When D.J. King cleared waivers at noon Tuesday, there was no immediate announcement that he was going to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League – only that the fighter remained on the Capitals’ roster.
Tuesday afternoon and then again Wednesday, coach Bruce Boudreau said no determination had been made as to what the Caps were doing with King. The enforcer was talking like the status quo – him in a Washington uniform but not playing often – would remain the status quo.
“It’s a tough market so right now I’m just back to where I was at the start of the year like nothing changed,” King said. “Just work hard and when I get the chance here to play, just make sure I’m ready to play good.”
The 29 other NHL teams all had a shot at King, who counts $637,500 against the salary cap but has played just 6:58 this season. His only game was against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 15.
King’s camp asked for the Caps to respect his desire to play, though on Wednesday he alluded to the idea that it was a mutual feeling to give him a chance to go elsewhere.
“They come to me too. It wasn’t like I went to them,” King said. “It was both of us that went to each other and being professional about it. It wasn’t like I was the one to open the doors for that.”
The Caps have 30 days from noon Tuesday to assign King to Hershey without pushing him through waivers again. But barring injuries, it doesn’t seem they will ship him there.
King is considered a good piece of locker room culture.
“D.J. is a real important part,” Boudreau said. “We wish we could play him every night. But we haven’t been playing opponents that really need his ilk.”
If the Caps want to give the same teams that passed on King another crack – at half-price – they could assign him to the Bears and then put him through re-entry waivers. With a cap hit of just $318,750, it may be more likely that someone takes a chance on King, whose contract is up at the end of the season.
Injuries either in Washington or around the league could provide King an opportunity, though he insisted he doesn’t root for injuries among teammates.
“If they do happen and I get the shot, it’s a door that opens for me and you never know,” he said.
But with practicing and not playing a whole lot remaining King’s status, he has only one real recourse.
“I just got to work hard every day in practice and if that door opens, just so I’m ready,” he said. “If I just go through the motions it’s not doing me any good.”