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Evgeni Nabokov will ‘stick things out’ in NHL this season, even if it’s with the Islanders

Jul 22, 2011, 12:54 PM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov AP

Every once and a while, a pattern forms to give a day a “theme.” If this Friday is any indication, then today might be “Big name KHL export returns to the NHL via Long Island Day.” (We might need a little time to work out the kinks in that title, though.)

Moments ago, we discussed Alexei Yashin’s possible reunion with the New York Islanders. That situation has a long way to go before it becomes anything more than a clever negotiating ploy, but one other possible return of a KHL defector brings extra validity for a simple reason: that guy is already under contract with the Isles.

In case the headline didn’t give it away, we’re talking about former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. James Mirle reports that the goalie’s agent Don Meehan confirmed what was discussed in May: Nabokov is primed to play in the NHL during the 2011-12 season … even in the unlikely case that he’ll play in net for the Islanders.

“He will be in the NHL this season,” Meehan said.

Where he will play, however, remains the biggest question.

The Islanders already have veterans Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro and youngsters Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koiskinen all vying for roles in the organization. Given his contract and experience, Nabokov would seem to be a good fit with plenty of other teams and could have some trade value, which appears to be the route the Islanders will go.

That said, if DiPietro’s health remains a question and they want to keep their young netminders in the minors, Nabokov could play on Long Island after snubbing the organization.

Mirtle’s thought process regarding the unlikelihood of Nabokov playing for the Islanders is sound, but I wonder if DiPietro’s health would be the only reason he might play for the team who received his cold shoulder last season. It wouldn’t be shocking if he played at least a handful of games in Long Island as an “audition” for teams who want to make sure that Nabby hasn’t lost too many steps after what was a dreadful aborted campaign in the KHL.

Who might be most interested in Nabokov

Nabokov’s track record and affordable one-year, $750K deal make him an intriguing trade target at this moment in time, though. The first team that might be awfully interested is the Anaheim Ducks. They have a lot of uncertainty at the position considering Jonas Hiller‘s struggles with vertigo, the franchise must be very familiar with Nabokov from his time as a cross-state rival in San Jose and his contract wouldn’t damage their fragile budget too badly. The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets are two other teams who might want to take a long look at Nabby as a possible starter (especially if the Jets’ new organization isn’t too keen on Ondrej Pavelec).

Nabokov could also be a reasonable insurance policy for a number of teams, including the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Even the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs have enough questions in net to at least give Nabby some thought.


While bringing Yashin back into the Islanders fold could rank as a wild move, Nabokov is more of a wild card. It’s tough to shake the notion that the two-time All-Star and three-time 40+ win man benefited greatly – perhaps deceptively – from his time playing behind a strong team in San Jose. Still, at one year and such a small salary, Nabokov ranks as a smart gamble for a solid chunk of teams. It’s not out of line to wonder if he could help a team go from a playoff outsider to a playoff contender, if nothing else.

Oddly enough, he might even make some sense for the Islanders, too.

  1. derpdederpdederp - Jul 22, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    the Ducks? are you forgetting the Wings were the team that picked him up? my guess is they’ll be trying to pick him up again. also, Brian Burke doesn’t seem open to adding a veteran goalie so the Leafs don’t deserve the mention

    • James O'Brien - Jul 22, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      Chris Osgood was banged up in Detroit when they made a claim on Nabokov. Burke might not feel comfortable putting all of his eggs in the James Reimer basket, so Nabokov might make some sense.

      • derpdederpdederp - Jul 22, 2011 at 3:50 PM

        and how is Osgood doing now? oh thats right he’s retired. to me bringing Nabokov to Detroit makes as much or more sense than it did when they initially claimed him because of that fact. but they may be reluctant to have to actually give something up for him this time around.

        as for the Leafs, I can’t recall whether or not burke explicitly stated he would not bring in a veteran goalie but it seems if he wanted to do so he would have signed Giguere or Bryzgalov when he had the chance. knowing how particular Burke is about trades I say there’s about a 0.00% chance he gives up anything for Nabokov

        Florida already picked up a veteran goalie in Jose Theodore, backed up another vet in Clemmensen. hard to see where Nabokov fits in there unless they intend on making Theodore a backup or one of them straight up retires (or dies) during the season

        Columbus makes some sense. the determinant there would be whether or not the club thinks they are close enough to contending to justify giving up prospects for a vet

        the Oilers are a very young team that at this point is too far from contention to attract Nabokov. him going there makes as much sense as him going to Long Island

        Colorado makes virtually no sense as they have a vet in Giguere to mentor an potential rising star in Varlamov. the Avs won’t be willing to part with young players and prospects to add a player they don’t need

        of all the teams you named, Phoenix is by far the best fit. they are a solid team up front with nothing remotely resembling a number 1 starting goalie after losing Bryzgalov. you could also throw in the Kings in there as they have a very good up-and-coming team full of young stars. however, this applies to both goalies and it stands to reason that adding Nabokov would add stability and experience to the position, as well as serving as mentor to their young goalies. the Lightening are another team that would greatly benefit from adding Nabokov. last playoffs Roloson showed he is not the a consistent option to lead the team during a playoff run and he looks like he could to collapse from old age at any moment. now that they have Stamkos locked up they need to focus on the goaltending position and adding Nabokov would be an improvement

  2. derpdederpdederp - Jul 22, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I can’t decide if the fact the Ducks currently list 7 goalies on their roster makes it more likely or less likely Nabokov will head there. they would have goaltending prospects to trade, but as you mentioned the Islanders are not exactly in need of more goaltending. this to me indicates he won’t be going to Anaheim, but their most experienced goalie is Dan Ellis so Nabokov would be an obvious upgrade there

  3. thegonz13 - Jul 22, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Hey, for $750K, even I would stick a year with the Isles!

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