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Islanders suspend Evgeni Nabokov for not reporting to team

Jan 25, 2011, 4:35 PM EDT

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The ongoing saga of Evgeni Nabokov takes another turn today as the Islanders have suspended Nabokov for refusing to report to the team after claiming him on waivers on Saturday. Detroit signed Nabokov to a one-year contract on January 20th hoping to bring the former Sharks star goalie in as a backup to Jimmy Howard.

In the process of returning to the NHL from the KHL this year, Nabokov had to be put on waivers in order to play in the NHL. With Nabokov’s deal being for just $575,000 it was virtually assured that someone in need of goaltending help would grab him.

Now the drama gets interesting because either Nabokov can report and unhappily play for the Islanders and play out this season and walk away from the team as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Nabokov chooses to stay home, however, the Islanders hold all the cards to his future. The team can then “toll” his contract until next season meaning that Nabokov will be Islanders property for the 2011-2012 season with the same $575,000 contract he initially signed with Detroit.

The situation is ugly either way as the Islanders could get an unmotivated and unhappy goalie to play for them this season making things in the locker room sketchy to say the least. Nabokov, meanwhile, could end up being stuck with a team that he doesn’t want to play for next season thus submarining his efforts to sign a more lucrative deal during the summer.

The clear best answer here is to have Nabokov report to the Islanders and just play out the string so to speak and hope that somehow the Isles might want to find a way to get him somewhere he’d rather be. Then again, Nabokov had to be aware of the possibility he might not end up with Detroit when he signed and that his ultimate wish to be a Red Wing might not come true. If Nabokov is fine with that and doesn’t mind being a hold out then he’s certainly not going to get other teams excited about trying to acquire him for next season.

Things are never dull in Long Island it seems and this latest go-round with Nabokov and Isles GM Garth Snow (including both sides playing a bizarre game of phone tag) is a prime example of that. All the Isles want is for Nabokov is to come in and play for them while Nabokov wants nothing more than to never play for the Islanders. You’d hope there’s an easier way to go about this, but with the NHL’s CBA there isn’t. Instead of phone tag, they’re playing a game of chicken to see who moves first. If nothing else, the Islanders just pressed down the accelerator.

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