Michael Nylander to the KHL Still a Possibility

Allen PopelsCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11:  Michael Nylander #92 of the Washington Capitals looks on during the game against the New York Rangers on February 11, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

According to Dmitry Chesnokov of Sovetsky Sport, the KHL's Avangard Omsk is still in pursuit of Michael Nylander in hopes of securing his services for the upcoming season.

This rumor started out early in the offseason that the KHL team had interest in taking Nylander and his $4.875 million cap number off the Caps' hands; pretty much a dream scenario for a team in need of some salary cap relief and eager to unload a player that no longer fits their uptempo style of play. 

Now Friday morning Chesnokov is reporting that Avangard's general manager Anatoli Bardin had this to say on the subject.

"We are intensively negotiating with Nylander. In spite of his contract with Washington, we are still hoping to get him."

I had a conversation with Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post last week at the Capitals' summer development camp regarding Nylander, and we basically agreed on the most likely way this is going to be resolved.

Nylander will come into training camp with the opportunity to prove himself again and make the Capitals 2009-10 roster. 

If and when it becomes acknowledged that he won't have a full-time position on the team, then he most likely would move overseas for the remainder of the season. With his no-movement clause, Nylander would have to agree to such a move.

However, one would hope that he would have some professional pride and would rather move to a team where he could play as opposed to remaining an albatross in Washington.

The Capitals could even choose to help encourage the move by supplementing his salary with whatever team he joined so that he would not have to take a cut in his pay.

When this happens his NHL contract will be suspended, allowing his large cap number to come off the team's books. It's a loophole in the system that has been explored in the past by other NHL teams.

At the beginning of last season, the Blackhawks had just signed former Capitals netminder Cristobal Huet to a big free agent deal averaging a cap hit of $5.5 million a year. However, they still had a very expensive goaltender of their own in Nikolai Khabibulin, who was making over $7 million in the final year of his deal. 

In hopes of freeing up salary cap space, the Blackhawks discussed the option of loaning the Russian goaltender to the KHL. Luckily for them, they ultimately decided against this option and Khabibulin ended up regaining the starting job and leading Chicago all the way to the Western Conference finals.

Avangard Omsk has been the most talked about destination for the 36-year-old Swede based on his past success playing with their star player and former Capital Jaromir Jagr.  Nylander had back-to-back career years while playing on a line with Jagr in New York. 

During the 2005-06 season he totaled 79 points in 82 games and followed that up with a career-high 83 points in 79 games during the 2006-07 season. He parlayed those numbers into a big money free agent deal with the Capitals, but has not enjoyed anywhere near the same success in Washington.

Perhaps Nylander would be intrigued to team up with Jagr and see if they can rediscover their success they had together with the Rangers.

Keep your fingers crossed, Caps fans. There's a chance you've already seen the last of Nylander in D.C.

Friday Night Update: Here is the direct link from the Russian newspaper on Nylander.  The translation is as follows:

"We are conducting intensive negotiations with Nyulanderom. Striker linked contract with Washington," but we believe that we can get it. He, along with Yagrom played at Rangers, and they are very good at it. According to Jaromir, it was for him the best partner for all the speech in the NHL "- quoting Bardeen TC" Sport ", with reference to the Czech edition of Sport.

Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.

July 30th Update: Another quote from Avangard's GM is confirming my theory that Nylander will go to the KHL after the pre-season.

"We may see Nylander in Omsk around November."

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