With the inevitable demotions of Damir Sharipzyanov (who was only here because he was recovering from a broken wrist) and Peter Budaj (who was only here because he was a warm body who can goalie), the Los Angeles Kings now have 28 players on their roster five days before the beginning of the 2015-16 season.
Locks (17, plus 1 injured):
F: Gaborik, Kopitar, Lucic, Pearson, Carter, Toffoli, Lewis, King, Brown, Clifford
D: Doughty, Muzzin, Ehrhoff, Martinez, McNabb, Greene (injured)
G: Quick, Enroth
Up for Grabs (11 players, 5 or 6 spots):
F: Nolan, Andreoff, Shore, Weal, Mersch, O'Neill, Lowry (injured)
D: McBain, Forbort, Schultz, LoVerde
We'll continue our analysis with the assumption that Vincent LoVerde ain't sticking (he has to pass through waivers, though), and Joel Lowry will be gone once he recovers from his back injury. So 26 candidates for 23 spots.
For the purposes of this exercise, I'm also going to assume that Jordan Nolan and Andy Andreoff have locked in their spots on the Opening Night roster, though they're not necessarily guaranteed to be there. (Andrew had a different idea for what to do with those two, but I don't see that happening, do you?) If Matt Greene recovers in time for Opening Night, that's 20 spots taken, and three left for six players to grab.
Nick Shore (waiver-exempt): Really, the only reason to send Shore down is that he can go to Ontario without being exposed to waivers. If Shore had been able to make a convincing case for the third-line center spot he'd be a lock; instead, it looks like Trevor Lewis is getting that gig for now, and Andreoff is competing for the fourth-line center spot as well. Hm, maybe he's not a lock at all.
Jordan Weal (NOT waiver-exempt): Sending Weal down would essentially guarantee Weal's ticket out of Los Angeles. Yes, we know he's 5'10" (max), but if he hits waivers, someone is going to take a chance on the Calder Cup Playoffs MVP. It's hard to see him being sent down considering there are two other waiver-exempt forwards, and the other one on the block (see below) is four years older and a similar player, but you never know. Weal might find himself in the 2014-15 Andreoff role, but he should survive the cut.
Brian O'Neill (NOT waiver-exempt): O'Neill is in the same boat as Weal, but his position looks a lot more fragile because he's considerably less likely to be claimed off waivers. When you're 27 years old with no NHL experience, even being the AHL MVP doesn't mean a team is going to give you an NHL shot. O'Neill seems like a really good emergency one or two game option, but it doesn't seem like management wants him to contribute too much more than that.
Michael Mersch (waiver-exempt): And then there's Mersch. We talked about him.
Jamie McBain and Jeff Schultz (NOT waiver-exempt): I'm putting these two together because if all six defensemen are healthy, do you see any way in which they both stay up? (If Greene is hurt, there's a pretty good chance they both stay up, actually.) McBain is probably likelier to stay up based on preseason pairings and 2014-15 performance. Keeping either probably means we say a temporary goodbye to...
Derek Forbort (waiver-exempt): He's a victim of the math, unless you're willing to lose one or both of McBain and Schultz. Far more than Shore, he needed to win a starting spot (not happening after Ehrhoff's signing) or be an extremely impressive spare option in order to stay with the Kings. Would you give him a chance now?
For the purposes of the poll below, I've made the executive decision to go with 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies. The ultra-safe move is to send down the three waiver-exempt players and one of the veteran defensemen. The likeliest move is to send down O'Neill, Mersch, and Forbort along with one of the veteran defensemen. You're the GM, though. Who do you keep?