The KHL regular season has come to a close. With it, teams that did not qualify for the playoffs have started making personnel decisions. On Monday, Dinamo Riga announced multiple contract terminations including one intriguing name for the Blackhawks.
Ivan Nalimov, 26, was originally a sixth round pick (#179 overall) by the Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Draft. He’s been a fascinating netminder in rumors over the past few years as he’s bounced around the KHL but has never received a contract from the Blackhawks.
A translation of the release says Nalimov was granted an early termination of his contract to “continue his career in the USA.”
Three months ago, this news would have made big waves in Chicago. As the Hawks moved on from Corey Crawford, the competition for the crease was wide open. Indeed, Nalimov waited until the NHL’s return to play plan was finalized and the Blackhawks didn’t make him an offer before he signed with Dinamo in December. He eventually took over the starting role.
Even though the Blackhawks haven’t offered him a contract, they retain his rights.
What makes this intriguing is the timing. The translation of the release indicates there is a specific plan in place.
The news dropped on March 1 – the first day NHL clubs can sign players to contracts that begin in the 2021-22 season.
However, how/where would Nalimov fall into the new depth chart in net for the Blackhawks?
Kevin Lankinen, 25, has clearly taken the top spot and is an early candidate for the Calder Trophy.
Though his performance on Saturday wasn’t great, 27-year-old Malcolm Subban has looked good enough to serve as the back-up. And Collin Delia, 26, has NHL experience as well.
All three are signed through next season as well, and Delia has the largest cap hit at just $1 million.
The Blackhawks may see him as a good netminder who could compete for the job still. They might also see him as a valuable trade asset before the upcoming trade deadline. Or one of the goaltenders they have playing in North America already could become available if Nalimov signs with Chicago.
Whatever the case is, this is an interesting name to keep an eye on in the coming days/weeks.