LA Kings: Having two competent goalies next year will be critical

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

Despite limited playing time last year, Cal Petersen generally played well for the LA Kings. Having a solid backup to Jonathan Quick will be vital for the 2020-2021 season.

Backup goalies are having a larger role in today’s NHL. You see it all over the league. Anton Khudobin made 30 starts during the regular season, but he was a major reason why the Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. And despite Tuukka Rask being the featured goalie in Boston, Jaroslav Halak has been an outstanding backup goalie for the Bruins.

For the LA Kings, Jonathan Quick has been a staple as the team’s netminder since the 2008-2009 season. The third-round draft pick in the 2005 NHL Draft split time with Erik Ersberg and Jason LaBarbera in his first full season, but it was evident that he was the future as the Kings’ goalie.

The past couple of seasons, Quick has been complemented by both Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen. The former was part of the Kyle Clifford trade to the Maple Leafs, which left Petersen as the team’s primary backup. And Quick will be entering his age-35 season whenever the 2020-2021 season begins.

The Kings have naturally begun splitting time in net between the two goalies with Petersen playing in 8 games and recording a .922 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA. Of his 8 games in net, 5 were deemed quality starts. Unless one of the younger prospects emerges, it would appear that the 25-year-old Petersen is the heir apparent to Quick.

The latter still has three years left on 10-year, $58M contract extension he signed before the 2013-2014 season. The Kings’ are reportedly high on the Quick and Petersen tandem and will incentivize Seattle in some fashion not to pick a goaltender from LA as part of the team’s expansion draft.

The chart below is from Charting Hockey. As you can see, Petersen allowed way too many rebounds, and while it’s a small sample size, he’ll need to clean that up next year.

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Speaking of, while the league has tentatively set a date of December 1 for Opening Night, that has yet to be finalized. The league will have the difficult task of scheduling an 82-game schedule in a pandemic. A bubble worked for the playoffs, but asking players to be away from their families for five or six months is unreasonable. It would seem likely that teams begin the league year at their respective venues with no fans, and slowly introducing them back in.

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Back to the goalie situation.

With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman set on implementing a full 82-game schedule, there is sure to be more back-to-back games than usual, which will make having two quality goaltenders a must for teams. This year’s free agency offers potentially the largest market for netminders, and other teams are likely to value backup goalies more than usual, given what lies ahead.

With Day 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft commencing this evening, the Kings won’t be in the market for Yaroslav Askarov, but don’t be surprised if they take a goalie on Day 2 of the draft. The organization has taken a goalie in each year of the Rob Blake era as general manager, including two netminders in 2018.

As noted, Petersen appears to be next in line when Quick calls it quits, but pandemic or not, it would seem to make more sense for the duo to split time in the 2020-2021 campaign. What that split looks like, I am not for certain. But with more back-to-backs likely in the schedule, having a competent goalie like Petersen to follow Quick while be paramount for the LA Kings next year.