That was the popular wisdom last summer in the NHL. Except for the Blues, no one was interested in signing a goalie to an expensive or long term contract. I don’t know that many teams have reconsidered, but some certainly have reason too. I do not include the Sharks in that list, and not because I’m a ninnified fan. I believe Nitty and Nemo have done very well for the team, and that their agents did well by them, considering the market.
Since there wasn’t much coming up on my Twitter feed about Nabby’s situation, I resorted to a Twitter search by name. A few minutes spent sifting through those tweets and I started to think I have a very good NHL list. What a bunch of garbage is out there. The sources I trust are not saying much about Nabby, I trust there isn’t much to share.
As for which teams might be interested, there are only two with both the cap space and doubts about goaltending. One of those teams is playing pretty well, the other is not. The Islanders are not only struggling but also seem to have no interest in changing their situation by adding to their roster. So, much as it might behoove them, they probably won’t take an interest.
Which leaves Tampa Bay. That was a possibility in the off season too, though they went the popular route and signed Ellis instead. They have the cap space to change their mind.
The Caps are in a similar situation with bargain-contract goalies performing erratically:
Lots of speculation where Nabokov might end up, but the one I like has him in Washington, a team struggling in goal and where his buddy, Alex Ovechkin, might have some sway. -Working the Corners
But the Caps have no cap space and a whole team sliding into disarray, so I doubt a goaltending change is at the top of their fix it list. Out of 1st place in the conference? Scandalous!
How has Nabby’s situation changed since last summer? Well, he didn’t do anything impressive in the KHL. He had some good games but also some bad ones, which is not unusual among goalies right now but is also not a selling point. He disposed of any leverage he had. Ironically, this makes him a lot more attractive to GMs.
He would have to go through waivers, which means the first team to make him an offer would have to make him available to other teams before they could sign him. That made no sense to me at first, it still sort of doesn’t. The relevant CBA clause was probably the result of some contract shenanigans gone by.
3.23 In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers. For the balance of the Playing Season, any such Player who has been obtained via Waivers maybe Traded or Loaned only after again clearing Waivers or through Waiver claim. -2005 NHLPA CBA
(I love how legalese resorts to Germanic use of capital Letters to let you know they have their own special Definitions for Words that, to the untrained Eye, look like Regular English Words.)
But it doesn’t really change anything. Despite some poor performances in net, there still isn’t much of a market. So who would compete? Who is really prepared to take a gamble on Nabby right now? It would not have to be much of a gamble, he could be signed to a short contract for not much money. Would he take it? Meehan says he is ready to play, so I think he would, unless the “family issues” mentioned prevented it. And those would not be team specific.
That his family never moved to Russia makes me wonder how serious his commitment to that contract really was. It sounds fishy and possibly grave, but I won’t jump on the catastrophic rumor-mongering bandwagon. That is too depressing to anticipate. I’ll just keep hoping the KHL venture was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
By the way, I haven’t heard anyone say “welcome back, Nabby, we missed you!” There, someone said it.