After extensive discussions and negotiations, T1 are expected to sign former Gen.G player Kim "Roach" Kang-hui as their starting top laner for the 2020 season, sources told ESPN on Monday.
T1's search for a new top laner began when former starter Kim "Khan" Dong-ha opted to explore free agency at the end of his contract instead of re-signing with the South Korean organization. Although T1 and Khan continued negotiations throughout the offseason, the 23-year-old decided to leave his home country to play in China for the 2020 campaign; he is expected to sign with reigning world champion FunPlus Phoenix to become their new starter, sources told ESPN earlier in the day.
Khan wasn't T1's No. 1 choice to fill the top lane spot after declining to re-sign, however, as reportedly the organization set its sights on Invictus Gaming's Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok. TheShy, who won a world championship in 2018 as part of Invictus Gaming, is under contract with his team in China until the end of the 2021 season. T1 reached out to Invictus Gaming to see if they could possibly transfer the top lane superstar, with the two sides going as far as to meet to see if they could strike a deal, sources said.
Although sources said T1 were willing to offer a deal that would have been the largest buyout in esports history, Invictus Gaming decided against it, keeping TheShy on the roster for the upcoming season. They announced on social media afterward that their superstar would be going nowhere.
With Khan and TheShy both gone, other names were discussed, such as FPX's now-displaced world champion, top laner Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem, and two-time South Korean MVP Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho.
Roach, however, would not become T1's top choice until they pegged Kim "Kim" Jeong-soo as their head coach earlier Monday. Kim is well-known for his love of undertaking lineups with up-and-coming top laners, having coached Khan on Longzhu Gaming, TheShy on iG when they won the world championship and most recently Damwon Gaming's Jang "Nuguri" Ha-gwon. Roach started 29 games for Gen.G in 2019, splitting time between top and mid lane position. Kim, sources said, saw potential in the 20-year-old Roach and wanted him on the T1 roster.
Roach will join newly signed starting jungler Moon "Cuzz" Woo-chan as the starting topside of the map for T1, joined by legendary mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok in the mid lane. The bottom lane from last year's world championship, Park "Teddy" Jin-seong and Lee "Effort" Sang-ho, are also under contract, with Effort re-signing for two years at the beginning of free agency.
T1 declined to comment at the time of this reporting.