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Evgeni Nabokov represents Team Russia, discusses next season

Apr 1, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

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Evgeni Nabokov AP

Sure, the allure of being close to home couldn’t hurt, but Evgeni Nabokov decided to go to the KHL to get the kind of contract offer he couldn’t receive in the NHL. Ultimately, that didn’t work out, but he was lucky enough to get a chance to go back to the world’s greatest hockey league. He got even luckier when the Detroit Red Wings showed interest in signing him.

Unfortunately, his luck slowed down with the waivers process, as New York Islanders GM Garth Snow scooped him up. Nabokov wanted to have his return his way, so he opted not to play with the Islanders.

The biggest downside to Nabby’s decision not to play is that the Islanders still hold his rights, meaning that they can decide whether or not he’s allowed to play in the NHL next season. Actually, if the KHL and NHL do indeed play nice going forward, he won’t be able to play overseas without the Isles’ consent, either.

Who knows if the Islanders will let bygones be bygones when it comes to the KHL (somewhat likely) or NHL (less likely), but it seems like they are looking the other way as Nabokov gets some reps with Team Russia. Dmitry Chesnokov caught up with Nabokov for a brief Puck Daddy story that touched on how he feels about his future.

The rules of international hockey state that a player participating in international events should furnish an insurance policy to cover his existing club contract. For example, in 2008 the Russian Hockey Federation paid a reported premium of $700 thousand for a two week tournament to insure Alex Ovechkin‘s(notes) $124 million contract.

It is unclear whether this was done in Nabokov’s case. And does Nabokov even have a permission to play for the National Team while his NHL club is still playing in the regular season?

“The Islanders are aware of everything. I told them that I was going to play for the national team. No one stood on my way. And the [Russian Hockey Federation] will take care of all the formalities,” Nabokov told Lysenkov today. “I didn’t personally call [the Islanders].”

Nabokov added: “I don’t want to elaborate on this topic at this time. The process with the Islanders is ongoing. My words may be misunderstood, people will reach conclusions…”

Forgive me if I’m reaching incorrect conclusions about Snow, but it makes sense for the Islanders to let him go on this one. Nabokov might give some indication that he can still play at an elite level – a season off can be a problem for the low margin of error goalie position – while not hurting the Islanders by playing for another NHL team.

That’s the biggest problem with the Isles just giving Nabokov a free pass next year. If they let him go to another team, he could win games against New York while they gain nothing but embarrassment and/or frustration in the process (this would ring especially true in the East).

Overall, the waiver wire process makes this all a bit complicated. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Islanders let him play in another league, decide to be amazingly charitable by letting him join another NHL team or Nabokov has a change of heart and plays for the Islanders. There might also be some other possibilities we haven’t even considered.

It’s an interesting dilemma that is far from settled at this point. Right now, it’s mostly speculation – even, admittedly, on Nabokov’s end – but we’ll update you the next time something interesting trickles through.

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