Maine Hockey Journal

Kings G.M. upset over the loss of Ellis

Portland, ME – It looks like Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi is calling foul after Matt Ellis, who was placed on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres, cleared and was assigned to the Portland Pirates. For Ellis, it seemed he was bound for the minors at some point of season for one team in the AHL.

After Lombardi acquired Ellis on waivers last February from Detroit, he signed Ellis to a one-year, two-way contract in the off-season with the intentions of sending him to the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings AHL affiliate. However, that plan became moot when Ellis was claimed by the Sabres on Oct 1 after forward Paul Gaustad suffered a right thumb injury that required surgery.

The Sabres suffered a rash of early season injuries that allowed Ellis to see action in seven games with the Sabres, but after Jochen Hecht returned to the line up on Friday, Ellis was promptly placed on waivers.

The Kings, just like the other 28 NHL team, were more than welcome to place a claim on the 27-year old forward. They didn’t do so and now they are signing like jailbirds for losing out on an opportunity to reclaim Ellis, who ultimately cleared waivers and was assigned to Portland.

“It’s not really fair because he was our player,” said Lombardi. “Buffalo got a windfall here that they get to put him down (Portland) under these circumstances. I don’t think it’s right. I think it’s a quirk in the system and it’s not the way it’s intended to work . . . (NHL) agreed it’s not the way it’s intended to work and it’s not fair, but. ”

For the Kings, this is no more than a case of being caught with your pants as a pretty girl walks right on by.

Embarrassing, eh?

Lombardi had the same amount of time that every other NHL team had in order to place a claim on Ellis. If he had done his homework, he would have know only Detroit has shown any interested in claiming him, but choose not too.

Lombardi main contention was if he claimed Ellis and another team had placed a claim, then he would have had to place Ellis on the NHL roster or again place him on waivers in order to send him to Manchester. It’s a new caveat to the CBA, but it’s not something new as Lombardi contends. If the claim were successful, then Lombardi would have needed to make a decision on whom to send to the Monarchs. Only two players on the current NHL roster could have been sent to Manchester without the need of waivers, Peter Harrold and Brian Boyle, and while nether should be sent down because for just roster reasons, it happens all the time.

One just has to look at the cap issues of the cross-town rivals, the Anaheim Ducks and Bobby Ryan.

Ryan, who earned his way on to the Ducks roster, was told by GM Brian Burke that due salary cap issues, he would need to go to the Iowa Chops and play another season in the AHL.

For the second overall draft pick behind Sid the Kid, it’s been a long arduous battle to make it to the NHL and when you’ve finally arrived, to be told that you make too much money to play is nothing short of a slap in the face, but it’s business as they say in the business.

Speaking of those same Ducks, three times during their affiliation with the Pirates, waivers became an issue.

They were sometimes a successful, while other outcomes were not.

During the ’05-’06 season, the Ducks first season as the affiliate of the Pirates, they attempted to send Chris Kunitz to Portland only to lose him on waivers to Atlanta. After just a pair of games with Atlanta, they placed him back on waivers with the intention on sending him to Chicago, Atlanta’s AHL affiliate. Burke and staff made a conscious decision to place a claim on Kunitz, knowing that any other team might very well do the same. Anaheim re-claimed Kunitz and promptly sent him to Portland where he played five games before earning a recall to the Ducks and eventually a Stanley Cup.

The following season, it not only happened once to Anaheim, but twice as they lost both Karl Stewart and Michael Leighton via the waiver wire. Prior to the start of the year, Anaheim attempted to send Stewart to Portland with much the same intentions as the Kings did with Ellis. He was a veteran, who would provide a little leadership to a young group of players, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Pittsburgh Penguins quickly claimed him on his way down to Portland.

Stewart only played three games with the Penguins before they decided to place him on waivers, at which point Anaheim had to decide if they wanted to place a claim on him or let him pass through. They decided against it because they were aware that Chicago was placing a claim him and Anaheim wasn’t in a position of having Stewart on the Ducks roster should they be successful.

In Leighton’s case, he was claimed on re-entry waivers by the Nashville Predators due to an injury suffered by Tomas Vokoun and when he returned from the IR, Leighton was sent to the Predators farm club in Milwaukee, but was claimed by Philadelphia. Anaheim had placed a claim on him, but lost out.

In three specific examples, it’s easy to see how the waiver wire worked and how it was intended to work. At the of the day, it was up to Lombardi to make the decision on whether putting a claim on Ellis was worth it to his current club or let him move on.

If Lombardi wanted Ellis, then he dropped the ball and he has nobody to blame, but himself.

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