The Kings came into this offseason with eight defensemen at the NHL level; as Niesy remarked in the offseason plotting thread, it would have been "a work of art" to juggle all of our impending restricted free agents, let alone the unrestricted ones. Well, after trading Jonathan Bernier, management has chosen to let another RFA go... and to the relief of many, it's not Alec Martinez.
Keaton Ellerby was the Kings' only NHL-level RFA not to receive a qualifying offer this afternoon. Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and Jordan Nolan all received offers, so each will likely be re-signing with the Kings.
The news comes via Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, and it's the next domino to fall in the Kings' roster planning in advance of July 5. That's when the free agency period begins, and by then, the Kings will need to have made their decisions on Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner, and Brad Richardson.
The full list of RFAs:
Ellerby was acquired for a 2013 5th round pick just a few weeks into the season, in response to injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. He would go on to appear in 35 games for the Kings, generally on the third pairing, and played in five playoff games as well. However, Matt Greene's return to the lineup for Game 4 against San Jose put Ellerby in the press box for the remainder of the playoffs, and Dean Lombardi seems to have decided that Ellerby will be the odd man out.
Three people to think about as Ellerby goes on his way:
- Alec Martinez. It seemed that either Martinez or Ellerby was the expendable man on the blueline. In fact, many were speculating at the possibility of an Alec Martinez draft day trade. However, this move substantially increases the likelihood that Martinez will be a King next season. Viva!
- Rob Scuderi. The Kings have usually employed three offensive defensemen and three defensive defensemen in the past. Ellerby is, of course, a defensive defenseman. With Willie Mitchell's health still in question, the Kings have openly stated their hopes of re-signing Scuderi, and this move only underscores the fact that LA is counting on Scuderi to be part of the lineup next season.
- Andrei Loktionov. He didn't fit with the Kings' plans, but the Kings essentially traded him for a guy who played 40 games with LA (the pick acquired for Loktionov went to Florida). The short-term judge of this move was that the Kings made the playoffs with Ellerby playing a significant role. To many, the long-term judge will probably be Loktionov's career. Is that fair? Probably not. Oh well.
[UPDATE: Ummmm... yeah, never mind. He's coming back.]