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Another strange Nabokov decision
Former Sharks goaltender trips again
1/23/10 - By Mike Lee -

Day two of the Evgeni Nabokov saga got a little wackier when the former Sharks goaltender hung up on New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, who was trying to make contact with his newly claimed player. A day after plucking Nabokov off the waiver wire, Snow called Nabokov to see when he would be traveling to Long Island to join the Islanders. After introducing himself, the phone went dead.

Snow contacted Nabokov’s agent to see what was going on, and see if he could connect him with the prickly netminder. By the afternoon, Nabokov was back tracking, saying that he didn’t know it was Snow when the phone call was cut short.

Nabokov was also defending his actions to stay in California, rather than report.

"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov told ESPN.com on Sunday. "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs.”

It’s too bad Nabokov wasn’t at that point in his career when he played for San Jose.

“I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that.”

"I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, 'Wow, what's the point?"

' While Snow’s actions might be bewildering to Nabokov, the Russian goaltender’s decision to sign a relatively cheap contract with the Detroit Red Wings and expect it not be claimed by another team is the real head scratcher. When you consider the success the Red Wings have enjoyed the last 10 years, what team wants to make it easier for them to succeed?

Nabokov had an opportunity to sign with any NHL club of his choosing last summer, but his salary demands obviously weren’t in line with the expectations of league general managers. He took the money that the KHL had to offer, which turned into a mistake after he and SKA St. Petersburg mutually terminated the deal.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that he must clear waivers in order to sign with another club, so the rules were very clear.

"I understand the rules," Nabokov told ESPN.com. "We're not stupid. We knew what was going on before we made the decision. But I made this decision because the goal was to play with Detroit."

It would seem that Nabokov was essentially just rolling the dice, hoping that he’d either make it through the waiver process, or perhaps be grabbed by another competitor with a shot at making a playoff run. Chicago seemed like a likely candidate to nab Nabby, but the Blackhawks never got the chance.

There’s been more than enough discussion on internet message boards by hopeful Sharks fans that their former goaltender might somehow make a return to San Jose, but that was all but impossible, given the absence of any cap space and the fact that they have two serviceable goaltenders on their roster.

With Antero Niittymaki being placed on injured reserve, it looked as if the door might be opening, but it seems unlikely that Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson would even want Nabokov’s services.

Wilson cut ties with Nabokov last summer and didn’t even bother to attempt to negotiate a reduced salary. Wilson’s mind was made up the second the Blackhawks eliminated San Jose from the playoffs last spring.

Also consider that Wilson believes he has a goaltender that can get his team over the hump. It was this time last season that Antti Niemi began to make his mark on the Blackhawks run. If Wilson follows trends, then he’ll look to Niemi to guide the Sharks to the promise land. Nabokov’s spring trends don’t exude much confidence.


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