EL SEGUNDO – As the NHL trade deadline looms, the Kings took a step toward providing roster flexibility Friday morning, just in case that desperately needed high-scoring forward appears from thin air.
The organization put veteran left wing Marco Sturm on waivers in an attempt to give the team some wiggle room heading into Monday’s deadline.
Because the Kings are at their roster limit of 23 players, they cannot add a player without subtracting one. After the trade deadline, rosters can expand. Until Saturday at 9 a.m., Sturm and the remainder of his $3.5 million contract are available for any team to claim.
If he doesn’t get picked up, Sturm is slated to be back on the top line Saturday afternoon against the visiting Colorado Avalanche. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi decided to put Sturm on waivers Friday morning so he would be available for Saturday’s game if he went unclaimed.
"There’s nothing imminent at all," Lombardi said of a possible trade. "It’s not like this is happening because a half hour from now I’m going to have a big deal."
But the decision to put Sturm on waivers does suggest the Kings are running out of patience, and they aren’t willing to deal any of their other current players. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to create roster space for a straight-up trade. That’s just fine with coach Terry Murray, who has consistently said he’s happy with his personnel.
When asked if he has noticed any anxiety among his crop of young players, many of whom would be targeted by other teams in trade talks, Murray said they’d be missing the club’s message if they were looking over their shoulders.
"We believe in the young players," Murray said. "We’re a young hockey club that’s moving forward and we’re staying with the program. It’s what we wanted to do and we’re seeing these young guys stepping up and becoming NHL players, becoming men in the game. We’re not changing that plan."
Sturm, on the other hand, is looking more like a player who’s future is limited in Los Angeles. Acquired from Boston in early December for future considerations, Sturm was still rehabilitating from offseason knee surgery at the time. The 32-year-old German had major surgery on his other knee the year before.
He played 15 games for the Kings from Dec. 21 to Jan. 18, then sat out 18 games because of tendinitis in his left knee. He returned Wednesday in a 3-2 victory in Anaheim, then had an assist in his second game back Thursday, a 4-2 win against visiting Minnesota.
Still, he hasn't been the player Lombardi envisioned.
"He has been better since he has been back, but I see signs that he’s still feeling his way," Lombardi said. "No question, we obviously thought he’d be further along."
Sturm, who had to sit through a week of on-again, off-again trade talks with the Kings while he was still a member of the Bruins, is getting accustomed to being in limbo. He’d prefer to finish out the season in Los Angeles, however.
"I like it here and, hopefully, I’m going to be with the team tomorrow," he said. "I know I can play better too. I’m doing better, I’m going in the right direction, it just needs time."
The question is, how long do the Kings want to wait?