This Day in Devils History: Malakhov to San Josedevils history October 1, 2012
Before there was the first half of the 2010-2011 season, there was the first half of the 2005-2006 season. More specifically, there was late-December of 2005. Coming out of the lockout, the New Jersey Devils were in full out scramble mode.
Scott Niedermayer–the team’s captain, and no-doubt best skater–had departed for Anaheim. Scott Stevens was considering playing, but post-concussion symptoms forced him to retire. Patrick Elias was sick with Hepatitis A. Zach Parise was just a very promising rookie. Pat Burns’ cancer had come back worse than ever, and was not going to be able to take his job back as head coach.
Seeing this, Lou responded with a flurry of moves. He had already signed Richard Matvichuk to a four-year deal before the lockout. On the same day in August, he announced the signings of defensemen Dan McGillis and Vladamir Malakhov to two-year deals. Larry Robinson would run the team behind the bench.
It didn’t take long for the new setup to unravel. By December, Larry Robinson would step down as head coach, with Lou taking over behind the bench. Dan McGillis was banished to the minor leagues. And Vladamir Malakov took what he later defined as a ‘leave of absence’, but what at the time was reported was a permanent retirement.
For the 2005-2006 season, things worked out pretty well. Brad Lukowich, Ken Klee, and Tommy Albelin were brought in to piece together a back-end defense, and the Devils made the playoffs. However, they were stuck with a problem heading into the 2006-2007 season. A then-obscure CBA rule mandated that even though Malakhov had retired’, his cap hit would count. With so much money tied up in bum players, Lou had to get rid of Malakhov’s cap hit.
And then, on October 1st, 2006, in one of the stranger trades in sports history, Lou paid the San Jose Sharks to take Malakhov’s cap hit off his hands. He sent the rights to Malakhov and the New Jersey’s first round pick to San Jose in exchange for Alex Korolyuk – a decent player who remained in Russia after the lockout ended – and Jim Fahey, a journeyman.
San Jose eventually traded the pick to St. Louis, who selected David Perron, a very strong left winger. Malakhov never played another professional game of hockey, and the Devils made the playoffs again in 2006-2007.
The Devils were the first team to learn an important lesson: don’t sign a 35 year-old or older player to a multi-year contract. There were a lot of growing pains for NHL general managers in the new (and at the time, much lower) salary cap world. Malakhov’s situation was perhaps the most dramatic of those early pains.