Abel to Yzerman
by George Malik on 01/20/11 at 04:18 PM ET
As Paul’s reported today, and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and the Sporting News’s Craig Custance are reporting, the Red Wings apparently have some interest in unrestricted free agent—and mandatory waiver-bound goaltender—Evgeni Nabokov. According to Sport-Express, Nabokov spent four hours in talks with the Wings, but that’s about all I can find about Nabokov’s situation in the Russian press, save Nabokov’s agent, Sergei Isakov, told Lifesports.ru that Nabokov’s looking for an NHL deal, but was pursuing contract offers in the Czech Republic and Sweden as of Monday…
So what the hell’s going on here?
Let’s cut the, “ZOMG THE WINGS WILL TRADE JIMMY/OZZIE” panic out of the equation and work logically here.
1. It is entirely possible that, despite Holland’s suggestions to Khan, either Howard’s bruised knee is more seriously injured than we know, or that Osgood had much more extensive sports hernia surgery than we’ve been led to believe (GM’s have to fib sometimes to keep their cards to themselves), so the Wings need a veteran back-up.
2. Given Holland’s statements when he allowed Ty Conklin to walk—that the Wings couldn’t keep bringing in 35-year-old goalies forever—I find it extremely unlikely that the Wings have any plans to trade a goaltender or simply not re-sign Howard. In the present market for goaltenders, even a goalie who puts up 30 wins a season can’t expect to earn more than about $4 million a season, and as we all know, Holland’s a master at making cap numbers work (see: Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler).
Moreover, the Red Wings and Jim Bedard in particular have put in thousands of hours of time, energy, effort, and probably no small amount of money into transforming Howard from a chubby reactionary goaltender into the nearly technically perfect netminder he is today. You don’t cut ties with that kind of prospect because his agent has unrealistic expectations for a contract that expires in July when you’re talking to that agent in January. Howard’s happy in Detroit, the Wings obviously see him as their goalie of the present and future, Thomas McCollum factor included (he’ll eventually graduate to become Howard’s back-up or co-starter if all goes according to plan), and as Osgood’s been a fantastic mentor and clearly wants to retire as a Red Wing, well, the Detroit Red Wings aren’t a team that cuts ties with a near-life-long-Wing just because someone better comes along. That’s not how the organization works.
3. It’s entirely possible that the Wings know that Nabokov would be picked up on waivers, and are simply performing a courtesy signing for the team that would snag him—it bears mentioning that the as-presently-configured Wings will be dangerously close to the salary cap again when Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano, Brad Stuart and Dan Cleary return—for “future considerations,” i.e. to grease the wheels for a depth-making trade for a defenseman or forward at the deadline, if not, should we start to receive reports that he’s pulled a Ville Leino and tuned out the coaches, a Jiri Hudler trade.
Also: It’s semi-official, for the moment I’m using the A2Y blog, but over the next couple of days I’ll start to return to work and get back up to speed as The Malik Report finally officially launches.
Update 4:25 PM: Quoth Jimmy Howard to Ansar Khan:
“Whatever helps the team helps the team,’’ Howard following the morning skate at Scottrade Center. “But I think for the most part everyone in here is planning on having (Chris Osgood) back here whenever he’s due back.’‘
General manager Ken Holland shot down rumors and speculation that Osgood’s recovery will take longer than first anticipated or that he might be out for the season. Holland said Osgood, who had surgery for a sports hernia on Jan. 11, still is due back in early to mid-March.
But if the club signs Nabokov, he’ll surely push Howard for the starting job. Where would that leave Osgood?
If a deal is completed, Nabokov still must clear waivers, meaning any team can put in a claim for him and prevent him from joining the Red Wings.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan believes that Nabokov may be a stopgap until Osgood returns—around the trade deadline…
“I have had conversations with Nabokov’s agent,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Holland wouldn’t speculate about what triggered the Wings’ interest in Nabokov. Likely, it’s Chris Osgood’s sports hernia surgery; he will be out until March.
The Wings would be looking to strengthen their goaltending if Jimmy Howard were to go down again with injury. He missed the last two games with a bruised right knee but is starting Thursday night in St. Louis.
With only Joey MacDonald and young Tom McCollum in reserve after Osgood went down, the position is thin.
And it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon or brain scientist to tell you that while MacDonald has played valiantly in Howard’s stead, he’s a journeyman for a reason…
The Free Press’s George Sipple also confirms Holland’s interest:
”I will confirm that I have had conversations with the agent for Nabokov,” Holland said.
Don Meehan is Nabokov’s agent.
Don Meehan was also Nicklas Lidstrom’s agent for quite a while and is one of the most powerful agents in the business. FYI.
Holland would not say anything more about why he was interested nor what it would mean for Chris Osgood’s future. Osgood is out 6 to 8 weeks after having sports hernia surgery. Even if he agreed to a contract with the Wings, Nabokov still would have to clear NHL waivers. The Blues recently agreed to deals with Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood of KHL, but both players were claimed by other NHL teams.
Wings coach Mike Babcock had nothing to say about the rumors swirling after today’s morning skate about Nabokov.
“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anyway, would I?”
USA Today’s Kevin Allen adds this very obvious but needs-to-be-said caveat:
We can presume he will be signed, but what we don’t know is whether he would get through waivers still belonging to the Red Wings.
