The NHL and the players’ association reportedly had a three-hour meeting today, during which proposals were exchanged. If no new collective-bargaining agreement is reached before Friday night, the players will be locked out and the start of training camp — Kings players have been scheduled to report by Monday morning — will almost certainly be delayed. Details about today’s meeting are still coming out, and it’s not known when the sides will talk again.
What does it mean for Kings players? In the short term, it arguably has the most impact on young players. The AHL, including the Kings-affiliated Manchester Monarchs, will have a season no matter what. The only question is, which players will be on the Monarchs’ roster? Under normal circumstances, here’s how things would go:
1. Many of the Kings’ junior-level and some AHL prospects would have reported to El Segundo this week for a rookie camp.
2. All players would be with the team for the start of on-ice workouts next Tuesday.
3. Incrementally, prospects would be assigned back to their junior teams, or to Manchester camp, throughout Kings training camp.
4. The Monarchs’ training camp would start on Sept. 27 in New Hampshire.
5. The Kings and Monarchs would both start their respective regular seasons on Oct. 12.
What has changed, or is likely to change, now? For one, the rookie camp has been canceled, and the likelihood of training camp starting on time is diminished by the day. Today, the NHL and the players’ association reached agreement on a one-time special waiver period, which will allow teams to have more flexibility in terms of how to deal with waiver-eligible players who are on two-way contracts. Take, for example, Jake Muzzin. Normally, if Muzzin came to training camp but then got assigned to Manchester, he would have to clear waivers. Then, if the Kings wanted to bring him back up at any point, he would also have to clear re-entry waivers. With today’s agreement, players such as Muzzin will still have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL, but will not have to go through re-entry waivers if the Kings decide to recall him shortly before the start of the season (whenever that may be). For the Kings, this applies to players such as Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, Andrew Campbell and Marc-Andre Cliche (I’m attempting to get the full list at this moment). By Friday afternoon, the Kings must decide whether to put them through waivers and (if they clear) have them eligible to start the season in Manchester. The Kings have not yet decided whether they will put any players on waivers. The positive is, they would be able to get playing time and could be easily recalled when the (probable) lockout ended. The negative is, they are at risk of being claimed. The alternative for the Kings is to not expose those prospects to waivers now, and give them a chance to make the team whenever NHL camp opens.
According to Dean Lombardi, the only three players with NHL experience who can be assigned to Manchester without the waiver process are Andrei Loktionov, Jordan Nolan and Slava Voynov. They would be eligible to start the season in Manchester, and would be able to return to the Kings whenever the lockout got resolved. They are the only NHL players who would not be exposed to some type of waivers, so there would be no risk in the Kings assigning them to the Monarchs.
As for AHL-eligible prospects — Tyler Toffoli, for example — they will start camp with the Monarchs on Sept. 27, assuming an NHL agreement hasn’t been reached before then. If players such as Loktionov, Nolan and Voynov are also in camp, there’s going to be quite a competition for spots on the Monarchs’ roster.
As for NHL veterans, if the season doesn’t start on time, they are free to either sign contracts to play in Europe, or to sit and wait. The Kings have no input as to what those players choose to do during the lockout.
So now, we wait and see. When I spoke to Lombardi today, he was getting on a plane bound for New York, to be part of league meetings there. Players, including several Kings, are also staging in New York in a show of solidarity. Hopefully, both sides realize that the fans don’t care, at all, about public flexing of the “we’re more unified” muscles. They just want a deal done.