Alex Nedeljkovic finished third in Calder Trophy voting for the NHL’s rookie of the year last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Now that he’s with the Detroit Red Wings, maybe he’ll have better luck this season.
Oh, didn’t you hear? Nedeljkovic remains Calder-eligible this season.
The 25-year-old goaltender played 23 games for the Hurricanes last season. Under the Calder Trophy eligibility rules, there are three ways by which a player relinquishes their rookie status.
To be eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league. Beginning in 1990-91, a player must not have attained his 26th birthday by Sept. 15 of the season in which he is eligible.
— NHL (@NHL) August 14, 2021
Let’s check off the list. He only played 23 games last season. In 2019-20, Nedeljkovic appeared in four games for the Hurricanes. He saw action in two other one-game stints prior to that, in 2018-19 and 2016-17.
He won’t celebrate his 26th birthday until January 7.
Yes sir, Nedeljkovic is still Calder-eligible. But wait – will the shortened 56-game NHL season caused by the COVID-19 pandemic make any impact on rookie status? Based on an 82-game season, Nedeljkovic’s 23 games would translate to 34 games during a typcial NHL campaign.
According to the NHL, that doesn’t matter. Totals are not being prorated because of the shortened season, just as they weren’t in 1994-95 or 2012-13, two NHL seasons that were shortened to 48 games due to owner lockouts of the players.
Last season, Nedeljkovic led the NHL in goals-against average (1.90) and save percentage (.932). He finished tied for sixth with three shutouts. The Red Wings acquired him in a July 22 trade with Carolina. They signed the restricted free agent to a two-year, $6 million contract.
“It’s an opportunity to play,” Nedeljkovic said. “An opportunity to, not kickstart my career but to really try to get it going in the right direction and really kind of cement that I can play in this league and I can be an NHL goalie.”
The Wings are projecting that Nedeljkovic will battle veteran Thomas Greiss for the No. 1 netminding position and believe he could be their goalie of the future.
Seeing some of the money these young goalies got makes you scratch your head even more about the Carolina made trading away Nedeljkovic because they didn’t want to pay him. https://t.co/OyUO3pM8L6
— Carlo Colaiacovo (@CarloColaiacovo) August 9, 2021
“We think based on last year [Nedeljkovic] is a very good goaltender who can challenge to be a starter,” Wings GM Steve Yzerman said.
It’s not unprecedented for a player to have two kicks at the can when it comes to winning the Calder. However, no player has ever come as close to winning as Nedeljkovic and still been left with a second chance to earn the honor.
He garnered 386 votes and a voting percentage of 38.6. Winner Kirill Kaprizov of the Minneota Wild (997) and Jason Robertson (689) of the Dallas Stars finished ahead of Nedeljkovic in Calder balloting.
Those closest previous example to this scenario came during the 2013-14 NHL season. New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider finished 10th in Calder voting. Since he’d only played 23 games during the 48-game 2012-13 campaign, Kreider remained Calder-eligible in 2013-14.
Over the years, there’s been some unusual scenarios involving the Calder Trophy. Four players – Gaye Stewart (Toronto Maple Leafs 1941-42 and 1942-43), Danny Grant (Montreal Canadiens 1967-68, Minnesota North Stars 1968-69), Tony Esposito (Montreal Canadiens 1968-69, Chicago Blackhawks 1969-70) and Ken Dryden (Montreal Canadiens 1970-71 and 1971-72) all won the Calder the season after winning the Stanley Cup.
Neither Jim Paek or Matt Murray won the Calder. However, both won back-to-back Stanley Cups as rookies with the Pittsburgh Penguins, since they remained Calder-eligible in both championships. Paek did it in 1990-91 and 1991-92. Murray accomplished the feat in 2015-16 and 2016-17.