EL SEGUNDO, CA — The last couple of months have been quite the whirlwind for veteran defenseman Jamie McBain, who skated in practice with the Los Angeles Kings on November 10, and, as first reported by Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, will be signed today to a one-year contract worth $550,000, the league minimum salary.
The 26-year-old, 6-1, 181-pound native of Edina, Minnesota has played in 275 career regular season National Hockey League games with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres (2013-14 season), scoring 25 goals and adding 67 assists for 92 points, with a -22 plus/minus rating and 62 penalty minutes.
McBain became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014, after the Sabres declined to make him a qualifying offer. He was invited to the Arizona Coyotes training camp, but didn’t catch on.
The Kings are facing a major shortage on their blue line due to Slava Voynov’s suspension, and an undisclosed injury to Robyn Regher. Compounding the problem is the salary cap, which prevented the Kings from recalling a defenseman from their primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, forcing them to play with only five defensemen in a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on November 8.
McBain was signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) with the Monarchs on October 31. By the time he signs with the Kings today, they will be able to fit him in under the salary cap…barely.
“I made the trip down to Manchester for the PTO (professional tryout contract) and got five games under my belt, and then, I was on a plane to come here,” said McBain. “It’s been a crazy summer, in a sense, just kind of bouncing around, going to Arizona’s camp, leaving there, not knowing where to go, going to Manchester, and then getting this opportunity. It’s definitely been a crazy few weeks here, but I’m just excited to be here, and I look forward to this opportunity.”
“I was on my own, back in Minnesota, where I’m from, so I was skating there, mostly by myself,” added McBain. “There were a few guys around, my buddies. Men’s leagues, stuff like that, keeping my feet going, training by myself and waiting for the right opportunity to come along.”
“I’m from Bloomington (Edina is a suburb of Bloomington). My Dad’s got a rink in Edina, so that’s where I was skating.”
Before signing his PTO with the Monarchs, McBain considered playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“There were some options I was looking at over there, but nothing ended up following through with that,” he said. “Nothing made sense for me, so I was back home, training and waiting for the right call.”
As reported earlier, that call came and McBain was in a Monarchs uniform on Halloween night. He went on to play in five games with the Monarchs.
“It was good to get back into game shape,” he noted. “I hadn’t played in about a month, since Arizona’s camp, so it was nice to be around a team again, to be around a group of guys in a locker room setting, to get back into game shape and get my feet going again.”
McBain knows that his time with the Kings is likely to be relatively brief.
“It’s a day-by-day type thing,” he said. “I know that they’ve got some guys who are banged up a little bit, so I’m here to skate for the next few days, and once game days come along, we’ll see where guys are at. I’m just excited to be here, to be around these guys, and see where things go.”
McBain is considered to be a puck-moving defenseman with some offensive skill.
“That’s what I’ve been known for throughout my career, it’s something I take a lot of pride in,” said McBain. “I’m a guy who can get back for pucks, make a good first pass, get the puck to the forwards, and let them do their thing. [I can] get up the ice and be a good offensive threat, too, maybe joining the rush and give the guys some options there.”
McBain’s time with the Monarchs allowed him to get somewhat familiar with the system the Kings play, one that he said was a change from what he’s used to.
“It’s definitely different,” he observed. “It’s definitely a lot more structured, in a sense. On other teams I’ve been on, it’s been a little bit more aggressive, and things like that. This one definitely is a lot more structured. It’s a five-guy system.”
“In a sense, [the Kings’ system is] a lot easier, as a defenseman,” he added. “I’ve noticed, playing down in Manchester, playing the system, you just play your areas. You let guys come to you. It make the game so much easier when you’re working as a five-man group. You get pucks, control pucks. It’s going to be a fun game to play.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter indicated that he is not too familiar with McBain.
“I’ve seen very little of him, live,” said Sutter. “He played in the other conference. Probably two or three games. That would be it. I saw him in training camp [when the Kings faced the Coyotes in pre-season games].”
Sutter also doesn’t seem to be concerned about McBain’s ability to adjust to the differences between the system the Kings play compared to what he played in Carolina and Buffalo.
“It’s not that big a change in systems anywhere, I don’t think,” Sutter noted, before adding a patented Sutter-ism.
“The difference would be [that he’d be playing for] a better team.”
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