This week's main drama has centered around an overage athlete attempting to come back to the professional game after having walked away. In Minnesota, the first name that comes to mind is Brett Favre. In Colorado, it is Peter Forsberg. While both of those men, and their inability to let it go, are despicable, this for once is not about them.
No, this week, the Detroit Red Wings signed Evgeni Nabokov. They did so knowing that he would need to clear the waiver process, since he had played this season in the KHL. Hopefully you are all up to speed on the back story. He didn't clear, as the Islanders snapped him up at the ridiculously low $570K salary, or $250K prorated.
The story should have ended there. It didn't, and it doesn't. As the hockey world learns the ugly rules of the waiver process, and the debate rages about the process, the fact is, the story is far from over.
Make the jump for the sarcastic take on the whole thing.
Is the Rule Fair?
The first part of the debate is the waiver process itself. Put in place to ensure that every NHL team has the same chance at a European UFAs signed mid season. This prevents the stock piling of NHL talent in Europe, just as it prevents the stockpiling of NHL talent in the AHL. You want a player, you follow the rules. Simple as that, right?
Some feel that if a team wants to sign a guy out of Europe, they should be able to. No strings attached. If the Red Wings want to sign Nabby, they should be able to sign him, add him to their roster, and that is the end of that. The problem here is the same reason you can't trade past a certain point in a fantasy league. It prevents the contenders from signing the stars to a one year deal and loading their team.
It flat out is not fair for the Red Wings, Penguins, Capitals, or anyone else to go out and sign every star in Europe at the end of the year, bring them into a league that has been battling for four months or so, and make thier run for a trophy those players have not earned the right to win.
To me, you aren't signed when the season starts, you don't play in the NHL. Mine is a hardcore stance that stands opposite the "sign whoever you want" crowd. The NHL stands in the middle, and it is a compromise solution. No one gets what they want, but it is fair.
Why Sign Him Now?
The question that was immediately raised when the rumors came out about the Red Wings possibly signing Nabby was: why now? The Red Wings had little money to sign him with, about $574K to be exact. They made it happen at $570K, but at that price, it had to be clear to the Wings, and GM Ken Holland, that there was no way he would clear.
Knowing this, why would he bother? The smart answer is that he was taking a chance, hoping that no one would take him. To call the other GMs and ask would be collusion, and not allowed. So, he had to look at the standings and take his best guess that Nabokov would clear.
However, this isn't your everyday NHL franchise. This is the Red Wings, and it is home to "the greatest GM in the game." Holland is known for finding ways to get star players to sign deals for far less than they are worth, and if they won't do that, the team signs them to 12 year long, front loaded deals that have since been banned by the league.
Yes, this is Ken Holland, mastermind. He must have a deal in place where the Devils would claim him and trade him to the Wings for next to nothing. Wait... that isn't how the system works. OK, then. He must know that Nabokov does not plan to report to any other team, and would be forced to put him back on waivers, until the only team left standing is the Wings.
Still not how it works? That's cool. We've got a million of these.
Maybe they signed him, knowing that the no movement clause would scare off any other team. Other than the fact that Nabby wants to play for a winner, and wants to be a starter, this would work. No one is going to claim a goalie they will be stuck with if he doesn't work out, especially with one of the primary "demands" being that he wants to start. However, it turns out there are a half dozen or so teams in the league that would love a goalie of Nabby's ability.
OK, so maybe it was because no one wants Ken Holland as an enemy. I actually read that. Indeed, because the other GMs fear him. The guy doesn't trade anything worth having anyway, so who cares? A first round pick from the Wings is the same as a second round pick from the Isles. Who cares who you make the trade to? GMs do not fear each other. Sorry folks, they just don't.
Finally, we have a new idea, posted just yesterday, that maybe this was all a chess move by Holland. That he knew someone else would take Nabokov, but that in doing so, he would prevent another Western Conference team from signing him.
That is a great scheme, but Holland says otherwise in the piece, says he was just trying to sign a goalie, and it didn't work. Why can't we just take the guy at his word, and accept that he signed a player, and the waiver process bit him in the ass?
Nabokov has, through his agent, said he will not report to the Isles. As of the writing of this post, the options out East were being weighed. Want to know the options? Read Bob McKenzie's piece from last night. The waiver process is a complicated one, and it would still be highly unlikely that he ends up with Detroit.
The idea that the Isles will simply waive him again, with no reason to do so, is unlikely. There is no benefit to the team to do so, and few things happen in the NHL without some benefit, or perceived benefit, to the team.
The likelihood is that this is the end of Evgeni Nabokov's hockey career. He bolted for the KHL because he couldn't get the money he wanted in a league that went the direction of cheap, mediocre goaltending. He, and his family, did not adjust to life back in Europe, and moved back to the US.
I can't blame him, this is a great country. However, the rules prevented him from his dream scenario of signing with a Cup contender, making himself look like a hero riding in to save a desperate team. Instead, the rules did exactly what they were intended to do, they made the game fair.
He could still report to the Isles, play out the season, and sign with whomever he wants in July. The attitude coming out of Camp Nabby is the same attitude he gave this summer. A spoiled kid not getting his way, so he is going to take his ball and go home. He has every right to do so, just don't expect anyone to miss you when you are gone.
As for the idea that his was some grand scheme by the Red Wings, I'm going to pass. No matter how many conspiracy theories the Wings fans come up with for this one, or how great they proclaim their GM to be, this is how the system was built to work.
Despite the fact that most Wings fans cannot accept that the system was not built to destroy them, or that everything the team does is some kind of genius move, that is the reality. Ken Holland took a chance, threw the dice, and lost. Happens everyday in Vegas.
The Red Wings are great team. Have been for awhile, and will be for the foreseeable future. It makes little sense to constantly dream up vast conspiracies when your team is as good as it is. If the Wild were that good, I would be so distracted by the winning, I wouldn't care what the league was doing.
Let me ask this question... what would the result have been if Nabokov cleared waivers and was a Red Wing? Holland would have been a super genius for signing an established goalie and sneaking him under the radar at a great price, right? So why isn't he an idiot for attempting it knowing Nabokov wouldn't clear?
Why? Because Ken Holland is super genius whose feces smells of roses and whose touch cures wounds. Only Nick Leddy is more of a savior than Holland.
Psh. He made a deal and lost. Get over it.