Posted: Friday November 4, 2005 1:33PM; Updated: Friday November 4, 2005 4:01PM
Despite his woes, Shields could be just the first of several retreads, aging or otherwise, to get the call this season. Felix Potvin, Jeff Hackett and Byron Dafoe, among others, are floating out there, waiting for the next torn ACL or concussion to make them more desirable than a French Silk pie at fat camp.
Of course, guys like that will want to be paid. The cheaper, and more practical, route will be to throw youngsters into the fire.
That's worked out well so far. A staggering 30 goalies -- who have either made their NHL debuts, been called up to provide emergency backup relief or who have so little experience that they qualify for consideration -- are now in contention for the Calder Trophy.
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Amazingly, that number might rise, because here's where the situation gets really interesting. The teams that have a reliable, veteran third-stringer toiling away in the minors are afraid to recall the player, who first must pass through waivers. That rule applies to any veteran making more than $75,000 in the minors.
So not only would a team risk losing the player, but he'd be unavailable for 24 hours -- the length of the waiver period. With so many back-to-back games, that delay might be impossible to work around. Then, to make matters worse, a clause in the new CBA stipulates that if the player is claimed by another team, the original team would have half of his NHL salary charged to their cap.
Few teams have the room to take a no-return cap hit like that. That's why the Bruins made the seemingly crazy move to recall Jordan Sigalet, a kid with one game of AHL experience, instead of Finnish League MVP Tim Thomas, to back up Hannu Toivonen in the wake of Raycroft's injury. And it's why Vancouver went with Rob McVicar rather than veteran Wade Flaherty when Cloutier was felled by a concussion last Saturday in Colorado.
It's such a restrictive system that the PHPA, the union that represents athletes in the AHL and ECHL, has threatened to launch an antitrust lawsuit against the NHL on the basis that the rule essentially imposes a non-negotiated individual salary cap of $75,000 on AHL players. All that does is force second-tier goalies -- the exact players teams used to rely upon in this situation -- to Europe for more money and better opportunities.
Both the waiver rule and the free pass in the crease area were implemented during the summer with the best of intentions; now both should be reconsidered next summer. The addition of a goaltender to the NHL's Competition Committee -- a move announced just last week -- is certainly a step in the right direction. No doubt there will be plenty of netminders, in various states of health, willing to volunteer for that duty.