Vladimir Malakhov’s signing with the Devils began a weird string of awkward post-2004-lockout free agent signings. Losing two Hall of Fame defensemen in consecutive seasons in Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer respectively will take it’s toll on any team.
Malakov had success at the NHL level, as Devils fans witnessed first hand as he helped the team capture the franchises second Stanley Cup. However, at 36 years of age, he would not be giving the Devils glimpses of their Hall of Fame defensemen. More curious was signing the defenseman to a two-year contract worth $7.2 million as the team needed to oblige to the NHL’s new mandated salary cap.
The Devils were hard pressed against the cap as is, so signing Malakhov did not make much sense. Lamoriello watched this disaster unfold for only 29 games, before Malakhov’s abrupt ‘retirement’ on a flight home following a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. It quickly became a he said-she said as the Devils spun it as retirement and his agent called it a ‘leave of absense.’
Malakhov wouldn’t easily ride off into the sunset, forcing the Devils to be on the hook on for the entirety of the contract. The Devils finally found a trade partner with San Jose to stay in compliance with the salary cap. In the trade, the Devils had to surrender a 1st-round pick.
Many suggested that Lamoriello was simply working his magic unloading a ‘retired’ player’s albatross of a contract. That merits some recognition, however Lamoriello mortgaged the future for a guy who only played 29 games with the team. Seeing how sketchy Lamoriello’s drafts had been in the 2000’s, one could not even guarantee that the 1st-round pick would have even worked out in the Devils’ favor.