In something of a surprise move, Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports that veteran forward Leo Komarov is expected to be on unconditional waivers tomorrow. The move would be to terminate Komarov’s contract, allowing him to return to the KHL where he would join SKA St. Petersburg. Komarov never did report to Bridgeport after being assigned to the AHL, but by terminating his deal it would mean forfeiting the remainder of his $2MM salary for this season.
Importantly, it would also clear Komarov’s entire $3MM cap hit off the books for the Islanders. Assigning him to the AHL only cleared $1.125MM, meaning New York and GM Lou Lamoriello would gain some extra cap space should this termination go through. After trading away Johnny Boychuk’s deal a few days ago, the Islanders are already under the cap and accruing cap space every day. Moving on from Komarov would give them even more cap space and help to accommodate a midseason acquisition.
The simple fact is that Komarov is no longer effective enough to be a full-time option at the NHL level. The 34-year-old forward recorded just 11 points in 52 games last season (regular season and playoffs combined), with only a single goal. While he’s always been a good defensive player and a physical presence, willing to hit just about anything that moves, his time as a realistic NHL option is over. A return to the KHL makes sense at this point, especially if he can recoup at least most of his remaining NHL salary.
Depending on what he signs in the KHL he may be an unrestricted free agent again next summer, but it seems unlikely that we’ll ever see Komarov as a regular in the NHL again. If that’s true, he leaves with 491 career regular season games, 63 goals, 170 points and 1,160 hits.