1. Remember that day? The day when many other teams actually signed free agents?
Perhaps, if there is any plus side to the Greene situation, it's that this will unquestionably force Dean Lombardi's hand to acquire another D-man. There is always the trade route as well. Many teams are in DIRE cap situations, and there is that Tomas Kaberle guy in Toronto, who can not only play D but SNIPE, that will probably not be sporting the Leaf come October.
Who are you hoping the Kings might sign for blue line help?