EL SEGUNDO, CA — If you thought the nightmare that was Dan Cloutier would never again emerge from the dark recesses of your mind, guess again.
Cloutier has returned to the Los Angeles Kings and will be on the roster for the team’s 2009-10 training camp, hoping to earn a roster spot.
On Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Harold Reese ruled that the Kings and the National Hockey League must reinstate Cloutier as a roster player, extend his contract through the 2009-10 season and pay him the full value of his contract through the end of his contract.
Cloutier and the National Hockey League Players Association filed suit against the Kings and the NHL after the league ruled in favor of the Kings in a grievance filed by Cloutier in August, 2008.
Last July, the Kings bought out Cloutier’s contract, but he alleged that he was injured, so the buyout should be voided.
The court ruled that the Kings and the NHL failed to provide sufficient documentation or medical records that showed the contract buyout was based on performance and that Cloutier was fit to play.
In the end, the court voided the buyout, reinstated Cloutier to the Kings roster and ordered the Kings and the NHL to ensure that he is given a “fair and equal” opportunity to compete for a roster spot in the 2009-10 season, which will be the final year of his contract.
“I’m very happy,” said Cloutier. “All I wanted was to be treated fairly. The Kings and the league did not treat me fairly. All I was asking for was what was legitimately owed to me.”
“Even more important, I’m going to get one more chance to revive my career,” added Cloutier. “Yes, there will probably be a rough road ahead with the Kings but this isn’t personal for me. I have no hard feelings and I think both sides will be professional about it.”
“When I get out there on the ice, I will do my best for the team. Hopefully, I can play well and get back to the level of play I was at a few years ago.”
Cloutier, 32, played in just thirteen games in the 2003-04 season for the Vancouver Canucks after suffering a season-ending partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament. In those games, Cloutier was 8-3-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average (GAA) and a .892 save percentage.
The 6-1, 195-pound native of Mont-Lauier, Quebec had a career record of 131-124-33, a 2.66 GAA and a .902 save percentage in 318 NHL regular season games with the Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers, who selected him in the first round (26th overall) of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.
In 25 NHL playoff games, Cloutier was 10-13 with a 3.21 GAA and a .872 save percentage. In the 2003-04 season, Cloutier set career highs for minutes played (3,539) and GAA (2.27), and he matched career highs in wins (33) and save percentage (.914).
In 33 career NHL games with the Kings, Cloutier earned a 8-18-3 record, a 3.83 GAA and a .864 save percentage.
In short, while he was with the Kings, Cloutier was a sieve, not a goaltender. Indeed, he could not have been more of a disaster between the pipes, hence, the contract buyout.
With Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg having locked down the goaltending duties with the Kings and with Jonathan Bernier right behind them, the return of Dan Cloutier only complicates matters.
“Dan coming back to us puts us in a rather odd position,” said Kings Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs, Jeff Solomon. “This adds $3.1 million to our salary cap that we did not expect and we look like we’re set in goal with Quick and Ersberg. Jonathan Bernier is developing well at Manchester, so adding Dan to the mix could create quite a mess for us in goal.”
“That said, we like Dan,” added Solomon. “He’s a great guy. We know this wasn’t a personal thing. He felt he was doing what was right for himself and his family and we respect that. He will get a fair shake at a chance to play with our club next season, although it will clearly be an uphill battle for him having played in so few games over the four years.”
Indeed, the return of Dan Cloutier throws a big wrench into the Kings’ plans for the 2009-10 season. However, even if the Kings bend over backwards to give him that fair and equal opportunity to make the roster, it is not very likely that he will be able to do so. Moreover, the fact that this news came to light on April 1 makes the chances of that happening even more remote.
If you haven’t already figured it out, this is an April Fools Day gag story, a tradition I started long, long ago over on the Online Kingdom and continues here on Frozen Royalty. Nothing stated above is true, except for Cloutier’s career statistics. My apologies to Dan Cloutier, Jeff Solomon, the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL, the NHLPA, the US District Court (the judge named is fictional) and anyone else who may be directly or indirectly affected by this story. No malice was intended. This was nothing more than an attempt at humor on April Fools Day.
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.