Let’s start off with the smaller piece of news this afternoon, and that is Rob Niedermayer signing with the Buffalo Sabres. Way to go guys! Looks like Niedermayer is going to be your shiny new toy this season until he runs for his life next summer after spending the year in Buffalo.
Now to free agent Evgeni Nabokov, who signed a four-year deal with SKA of the KHL today. Although I originally predicted he would end up in Washington, it really only took a few hours past noon on July 1 to realize that there was absolutely no market for him in the NHL.
At 34 years old, Nabokov has never accomplished anything in the playoffs or international play, despite his 293 regular season wins. This will all but spell the end of his NHL career; if no one wanted him now, he will not find a job when his contract runs out at 38. My question is, in the distant future, will Nabokov ever find himself on the hall-of-fame ballot?
Now to the Ranger related news we have all been waiting for.
Joe and I have been saying it for days, that Kovalchuk and the Rangers were, or should be, dancing the tango together, even with no official word or rumor from anyone. But today, Darren Dreger of TSN Tweeted, “Kovalchuk should simply declare, publicly his want to play for the New York Rangers. I bet Slats would clear the deck and make it happen.”
I would not expect the Rangers to rush things here as clearly Kovalchuk is in no rush to sign a contract any time soon. The Rangers would definitely have to lock up Staal before even thinking about throwing the checkbook at Kovalchuk. And a move like this would ultimately spell the end of Wade Redden after training camp.
Also involving Kovalchuk, which is very convenient, the Los Angeles Kings are back in talks with the superstar, who probably contacted them to get a bidding war going. I would narrow his teams down to the Kings, Rangers, or back to Russia to play in the KHL. He is not going to the Islanders, the Devils would have to dismantle the team to acquire him, and the rumored Maple Leafs would be the worst possible career choice for Kovalchuk, who has never played under the intense pressure that exists in Toronto.
Finally, we have former Ranger great Nikolai Zherdev about to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers. This is coming from at least two very solid Russian sources on Twitter, and I expect the signing to happen soon. With Simon Gagne already asked to waive his no-trade-clause, that will all but be the end of his career in Philadelphia.