Cap Evasion 101: Ship 'em to Russia
We've heard a lot in recent months about the lack of a Russian transfer deal, and how it affects players like Evgeni Malkin and other youngsters. The Penguins phenom was basically rescued from his home club last summer during a layover in Finland, and Magnitogorsk ended up with nothing in compensation.
That was well-publicized. But what we haven't seen or heard a lot of is NHL players fleeing the other way while under contract here.
Which brings us to Oleg Tverdovsky.
The Russian defender is an interesting story in that, up until around 2001-02, he was considered a solid, power-play quarterback. Tverdovsky ran up back-to-back 50-plus seasons with the Ducks around that time, but made an ill-advised trip to New Jersey in 2002-03, fell out of favour there quickly for his defensive lapses (offences punishable by guillotine in Lamoriello's eyes) and went home to Russia for two years.
Still with me?
Coming out of the lockout, Tverdovsky signed a bloated (and ill-advised) three-year, $7.5-million deal with Carolina, flamed out there early on and was a complete non-factor in the team's Stanley Cup win.
Then, to start 2006-07, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford made what will likely go down as the worst deal in the history of his franchise. Desperate to unload Tverdovsky's now-onerous contract, Rutherford moved the defender and prized-prospect Jack Johnson to the Kings, a team loaded with cap space, in exchange for Eric Belanger and Tim Gleason.
Because Johnson wasn't yet under an NHL contract, the move shaved dollars off the Hurricanes' payroll and brought in two useful players. Tverdovsky wasn't going to play, and obviously there's a price for unloading a $2.5-million boat anchor. Isn't there?
What they should have done is held on, benched him and sent the 31-year-old veteran to the AHL for only the second time in his career. Then, when the next season rolls around and Tverdovsky's told he's up for another stint in the minors (albeit a well-paid one), he bolts for Russia and that boat anchor is lifted off the cap.
That's what the Kings have done this off-season, and it's worked quite brilliantly. (Not to mention the fact Johnson will be starring on the blue line come September.)
Without a transfer agreement, Russian teams can sign players under contract to the NHL, something we've seen twice this summer with both Tverdovsky and Stanislav Chistov. The CBA has provisions for this sort of thing, and these two will likely either be suspended or labelled defectors in order for their teams to benefit from the suddenly available cap room:
Definition of "Defected Player." For purposes of this Agreement, "Defected Player" means any Player not unconditionally released:That's Tverdovsky — and don't expect to see much of a fuss from the Kings. Instead of being right up against the cap, they've got close to $4-million breathing room.
(A) who, having had an SPC with a Club, the provisions of which, including the option clauses in a 1995 SPC, have not been completely fulfilled, contracts for a period including any part of the unfulfilled portion of his SPC, with a club in a league not affiliated with the NHL or with any such league (both of which are hereinafter referred to as an "unaffiliated club") or with any other professional hockey club to the exclusion of the said Club or its assignee
This is exactly what they wanted.