(courtesy of ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/REUTERS)
It appears Evgeni Nabokov’s stint back in the motherland is over as the four-year $24 million contract has been terminated by SKA St.Petersburg earlier today. Nabokov signed the contract with the intent of finishing up his career back in his adopted home country after being cut loose by the San Jose Sharks due to cap limitations. The 35-year-old netminder was the backbone to the only team he knew in the NHL and holds every major record for goalies in team history.
His short-lived stint with SKA lasted just 22 games which saw him earn a save percentage of .888 and a 3.02 goals against average. He finished a 8-8-5 record. Reports in Russia agree that family was the reason the contract was terminated with others claiming Nabokov didn’t particularly enjoy being a back-up while being the KHL vs NHL poster boy.
Nabokov’s wife and children are American so it is possible the lifestyle offered in Russia wasn’t good enough for his
family but this is just mere speculation at this point. What we do know is that Nabby does want to play in the NHL as per his agent. The difference between the off-season market for a goalie and the almost-halfway-through-the-season market is that there are contenders who could use the experience and talent Nabokov provides for cheap.
It’s unlikely he will sign a long-term deal with any team off the bat and these speculations are strictly short-term commitment based. Teams such as Carolina, Colorado, Nashville, Phoenix, and Tampa Bay seem to make the most sense as they all have favorable cap room and in most cases are in favorable playoff position or on the outside looking in.
While these teams do have established starters Nabokov’s resume can easily put him first in the pecking order. Phoenix could be a good fit as Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Nabby with Team Russia on several occasions or even Tampa who has kept afloat in the standings despite some suspect goaltending.
The NHL policy states that Nabokov would have to clear waivers first before joining any team. Where will he land? The answer should come sooner than later and we are glad to eat our own words by having one the best NHL goalies in the last decade back in the fold.