My guess is that the Red Wings won’t be paying Nabokov too much more than the minimum $550,000 contract. What that means is that some team might be tempted to grab Nabokov.
The Washington Capitals like their young goalies, but would they consider bringing in Nabokov as an insurance policy? Would the Ottawa Senators bring him in to add a spark to their playoff hopes? Are the Philadelphia Flyers satisfied with their goalkeeping?
There aren’t many teams that would be interested in Nabokov, but it would only take one.
Update 4:30 PM: Via Paul, per TSN’s Darren Dreger on Twitter:
@capgeek. Deal still isn’t done, but $570,000 for the rest of the year is what I’m told. Pro-rated to about $250,000.
Hard to imagine Nabokov doesn’t get claimed at $570,000 or as the last tweet indicated…roughly $250,000 pro-rated.
And Capgeek’s Matthew Wuest:
If the #nhl #redwings sign Nabokov, it’s likely with the intent of placing Osgood on LTIR and using that space on a goalie.
This has to be a courtesy signing, at least in my opinion, for some sort of, “Hey, team X, since you’re gonna nab him, how about we get the deal done for you and we talk at the trade deadline/draft?” purpose.
Update 4:36 PM: Per Allen:
Red Wings can’t pay Nabokov much more than minimum because of cap space issue. It seems like it’s 55-45 or 50-50 that he clears waivers.
Update 4:40 PM: Nick Cotsonika has this to say, via WXYZ’s Tom Leyden:
Holland still talking to Nabokov’s agent and will continue. Deal not done with Red Wings.
Update 4:50 PM: Capgeek says…
When healthy, without MacDonald, Tatar and Mursak, #redwings have exactly $574,740 in cap space. Thus Nabokov’s reported $570,000 cap hit.
The wisest words about this situation come from Holland himself, via the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:
Holland would not say why the Wings were suddenly interested in obtaining Nabokov, “Those are more questions for if something does happen – can’t put the cart before the horse.”
Jimmy Howard is back to full health after missing two games with a bruised knee and is expected to start tonight in St. Louis. Joey MacDonald is the backup with Chris Osgood on the shelf recovering from sports hernia surgery he had done on Jan. 11.
Osgood is scheduled to return sometime in early- to mid-March.
“The surgery went well,” Holland said. “He is rehabbing. Barring any setbacks, he’s (out) six to eight weeks.”
Here’s what I know: Ken Holland is the consummate tire-kicker. He explores EVERY avenue, talks to EVERY GM about EVERY available player at the trade deadline, prior to the draft, and agents about prospective free agents’ asking prices…And he’s kicking tires here. We’ll have to see what happens over the next couple of hours and days.
Update 6:08 PM: MLive’s Ansar Khan offers the obvious—the Wings will do the grunt work and sign a goalie who’s going to another team:
A source close to the situation said the Red Wings will sign Nabokov for $570,000, which is only about $250,000 prorated for the rest of the season. He would go on waivers Friday at noon and would need to clear before joining the Red Wings.
At that price, he likely will be claimed by another team.
“I wouldn’t get my hopes too high; the contract is peanuts,’’ a source said. “Anyone in need of a goaltender will put in a claim. Somebody in the West might say, ‘I don’t want Detroit to pick him up.’ ‘’
The Red Wings did not offer a multiyear deal with bonuses or a no-trade clause to discourage other clubs from putting in a claim for Nabokov because they don’t want to be committed to him past this season without having seen how he will fare.
Update 6:25 PM: Holland had this to say to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell:
“We’ve had conversations (with Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan),” Holland said before the Red Wings played the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis on Thursday. “I don’t know (if we’re close to a deal). It’s hard to know. We’ll see.”
Holland remained tight-lipped about why the Wings were exploring their goaltending options. He originally said he wasn’t in the market for a goaltender after backup goalie Chris Osgood underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia Jan. 11. Osgood is expected to be ready to play in mid-March.
“Those are questions for if something does happen,” Holland said. “Can’t put the cart before the horse.”
Again, Osgood’s supposedly on track to come back in early March…
“Everything I’ve been told he’s right on schedule,” Holland said, adding that Osgood’s return is pegged for March. “The surgery went well. He is rehabbing. All indications are everything went well.”
Update 6:37 PM: Here’s a Tweet from the Associated Press’s Larry Lage...
Evgeni Nabokov’s agent on talks with the Red Wings: “Good discussions with Detroit,” Don Meehan wrote in an e-mail.
Update 7:46 PM: It’s hard to take anything that Sport-Express’s Igor Larin says at face value, but according to Larin (think the Russian version of Larry Brooks meets Bruce Garrioch meets Eklund), Nabokov’s European agent, Sergei Isakov, says that Nabokov’s hale and hearty, that the negotiations with the Wings are going well, and…according to Larin, anyway, the Carolina Hurricanes or Ottawa Senators are the favorites to snag Nabokov off waivers.
Update 8:36 PM: The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness pondered what signing Nabokov would mean if, say, the Wings made it hard for other teams to claim him, which they have not.
Update 9:48 PM: Via Paul, the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts offers these tidbits:
Just saw Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan. He said all the remains to be done on deal with Detroit is contract language. Then waivers, of course.
Meehan could not offer assurance Nabokov will clear waivers.
Update 10:34 PM: It’s official, per the Red Wings’ Twitter feed. Now the Wings have to put him on waivers on Friday at 12 PM and we’ll see what happens.
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