The Islanders waived Kirill Kabanov yesterday, cutting ties to a guy once thought to be a top 10 talent amongst Isles prospects. It appears that no one has claimed him – which isn’t really a surprise; whereas prospects with off-ice problems (in Kabanov’s case, reports of lazyness and missing meetings amongst other problems) OR prospects with high talent who never seem to put it together into results often get second chances from other organizations, prospects with BOTH problems are not exactly guys that teams really want to take chances on. It is extraordinarily unlikely that Kirill Kabanov ever amounts to anything in professional hockey, nevertheless the NHL.
That said, the Isles cutting ties with Kabanov before his ELC is even up (buying out the last year of his deal) is a typical example of poor asset management that NHL teams exhibit all the time. NHL teams have 50 spots for NHL Contracts (which don’t count sub age 20 prospects in juniors due to the slide rule). Your NHL team only has room for 23 players (prior to the trade deadline, when it becomes unlimited). That means you can have 27 players who aren’t in the NHL signed and playing in your AHL/ECHL affiliate. These are spots for extra assets.
Note: AHL players don’t need to be on your 50 contracts – many AHL players are on AHL/ECHL deals, and thus don’t count for the 50. So you don’t need your extra 27 slots to fill up your AHL team. And in fact, last year the Isles were at 43 contracts – they had 7 left to give.
This year the Isles are at 48 contracts currently, with a 49th coming soon with Kevin Poulin’s arbitration hearing. So Kabanov was likely cut for flexibility. But think how those spots have been filled up:
Brett Gallant given another NHL deal (Qualifying offer)
Kevin Poulin qualified (going to arbitration)
Harry Zolniercyk given a 2 way deal (with a 300K AHL salary, a nearly 300% raise!)
Jack Skille getting a 2 way deal
Kael Mouillierat given a 2 way deal.
Of those 5 guys, only Skille and Poulin have any business in potential on an NHL roster, and Poulin* is a beyond long shot goaltender who is 4th in line for NHL time (and that should’ve been the plan when they qualified him) and Skille is at best a fourth liner. Zolniercyk is an AHL energy guy, Gallant is a goon, and Mall Rat wasn’t even good enough to get an NHL deal prior to this year. None of these guys, bar Skille, are good enough to be worth a 50 man slot – you can get players of similar quality on AHL/ECHL deals – in fact that’s how the Isles previously had both Gallant and Mall Rat.
*It’s possible they expected Poulin to follow Nilsson abroad and just QOed him to retain his rights, but Poulin didn’t have any connections overseas to make that seem likely. A bad gamble, if that’s what they were going for.
Which brings us back to Kabanov. Kabanov is a super long shot at this point, if any shot at all – but he’s a long shot at actually being a top 9er, not being a grinder. Moreover, THEY WERE GOING TO BE PAYING HIM THIS YEAR ANYHOW – they saved like 30K by cutting him and are still paying most of his 3rd year of his ELC. If he bothered the AHL coaches, they could’ve loaned him to Sweden or the ECHL again – and who knows, maybe he’d pull it together. And if he didn’t the Isles could just not qualify him next year and no harm no foul. Instead, the Isles have a bunch of mediocre AHL players on taking up spots of assets.
This is what I mean by poor asset management. And every team does it by the way – so it’s not just an Isles problem. 99.9999% of the time it won’t matter, but a team like the Isles, without great financial resources, shouldn’t be casting off any lottery tickets if they don’t have to.