Every now and then, NHL transactions can produce awkward reunions. Ugly things can happen in the heat of competition, but players change uniforms often enough in the days of free agency and the salary cap that adversaries become teammates with regularity.
One can only imagine that there might have been some discomfort in the air when Brad May became a member of the Colorado Avalanche after he put a “bounty” on Steve Moore’s head or when Donald Brashear joined the New York Rangers an off-season after he completed some ugly acts against the team when he was with the Washington Capitals. Then again, even “Curb Your Enthusiasm” might struggle to top the discomfort comedy of a hypothetical situation in which Sean Avery joins Dion Phaneuf on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The latest awkward reunion might happen between Sidney Crosby and defenseman Boris Valabik, a rugged player who just signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. For those of you who don’t remember, Crosby hit Valabik below the belt and took a few other shots at him during a skirmish in December 2008 when the blueliner was playing with the Atlanta Thrashers.
That memory probably ranks pretty low on the “weirdly tense vibe in the locker room” scale, but it’s a bit funny that Valabik might occasionally be assigned to protect the Penguins’ crowned jewels (Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that is) whenever he’s at the NHL level. Valabik will reportedly make $550K whenever he’s at the pro level, but Seth Rorabaugh gives a good explanation of the defenseman’s potential.
This is a signing for the sake of organizational depth. Valabik will come to training camp and will get a chance to compete for the bottom two defensive spots but we have a hard time seeing him ending up on the NHL roster barring injuring.
Valabik is pretty much as advertised. He’s a big body who plays physical. But he’s not much of a skater and he offers next to nothing offensively. He’s an AHL version of Hal Gill.