Sam McMaster, described by hockey associates as a sound administrator with an excellent eye for talent, will become general manager of the Kings today. The club has scheduled a noon news conference at the Forum.
McMaster will succeed Nick Beverley, who was fired last week. His hiring continues the restructuring of the Kings' front office, a shake-up that includes the return to prominence of former general manager Rogie Vachon.
Reduced to a largely ceremonial role during Beverley's two-year tenure, Vachon and Bruce McNall, who went from sole owner to minority owner with the sale of 72% of the team to Joseph Cohen and Jeffrey Sudikoff, will have considerable influence in day-to-day operations.
Vachon, the Kings' general manager for more than eight years before he was given the title of assistant to the chairman, has the NHL expertise that McMaster lacks. McMaster, who spent 13 years as a junior hockey executive but has no NHL managerial experience, probably will key on the Kings' scouting and minor league operations. McNall, who still owns 28% of the club, will have a voice in personnel decisions, although his exact role remains unclear.
McMaster's ability to judge talent will be useful to the Kings as they prepare for the annual entry draft, which will be held June 28-29 at Hartford, Conn. His knowledge of junior-level players will help fill the vacuum created when Beverley and Bob Owen, the Kings' director of player personnel and development, were fired. Rick Dudley, the Kings' director of pro scouting, left the organization this spring.
McMaster could not be reached for comment Monday. However, he said Sunday that he had discussed his vision for the Kings during an interview in Los Angeles last week with Cohen, McNall and Vachon.
"I think I have two plans," he said. "The Kings have got some quality older players, and they've got to try to make them a winner within two years. You've also got to build some young talent in the organization, and that's one thing they're lacking. You've got to build through the draft or trades. That's the route I would go."
Neither the Kings nor their top farm team, the Phoenix Roadrunners, made the playoffs thisseason.
McMaster's only NHL experience is three seasons as a scout with the Washington Capitals, but he is highly regarded by executives of NHL teams.
"He's a good man, and very knowledgeable," one club official said.
Said another NHL source: "He's been a good hockey man for decades. He's probably most widely recognized for what we call in the business having a good hockey eye, a very keen eye toward talent and assessing players' strengths and weaknesses."
McMaster has been general manager of four Ontario Hockey League clubs: the Niagara Falls Flyers, Toronto Marlboros, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves. All have been successful.
He also guided a team of Ontario players to the world under-17 championship last year in a tournament that included teams from four other Canadian provinces, the United States, Russia, Sweden and Canada.
McMaster, 50, recently resigned his Sudbury job after six years to pursue an NHL position.
"Sudbury is a good place to live, so you tend to wait for people to come to you," he said. "This time, I decided to force myself (into contention) and make myself known."