KHL Makes Former NHL Players Look Better

20100206 Evgeni Nabokov unmasked
Photo by Dan4th

The KHL seems to have a two-fold purpose in terms of its relationship to the NHL.

  1. It makes players NHL teams didn’t want to sign look suddenly more attractive.
  2. It teaches NHL players to be more realistic in their contractual expectations.

Look at goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who couldn’t attract any NHL suitors over the summer, mostly due to his price tag.

Suddenly, the Detroit Red Wings are into the idea of Nabokov and Nabokov is most likely willing to take less money than he was willing to in July.

Not only do the Wings want to sign Nabokov, it’s believed another NHL team will eventually claim him off of waivers, through which he must pass before he can play for Detroit.

Nabokov is one of a few KHL players to return to the NHL this season. St. Louis tried to sign former NHLers Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood out of the KHL and both were claimed by other teams.

As hard as it is to find a good goalie, I find it difficult to believe there’s not someone of comparable quality available in the AHL system. Sure, you could argue Nabokov brings NHL experience to the table, but you could just as easily argue the experiences he brings aren’t all positive.

You could also say similar things about Wellwood and Svatos, both of whom are journeymen NHL players who weren’t good enough to earn NHL contracts the last time they were on the market.

Suddenly, after some time in the KHL, all three are considered NHL-worthy? What changed?

Nothing changed, except the NHL’s perception of them. When all three played in the NHL, GMs had a relatively accurate picture of their performance, from being able to see every game they played. GMs have that same ability with AHL players.

But over in the KHL, your game can’t be watched that closely by NHL people. And so, the NHL’s image of you changes. GMs tend to remember the good things about these players, and conveniently forget about the negative factors that initially made them not want to extend a contract offer. It’s like those people who constantly break up and then get back together because they always forget why they broke up.

So for journeymen players, the KHL is a realistic path to the NHL. It seems to make GMs forget why they didn’t want to sign a player when they first had the chance.

It got Nabokov an NHL job (although where that job will be, remains to be seen) plus a nice bundle of cash for his time in the KHL.