Lets get one thing strait right out of the gate: I don’t care if Evgeni Nabokov never plays a game for the Detroit Red Wings. I am comfortable enough with the goaltending situation in Detroit, and I feel we won’t be talking about this from a Red and White point of view within the next few weeks.
And I do not harbor any qualms against a New York Islanders squad that nabbed up a former 40-game winner off of the waver wire for just over a cool half million. What I do take issue with is the rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allowed the Islanders to do so.
The Nabokov situation is an interesting one because currently there is a guy they call Foppa testing out a surgically repaired ankle in Colorado that wouldn’t have to go through waivers to sign with the Avs or any other club.
Well because Peter Forsberg didn’t play a game “over seas” this year.
That is the only variable between the two situations, if you strip away all the colors. And this point aggravates me (and probably most Blues fans who follow their team closely). The NHL and their top brass appeared to put on their big boy pants and claimed that they didn’t and don’t really have an issue with the KHL. Yet they have a rule like this in place. One that pretty much guarantees that any player who suits up for a team in another league will end up on a bottom feeding NHL squad, should they decide to bail on their European contract and migrate back to the Majors – something that is happening with increased frequency.
I understand why the rule is in place. The language in the CBA is pretty clear – the NHL wanted to prevent top clubs (such as the Red Wings) from bringing in ringers out of Europe just a bit before playoff time that could make large impacts with small contracts. More of the whole “circumventing the cap” business.
But it doesn’t work. The rule doesn’t even look good on paper.
Anyone who can make plays like that isn’t just a ringer. He’s a potential game breaker, especially on a young and talented team like Colorado who could use him in a second or third line-second power play unit role. And more power to him and to Colorado for visiting the 37 year old former Heart Trophy winner, two time Cup Champion as a viable option. This is how it should be. A player who is a free agent should be able to pick the team he wants to play for and not deal with a waiver wire process that punishes them for exploring options outside of the 30 NHL cities.
I suppose the argument could be made that Nabokov isn’t a free agent because he had a contract elsewhere this year. But what is the difference between being bought out in the KHL and being bought out in the NHL?
Nothing, except the NHL wants to discourage talent from wearing anything outside of the 30 NHL trademarked logos. Which is their prerogative as the most powerful hockey league in the world. They have earned that right.
But I for one am tired of the League trying to keep its pile of collective dirt behind a pretty lace curtain, coyly shrugging its shoulders whenever a reporter asks a question about the Olympics or the head shot rule, or how decisions are made in the War Room concerning goals, or why Colin Cambell still has a job.
I don’t want the reputation as a griper. I sincerely don’t. I love the game. But there are some serious issues with the League and the guys we have running the show, and I feel that the wrong questions are being asked about the Nabokov case, and in just about every other case currently on the board.
The question right now shouldn’t be “why is Garth Snow high jacking a goaltender from the almighty Red Wings?!” This makes sense. My assumption is that Snow scooped him up with hopes that Nabokov would fall in love with the youth and energy of the Isles, and look beyond this season and want to be a part of a rapidly improving team. Snow saw a way to improve his team, and he did it. Go him. That’s his job.
The question should be “why is a player who rightfully left the NHL as a free agent, and then was rightfully bought out of another contract being forced to play with the Islanders while a player who sat at home recovering from surgery can pick and choose as he pleases?”
The math on this, to me, is simple: the League is using its lesser teams and hedging them against younger players who may consider going to Europe to make more money. The message is stay in North America and keep your rights or try things out in Europe, only to come back and be branded an Oiler, Islander, or Devil.