January 23, 2011

Isles Get the Better Nabokov...But For How Long?

In a somewhat surprising move (to me at least) the Islanders claimed goalie Evgeni Nabokov off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

The news broke at just a few minutes past noon, as usually happens with waiver claims. Who would have predicted all of the insanity that would ensue then.

Photo Credit to Ivan Makarov
Shortly after the Isles put in their claim, I mentioned on Twitter that I was skeptical of whether Nabokov would report to the team or not. As I wrote in the previous post, Nabokov's agent Don Meehan said that Nabokov would report to whatever team claimed him "for visibility for next season."

Clearly, he has no intentions to retire soon. But, he may leave himself no choice.

A statement from Meehan says that Nabokov will not be reporting to the Islanders. Meanwhile, Nabokov has not yet returned a call placed by Garth Snow. The only thing we know is that Nabokov texted ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, saying he had no comment on the situation at this time.

Clearly, Nabokov is thinking it all over. Right now, he has to make an important decision. He can either accept the claim and go to the Islanders for the final 36 games of this season, prove he still has what it takes to play in the NHL and pick-up a contract for next season, or decline to report, get suspended and effectively end his career.

As if that wasn't bad enough for Nabokov, the Islanders are given the right by the league to "toll" the contract. What that means is that the Islanders could really screw with Nabokov - more so than he has already himself - and make his contract effective next season too. He would still have one year of service owed to the Islanders (credit for this nugget goes to TSN's Bob McKenize, who has done a fantastic job of trying to make sense of this all for us).

Regardless of that, Nabokov won't get a job next season without playing in the NHL this year. His poor play in the KHL, one of the main motivating factors in the mutual contract termination has left a lot of execs wondering how much he has left in the tank.

If Nabokov were smart, he would accept the assignment. He really has nothing to lose by reporting to the Isles. He gets to prove what he really can do over the span of the next 36 games with many chances to start and can play calm and relaxed given the Isles current standing. If he plays well, people take notice and the Isles climb closer to .500, and he is given credit and can then go for the gold next season if he so chooses.

In the end, when all is said and done I think cooler heads prevail here and Nabokov does end up reporting. We won't know for sure when he makes this decision, or how long he has to make it. But Snow told us today that he has a plane booked for Nabokov for Sunday and the Isles appear to be going forth with their plans for him, stitching his jersey and adding him to the official NHL roster.

NYI FYI LIVE SUNDAY MORNING AT 11 AM: Sean and I will go more into detail about all things Nabokov during our show on Sunday morning at 11 AM. You can watch us live by going to the UStream link. We'll be taking questions by AIM, the chat room and through Twitter if you prefer that route.

I asked a question to see if some of you would welcome Nabokov if he changed his mind and reported, and it seems that a lot of you say yes. We'll try and read some of the answers and explanations on the air Sunday. Feel free to look us up on Twitter and give us your thoughts on the matter.



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