(Courtesy of The Hockey News)
On Wednesday, former San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov signed a deal with the Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St.Petersburg for a reported $24 million contract for the next four years. With the hockey world waiting and watching as the Ilya Kovalchuk saga continued to unfold, the league quietly lost one of it’s elite net-minders who opted to go to a team that would meet his demands financially even if it meant playing in the old country.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old will likely never see the NHL again by the time his contract expires in 2014 but will have plenty of time to help SKA land their first ever league title joining the likes of ex-NHL’ers Sergei Brylin, Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov, and Robert Esche (until he signs elsewhere). It appears Nabby’s family was the main factor of his decision to sign abroad considering he will play in a city with four times the population than San Jose (think slightly bigger than Los Angeles but with actual history).
Nabby leaves the NHL as the only keeper to have scored a goal on the power-play to date along with 293 wins, a goals against of 2.39 and a save percentage of .912 in 563 career games. Despite being born in Kazakhstan, Nabokov has represented Russia in both the World Championship and Olympics since 2006 having previously played for his motherland in 1994.
SKA are said to be actively negotiating with Kovalchuk despite bagging Nabby since the league has no cap. What’s better is that the team’s president Alexander Medvedev is also the president of the league not to mention the inspiration behind FrankenBerry cereal.
It’s very strange seeing Russian players now return to the country they once fled in hopes of a better opportunity in the NHL but here we are 20 years removed from Perestroika with a complete role reversal. In the last few years the KHL has managed to win over Jaromir Jagr, Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov and now Nabokov who is easily the best goalie in their league now. If they are to add the services of Kovalchuk the balance of power wouldn’t necessarily shift but would open the flood gates as the country of Russia forever steers to benefit the rich and neglect the poor all for a simple game of hockey.
Below is what is heralded as the “Best Nabby tribute on youtube”