Kings Sign Brayden Schenn
All the chips are falling into place. Lombardi signs Brayden Schenn to a 3-year bonus-laden ELC -- obviously with the intent of making him a King as soon as the Wheat Kings finish their season, which, since Brandon is hosting the Memorial Cup, will be May 24th, right about the time the Kings are playing game three of the conference finals -- oh, never mind. I don't think we'll be seeing Schenn any more this season (although it would be, um, nice...given that the Kings would first have to win 8 playoff games -- more playoff wins than they have had in one year since 1993).
Ever since he (along with draft-mate Kyle Clifford) almost made the cut this year, I have penciled in Schenn and Clifford (in the roster that exists only in my mind) for opening night 2010-11. There are several reasons this is foolhardy: (1) Since his cap hit with bonus is more than $3MM, they're not going to promote him just to give him 4th line minutes. (2) There's no room for him behind Kopitar, Stoll and Handzus. My response to my counter-self is, if Schenn is ready for the big leagues in October, they're not going to send him back to Brandon because Stoll and Handzus were there first. If he's ready, Lombardi will make room for him. He will either trade one of Stoll or Handzus, or he will let Schenn get his feet wet on the fourth line, or he'll convert him to wing for awhile.
The same can be said for Oscar Moller and Andrei Loktionov, both of whom may be full-grown and ready before there's a top-six center spot open for them (maybe not next season, but certainly by the one after that). In all three cases, there's no need to throw them to the wolves by placing them on the 1st line (a la Moulson, Lewis, Purcell) because there's no one else who can do the job. And, unlike most people, I don't have any problem with a fourth line of Clifford/Schenn/Clune, or Clifford/Schenn/x, where x equals a double-shift for whichever top six forward is playing extra well that night. We've seen Murray do this with the fourth line a several points this season, and I'm a huge fan of that strategy. I also prefer a fourth line that can play more than 5 minutes a game. So...
Available candidates for the five slots are: Alexander Frolov, Brad Richardson, Scott Parse, Trevor Lewis, Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune, Moller, Loktionov, Clifford, Schenn, and of course, Raitis Ivanans, Jeff Halpern, Fredrik Modin and Peter Harrold. I'm going to make some assumptions. (1) Clune will play on the fourth line. (2) Brad Richardson will make the team and be the utility forward, a better Peter Harrold. (3) Let's pretend for the moment that Frolov is gone. I like him and wish he would stay and score 40 goals. But because he's a UFA, let's just leave him off the roster for a moment, to see what it looks like. And, while we're at it, let's put Clifford and Schenn in there.
So we have a second line LW hole where Frolov was and maybe should be. And presumably we'll have to have a knuckle-dragger -- say, Ivanans. I can see Lombardi looking at this roster and deciding that Moller and Loktionov would do well to rule the AHL for a season (like they were doing before the entire line -- Parse/Loktionov/Moller -- was called up). Maybe those two are penciled in for arrival in 2011-12. That doesn't hurt me too much.
But, as far as that LW2 slot goes, it could be Frolov, or a UFA signing (Patrick Marleau?), or Parse. After this season, Parse's waiver-exemption runs out, so it will be sink or swim for him. He would certainly get picked up on waivers, so he either has to nail down a spot, or be Purcelled. Anyway, I think that's a pretty decent roster.
I keep meaning to ask: when Schenn makes the team for real, is he going to switch to #10?