Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Patrick Lalime and the waiver wire Blues

This fellow seems to think recently waived St. Louis goaltender Patrick Lalime is headed for the minors:

St. Louis Blues goaltender Patrick Lalime is expected to clear NHL waivers at 11 a.m. Central time today, after which he'll be sent to the Peoria Rivermen.

The goaltender, an NHL All-Star starter in 2002-03, will easily be the highest-paid player in the American Hockey League - this season, and maybe any season - at $2.43 million.

Perhaps things are a little slow in central Illinois and this columnist is merely hoping a former NHL all-star will pay the minor-league club a visit, but I don't think that's what's going to happen. One needs to only look at the Penguins and Jocelyn Thibault for how this waiver-wire dance works in the new NHL.

Thibault, Todd Marchant, Kristian Huselius — and I'm sure others — were all put on waivers this year as a way of possibly unloading their salaries ($1.5-mil, $2.47-mil and $1.22-mil) without taking a cap hit. With no takers, teams have then been reluctant to send these players to the minors all year, as recalling them at any time would mean they would have to pass through waivers a second time.

Not a problem, you say? Well, on this second waiver move, the teams recalling these players will be on the hook for half of a claimed skater's salary, which will count against the salary cap. Needless to say, teams are a little leery about paying half of someone's salary for them to play for another club and, as such, we haven't seen many — if any — veteran players of note make the trip to the AHL this year (aside from short 'conditioning' stints). And I don't expect we will.

Making a mistake in free agency isn't something that can be written off very easily any more, as teams are now forced to live with the players they've picked up or take a cap hit.

As for Lalime, it's amazing how far he's fallen from when he let those two Joe Nieuwendyk goals squeak through his legs in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.

Credit to Eric McErlain for the original link.

UPDATE Blues GM Larry Pleau says he's to blame for the team's goaltending woes all these years.

UPDATE2 Lalime has reportedly since been assigned to Peoria. (I was wrong.) I wonder what the chances are another NHL team would want to take a chance on him, even at half price, should he be recalled.

UPDATE3 There's talk the Blues may recall Lalime in the near future to see if there's a nibble on him at the discounted, 50-per-cent off price. With Dan Cloutier out, Vancouver's in tough for goaltending, but it seems a stretch they'll go with another 'tender that has had woes in the playoffs.

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