Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Find McLaren A Home

It isn't exactly common practice to intentionally and deliberately hold an ostensibly injury-free player out of all training camp scrimmages without having clear-cut plans to trade said player, especially when the team in question is just over the league-mandated salary cap. So one can only deduce that Kyle McLaren has either developed some sort of rare and ironic allergy to ice or the hip-checking Sharks defenseman is on the trading block. Disallowed from participating in any of the team's three scrimmages thus far at Sharks Ice in addition to tonight's Teal and White Game, it has become fairly evident that McLaren will not be donning teal or white come opening day. Er, at least not in conjunction. So as we bid adieu to one of the last links on the current roster to the Dean Lombardi regime, it's only fitting that we handicap Big Mac's likely destinations.

Los Angeles Kings

Speaking of Lombardi, we all know the Sharks GM loves his ex-players. First it was Alyn McCauley, then Scott Thornton, then Brad Stuart, then Tom Preissing and soon enough the Kings' clubhouse served as a virtual garbage bin for Sharks retreads. The Kings also remain under the salary cap floor (albeit with key RFA Patrick O'Sullivan still unsigned), but you wonder whether Deano would be keen to help a division rival escape their cap troubles. At the end of the day, however, Lombardi has to do what's best for the Kings and with a defense corps greener than a rabid environmentalist's utopia (I know, my metaphors are amazing) it stands to reason that the team would like to shore up their blueline with a veteran addition.

Atlanta Thrashers

Although the Thrash have been mentioned as potentially active participants in the Mathieu Schneider Sweepstakes (can a player so unwanted that he clears waivers in late September really engender a "sweepstakes"?), the team already has two palatable power-play quarterbacks in Tobias Enstrom and Ron Hainsey. And it's almost guaranteed Ilya Kovalchuk returns to his customary position on the left point of the team's man-advantage unit. So while Atlanta is in need of defensemen (rushing Zach Bogosian to the NHL at age 18 would have severely detrimental consequences down the road), desirable skill sets among those blueliners would include more hitting and sandpaper than passing and shooting. Kyle McLaren certainly fits the bill, but with knee injuries having slowed him the past few seasons, one wonders if K-Mac could hold up in the high-flying Southeast Division.

St. Louis Blues

Of all the ways to sustain a season-ending injury, "golf cart accident" might just rank up there with skate blade wrist-slitting as among the strangest. Obligatory and unoriginal jokes linking the Blues to frequent golfing aside, the loss of presumed No. 1 defenseman Erik Johnson is huge and likely spells the end of what minimal playoff hopes the franchise harbored for the upcoming season. While the aforementioned Schneider would probably be a better fit as a Johnson replacement due to his special teams skills, the unreliability of Jay McKee's groin suggests that St. Louis could use a minute-munching, physical, penalty-killing veteran d-man in their lineup. Unfortunately, such a player is not on the market, but the Blues can settle for the next best thing in McLaren. And, besides, what team is better acquainted with K-Mac's hip-checking skills?

My point exactly.

Regardless of his last rather forgettable, injury-riddled campaign, McLaren's newfound status as the franchise's first cap casualty is regrettable as K-Mac has represented the team well and been nothing short of a class act since arriving in San Jose from Boston (when he infamously went from being Ray Bourque's partner to...Mike Rathje's partner). Thanks and good luck, K-Mac, we'll miss you.

No comments: