The fact that the Kings had a major issue with Cal Petersen and his unreliable netminding didn’t just materialize Tuesday night, when Petersen came on in relief and failed to rescue them from an abominable showing in a 9-8 home loss to Seattle.
Those seeds were planted in the preseason, when Petersen wasn’t particularly solid against Anaheim and Vegas after an injury caused him to miss a portion of training camp. And those seeds turned into uncontrollable weeds when regular-season games began. The Kings, who have been wildly inconsistent in their play, had to score seven times to bail Petersen out in Minnesota. Two starts later in Pittsburgh, he was pulled after giving up three first-period goals in a 6-1 loss.
It isn’t all on him, but Petersen has shown a propensity to let in questionable goals even in the games in which he is solid. And the Kings offered recognition of their serious issue in net when they put 28-year-old Petersen on waivers Wednesday.
Uh-oh. General manager Rob Blake has a pricey problem on his hands.
Petersen is nine starts into the first year of a three-year, $15 million extension, which Blake signed him to before the 2021-22 season. The Kings, now emerging from their rebuild and looking to build off last season’s playoff performance, had hoped Petersen would be ready by now to take over for 36-year-old franchise stalwart Jonathan Quick. Petersen has a 5-3-2 record, but that’s mostly because of the goal support he’s gotten. He has only three quality starts, a 3.75 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage, which is unsightly even if you account for increasing scoring league-wide.
The Kings surely thought they had something in Petersen, who was drafted by Buffalo in 2013 but chose to play college hockey at Notre Dame. The Kings signed Petersen as a free agent in 2017, then signed him to a two-year extension in 2019. By Sept. 2021, when Petersen signed the extension, he had appeared in 54 NHL games and ascended to become Quick’s backup, but the hoped-for next step has not been taken.
Blake’s problem is compounded by Quick being unable to carry the franchise as he once did. Nor should he have to, at this point in his career. But between Petersen and Quick, who is in the final year of his deal, the Kings have nearly $11 million of cap space tied up in two goalies. And it’s not like Quick – with a slash line of 7-6-2/3.30/.890 – has been lights-out or has even been duplicating last year’s impressive comeback season.