By Jim Diamond
Flash back to the summer of 2013. Coming off of a miserable lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Nashville Predators went on a spending spree on July 5th, the first day of free agency.
The most repeated phrase that day was, “The Predators paid how much? For who?” Nashville raised the white flag on one of those signees Thursday when they put forward Viktor Stalberg on waivers.
Forwards Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, and Eric Nystrom were all inked to multi-year deals in an effort to change Nashville’s low goal totals as well as collect the “entertainment tax” then head coach Barry Trotz wanted opponents to pay when they entered Bridgestone Arena.
“A couple of injuries early in the season have prevented this from being the season Viktor trained all summer for,” General Manager David Poile said in a release. “He has worked hard to return to the lineup. With Paul Gaustad and Taylor Beck day-to-day and still on our 23-man roster, the best option for Viktor and the organization at this time is to place Viktor on waivers with the hope that he will clear, go to Milwaukee to play games and continue his efforts to be ready for NHL game action.”
Not to put words in Poile’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure what he REALLY hopes is that one of the league’s 29 other teams rushes to their fax machine and sends in a waiver claim on Stalberg.
Stalberg is in the second year of a four-year, $12 million contract. Coming in as a free agent after his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, it was thought that Stalberg just needed an opportunity to crack the top two lines of a team in order for his offensive numbers to take off. Heck, he was just a season removed from scoring 22 with the Blackhawks in 2011-12.
Poile took a shot. Stalberg did look like a guy who just needed some ice time, but it didn’t work out for him.
Even with forwards just a shade less talented than Chicago’s, Stalberg couldn’t make the top six in Nashville. He had just eight goals and 10 assists in 70 games played last season. Injuries and players who are better than he is have troubled Stalberg this season. The injuries will heal, but the fact that there are many ahead of him on the depth chart will not.
Poile was somehow able to unload Hendricks’ four-year deal last January when he sent the rugged winger off to Edmonton in exchange for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk was terrible in his brief shot in Nashville, but moving Hendricks in that deal should have given Poile consideration for general manager of the year.
There is little to no chance of another team taking Stalberg’s contract off of Poile’s hands. And by little to no, it is really no to no chance. The official word of his clearing waivers will come Friday at 11 am CT.
When he clears, he will officially be assigned to Milwaukee. There is a Catch 22 associated with that move. He could find his game down there and become attractive to another team, but the problem with that course of action is that if he is put in the Admirals’ lineup, he will be taking ice time away from prospects.
The most ideal situation for all would be if Stalberg does find a spark in the AHL and Poile is able to find a trading partner for him. That will be a tall task even with the Predators able to absorb some of the remaining money on that contract.
As far as dollars and cents are concerned, Stalberg is due $3.5 million in both 2015-16 and 2016-17. His cap hit is $3 million for each of the contract’s seasons.
In all likelihood, Stalberg ends up in Milwaukee for the rest of the season and the final two years on his contract are bought out next summer.