Kings’ Cloutier goes on waivers

Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Dan Cloutier’s bid to redeem himself as Kings goaltender took a drastic turn when the team put him on waivers Friday, meaning the franchise will probably pay him $3.1 million this season to start in the minors.

Unless Cloutier is claimed by another NHL team before 9 a.m. today, he will be sent to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ minor-league affiliate, instead of leaving with the team for their European trip.

And it means 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Bernier will be staying with the team for now, having done enough in net over the last few games to make Coach Marc Crawford want to see more. The Kings take on Colorado here tonight.


General Manager Dean Lombardi said Friday’s move was not an overnight decision.

“He got completely healthy and really had a good summer,” Lombardi said of Cloutier, who missed most of the last two seasons with injuries. “Physically he was there and technically, he looked a lot better. But in the end, it comes down to playing.”

In two exhibition games, Cloutier had his moments -- including a winning shootout effort against San Jose on Tuesday -- but did not look confident in giving up six goals in 31 shots.

“The reality now is that he hasn’t played in three years,” Lombardi said, adding that the minors will afford Cloutier more playing time.

If Cloutier ends up in Manchester, he can rejoin the Kings after the season begins, but would have to clear waivers again.

Lombardi acquired the veteran goalie from Vancouver on July 5, 2006, in exchange for a second-round draft pick in the 2007 draft and a conditional pick in the 2009 draft. But Crawford had pushed to get Cloutier, who was seen as the answer to the team’s years-long goaltending woes.

Lombardi said at the time, “We get a guy that stabilizes us in net, gives us credibility.”

Cloutier, then 30, was in the final year of a two-year contract when the Kings signed him to a two-year extension worth $6.2 million.

That raised some eyebrows, given that he was still coming back from knee surgery.

But Crawford was unworried, having been Cloutier’s coach while with the Canucks. Cloutier had success under Crawford, with more than 30 wins for three straight seasons.

Crawford quickly named him the Kings’ No. 1 goalie, saying at the time, “No disrespect, but I think it’s an upgrade for the group that we have here.”

But it was a disaster. Cloutier was ineffective, often allowing soft goals and hearing loud boos. In January, his season ended when he underwent hip surgery. His stats: a 6-14-2 record, a .860 save percentage and a 3.98 goals-against average.

Friday’s move means that Bernier, the Kings’ No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, will be with the team as it travels first to Austria for exhibition matches and then to London to open the season Sept. 29 against the Ducks.

Joining Bernier are Jason LaBarbera and Jean-Sebastien Aubin. LaBarbera won 39 games and had a 2.20 goals-against average with the Monarchs last season. --