Sean Burke. (AP File \'01/Paul Warner)
The Los Angeles Kings claimed the veteran netminder off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday after losing their top two goalies to injury. "He's an NHL goaltender," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told The Canadian Press. "He's a character guy. But we're not sure what to expect. In fairness to him, he hasn't played a lot this year."
Burke, who turns 40 on Jan. 29, has played only seven games with Springfield of the American Hockey League this season, sporting a 4.52 goals-against average and .856 save percentage.
But the Kings needed help. Dan Cloutier is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery and Mathieu Garon is out another two weeks with a broken finger. Barry Brust and Yutaka Fukufuji have held the fort since Garon went down last week.
"Let's face it, in fairness to the kids that are playing for us right now, they're just not NHL goalies," said Lombardi. "It's not fair to Brust or Fukufuji, they're not ready for this. It's not their fault."
Because the Kings grabbed Burke on re-entry waivers, they get him for half his US$1.6-million salary. And with just over half the season gone, they'll owe him even less than $400,000.
Burke went 14-10-4 with the Lightning last season with a 2.80 GAA and .895 save percentage. He lost his NHL job in Tampa after the Lightning acquired Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist in the off-season.
The Windsor, Ont., native has appeared in 797 regular-season games with New Jersey, Hartford, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Florida, Phoenix and Tampa, registering 318 wins with a 2.95 GAA and .902 save percentage.