Kings in a Dilemma After Placing Cal Petersen on Waivers

After a 9-8 debacle against the Seattle Kraken on Nov. 29, the Los Angeles Kings placed goaltender Calvin Petersen on waivers the following day. Petersen didn’t start the game but allowed four goals on 16 shots, and some were really ugly. He obviously didn’t get waived because of one bad performance but rather a series of poor outings this season. However, it was still surprising to see him put on waivers, as it leaves a lot of questions about the future for both him and the Kings.

Petersen’s Journey

The Kings signed Petersen in 2017 after his draft rights expired. He played one season in the American Hockey League (AHL) before receiving his first call-up to the big club in 2018. In 11 games, he had a .924 save percentage (SV%) and saved 1.26 goals above expected, which takes into account the likelihood of a shot becoming a goal. That earned him a three-year contract, but he still spent most of the next season in the AHL. He was solid when he did get the call-up again and was given a full-time job in the NHL after Jack Campbell was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2020.

Cal Petersen Los Angeles Kings
Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The shortened 2020-21 season was Petersen’s first starting with the big club. He ended up taking over for Jonathan Quick, starting 32 of 56 games. He posted a .911 SV% during the season, and after that, the Kings were convinced. They signed Petersen to another three-year deal, this time worth $15 million, even though he had played just 54 career games in the NHL, although the results were great; he ranked 10th in goals above expected.

Petersen looked like the goaltender of the future after signing that deal, as Quick was struggling and getting older, and the Kings looked like they could contend in the Pacific Division after some notable additions and younger players taking a step forward like Petersen. However, things took a turn for the worse last season.

A Disappointing Season for Petersen

The 2021-22 campaign arrived, and Petersen experienced his first true struggles as an NHL goaltender. His save percentage plummeted to .895, and he allowed 7.48 more goals than expected. He also had a .850 SV% or worse in seven of his 35 starts, which put the team behind the eight-ball.

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Something else happened that affected Petersen’s playing time. Quick had his best season in four years, ranking 11th in goals saved above expected, and the Kings decided to keep playing him because they were in playoff contention and needed every point they could get. They didn’t have time to see if Petersen could figure out his game, so his playing time diminished.

Cal Petersen Los Angeles Kings
Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This season has been even worse for Petersen; he has allowed the fourth-most goals above expected and has a .867 SV%. After over a year of poor play, the Kings had to do something, and that was to put him on waivers.

Immediate Future for Petersen & Kings Goaltending

It’s rare to see a player with Petersen’s contract be waived. But his recent play made it hard to imagine a team willing to take a chance on him, especially with two years remaining at a $5.5 million cap hit. This provided the Kings with a good opportunity to get Petersen down to the AHL in hopes that he’d find his game again. But it does put the Kings in a predicament in net.

The difference between this season and last is that Quick is also really struggling. He has allowed more goals than expected and has a terrible .887 SV%. Unfortunately, this is more in line with the three seasons before last season’s resurgence, and it might be who he is at this point of his career. He also can’t play every game or a majority of them at age 36.

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This leaves the Kings in a bind. According to their salary breakdown, they only have just over $1 million in cap space. That means that any trade for a goalie would likely have to involve giving up a player who makes decent money to make the salary cap work, which will limit their options on the market.

With Petersen in the AHL, the Kings decided to call up Pheonix Copley to back up Quick. Copley is a journeyman goalie who has had a few stints in the NHL and has posted a below-average .900 SV% in his career. However, at this point, the Kings will take that save percentage, as they are sporting a league-low .883 SV%. Copley made his debut against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 6 and won, stopping 26 of 28 shots. He offers a short-term option the Kings can use.

Washington Capitals Pheonix Copley
Pheonix Copley as a Washington Capital (AP Photo/Jim Mone, file)

Copley can attempt to hold down the backup job for a while longer while Petersen finds his game again. Petersen has played two games in the AHL and won both with an excellent .947 SV%. If nothing else, this should give him some confidence moving forward, which would be the ideal scenario for the team, as the goaltending problem would fix itself without having to make any major moves.

If Petersen gets called up and continues to struggle, management will have to consider a trade. There is a bit of a logjam at forward with young players taking the next step and prospects waiting for their chance, so dealing from that position makes sense if that’s the path they need to go down. The Kings are third in the Pacific, but if goaltending continues to be an issue, a move will have to be explored. LA should not allow goaltending to be the reason they miss the playoffs and they will need to look at all options to fix the problem if they start to fall in the standings.

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