Curious little bit of Central Division intrigue this morning that could have significant implications on Evgeni Nabokov's short-term NHL future as well. Here's what happened. With Nashville immersed in its second five-game losing streak of the season, and unable to score enough goals, the Predators claimed Marek Svatos off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. Svatos, you'll recall, started the season in Russia's KHL after failing to catch on with an NHL team this summer as a free agent. It turns out Russia didn't suit Svatos, so he shopped around for an NHL offer and found one in St. Louis, which offered a modest $800,000 pro-rated salary to finish the year with it. St. Louis is in almost exactly the same boat as Nashville, in the mix for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but short on scoring, thanks to injuries that have sidelined David Perron, T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald.
Under NHL rules, however, because Svatos started the season in Europe, the Blues were obliged to put him on waivers after they signed him, giving every other NHL team a crack at him. Presumably, they figured they might be able to sneak him through, given how erratic Svatos was in his final NHL season, getting into only 54 games for the Colorado Avalanche and managing only 11 points. However, Svatos had previously scored 32 and 26 goals in the NHL, so Nashville figured that at that price (and the fact that they kept him away from one of their primary playoff rivals), it was a risk worth taking.
How does Nabokov figure into the equation? Well, like Svatos, the former San Jose Sharks goaltender started the year in the KHL, and mostly for family reasons, found it wasn't to his liking. SKA St. Petersburg gave him his release and he went back to San Jose, where he is awaiting an offer. The problem of course is that if he signs with anyone, Nabokov will also need to go on waivers - and in all probability, would be claimed in the same way Svatos was. It's a dilemma because as the season approaches the halfway mark and the salary-cap dollars click off, Nabokov could be an interesting wild card going forward, for any team needing to shore up its netminding for a second-half push. But as the Svatos manoeuvres prove, often it is the team that steps up and signs a free agent out of Europe in mid-season that has the least likely chance of seeing them end up on their roster.