The Montreal Canadiens love their reclamation projects and their need for goaltending could see them tempted by a notable name recently put on waivers.
The Detroit Red Wings continue to place some big names on waivers lately, following up the demotion of Jakub Vrana with that of Alex Nedeljkovic on Sunday afternoon.
The 27-year-old goaltender, who put up some incredible numbers playing with the Carolina Hurricanes two years ago, simply hasn’t found his game in Detroit since being acquired in the summer of 2021.
The former 2nd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft has seen a significant dip in performance this season, and, with the acquisition of Ville Husso this summer, many thought the writing was on the wall; but nobody expected this.
Carrying a contract of $3M until the end of this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent, Nedeljkovic could be an interesting gamble for the Canadiens, who have had trouble finding consistency in the goaltending department.
Despite already having Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault, the Canadiens could easily hold three goaltenders if they chose to, as they now have the roster flexibility with Brendan Gallagher, Sean Monahan and Kaiden Guhle all on IR.
As for cap space, the Canadiens currently have about $800,000 in cap space since Cayden Primeau’s emergency recall. However, once Monahan, Allen and Matheson return to the lineup within a week or two, the Canadiens would have over 3.5M at the very least in LTIR space; plenty enough to absorb Nedeljkovic’s contract.
If not, due to his injury keeping him out for over six weeks, bringing us to the NHL Trade Deadline, Brendan Gallagher could be put on LTIR, freeing up $6.5M for the six weeks that the Canadiens rugged winger is sidelined. By the NHL Trade Deadline, the Canadiens will have unloaded a contract or two, allowing them to activate Gallagher and retain Nedeljkovic in their lineup.
But what if waivers isn’t the only way?
However, should Nedeljkovic clear waivers, the Montreal Canadiens could swing a minor-league deal in order to send a contract to Detroit that could even off the cap hit and roster slots, making for a more palatable acquisition; say moving Evgenii Dadonov at 50% retained to make room.
By making the move via the minors, the Canadiens could help Nedeljkovic find his game in Laval and then call him up when appropriate to see whether he could be part of the future.
It’s very rare to have a player of Nedeljkovic’s reputation on waivers at this time, and the fact that he is a free agent this summer offers the Canadiens a perfect no-risk move to test the 27-year-old prior to the end of the season.
Alex Nedeljkovic was once in the running for the Calder Trophy during the 2020-2021 season with the Hurricanes where he posted a 0.932 save percentage and a 1.90 goals-against average in 23 regular season games; before following that up with a 0.920 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average in nine playoff games.
He was then promptly traded to Detroit, when the Hurricanes sought out cheaper alternatives, and hasn’t been the same since.
Perhaps a change of scenery is exactly what the doctor ordered.