McKenzie: Many confused by Nabokov waiver situation

Bob McKenzie
1/21/2011 8:08:51 PM
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I don't feel bad for feeling confused and a little confounded by Evgeni Nabokov's waiver situation with the Detroit Red Wings.

Because many people within the NHL community -- GMs, assistant GMs, capologists and a number of agents -- have also struggled with the ins and outs of what could happen to the free-agent goalie who has signed with the Wings.

Here's an outline of the circumstances. If it's incorrect in any way -- and I always allow for that possibility -- there are countless NHL team people and agents who will share in my shame.

So, with fingers crossed, here we go:

-- Nabokov's waiver period ends at 12 noon eastern on Saturday.
-- any of the NHL's 29 teams -- other than Detroit, of course -- may put in a claim on Nabokov.

-- if no team claims Nabokov, he becomes a member of DET's 23-man NHL roster.

-- if only one team claims Nabokov that team will be awarded him.

-- if more than one team puts in a claim on Nabokov, the team that is lowest in the standings (worst winning percentage) on the day Nabokov was put on waivers (today) is awarded the player.

-- as a pro player who has played in Europe after the NHL season has begun, Nabokov is subject to some specific waiver regulations (which are different from "normal" waivers for players who start and finish the season in the NHL) after the initial claim has been made.

That includes the following:

-- If the team that claims and is awarded Nabokov decides to subsequently trade or assign the player, they must:

a) put Nabokov back on waivers again, where any team, including the Detroit Red Wings, could then claim him. Again, priority claim belongs to the team lowest in the standings.
Only if Nabokov clears waivers would the team holding his rights be able to trade him.

b) get Nabokov's permission to put him on waivers and/or trade him as Nabokov, once he is a member in good standing of the NHL, has a No Movement Clause in his contract.

Only if those conditions are satisfied could Nabokov end up up with a team other than the one who claimed him on waivers from DET.

The bottom line here is as follows:

-- there is no way for DET to make any orchestrated "arrangements" to get Nabokov back from the team that claims him unless Detroit is successful in claiming him on waivers the second time around. If any team lower than Detroit in the standings put in a claim, Nabokov would go to that team. 

-- there is no way for a team who claims and gets Nabokov to easily flip him in a trade as he must go through waivers again, giving every team including Detroit an opportunity to claim for nothing more than the set waiver price, which is $3,375.

So any team that claims Nabokov on waivers is likely to do so for the purpose of having him in their lineup for the balance of the season as Nabokov's NMC effectively controls when or if he moves again. The only way the team that claims and is awarded Nabokov tomorrow can subsequently get rid of Nabokov is with the player's permission.

The general feeling within the NHL community is that Nabokov will not clear waivers tomorrow. That his relatively low annual salary -- $570,000 is only $70,000 more than the league minimum -- and favorable cap hit will entice teams to perhaps bring him in to replace a less experienced backup goalie who in some cases is already making more than $570,000.

But given the waiver regulations on Nabokov and his no move clause, the team that claims him is likely to be committed to Nabokov for the balance of the season because he may not necessarily be easy to get rid of.

If Nabokov is a claimed by a team but decides it is not a team for which he would like to play, he has the right not to report and not play in the NHL for the balance of the season.

If Nabokov is claimed tomorrow, the only way he is likely to end up back in Detroit this season is if the new team opts to put him back on waivers, with the player's permission, and only Detroit puts in a waiver claim the second time around, or the only other clubs who put in a claim are above Detroit in the standings.

At least that is our story and we are sticking to it -- as long as it jibes with a complicated NHL waiver rule system.

Bob McKenzie


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