| | The Kings and Justin Papineau appear to have gone their separate ways. While Justin Papineau is not the first highly skilled player to re-enter a draft after not being able to come to terms, he may be the most talented individual to leave such a untalented farm system. With Papineau’s departure, the Kings have virtually no playmakers in their system. Knowing this, why would the Kings do this? The answers are actually a little more clear than they may seem. I, for one, had hoped that they would sign Papineau because of his offensive prowess. The Kings clearly don’t think enough of his game to make him an offer on a larger signing bonus. We all know the knocks about Papineau, but I think there is something the Kings saw when they made their last scouting trip to see him that made their decision final. One of those things may actually have happened here. Scott Barney underwent back surgery and by all accounts, should be ready to race by the start of training camp. The Kings have always thought more of Barney and the fact that they didn’t sign Papineau speaks volumes about their faith in Barney.
The other factor is this- they were able to sign two players who may help the team next year. Papineau’s game needed to be honed in the AHL, but Kip Brennan and Joe Rullier may contribute next season. Both are physical players who will not need to be introduced to the hard-hitting NHL game. Kip Brennan can drop his gloves with the best of them and there will likely be an opening for some muscle next year. Joe Rullier had a stellar Memorial Cup and his game is molded to the NHL style. With the impending expansion draft, the Kings are likely to lose a defenseman and Rullier has the size and skill that appeals to Kings management enough to give him a shot. The problems with the system are even more glaring now. Joe Rullier is now the top prospect and he will may be in the NHL. That means players like Eric Belanger, Kevin Baker and Scott Barney and 23 year-old Pavel Rosa are the top forwards in the organization. Look for the Kings to go heavy on forwards, particularly centermen, in the draft. The Kings may also shed some mid-level prospects to gain either more picks or some more players in juniors.
We’ll see what happens.