It's Official: Nabokov Has Been Suspended

The New York Islanders claimed veteran goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov off of waivers on January 22nd after the thirty-five year old signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings for the remainder of the season on January 20th. Garth Snow plucked the net-minder off the wire in an attempt to fill the gap that has been left between the pipes.

With Rick DiPietro's uncertain health (he's in the middle of an on-and-off battle with the flu) and Nathan Lawson out with an injury over the next 1-2 weeks, the Islanders felt it was best to bring in Nabokov since the organization did not want to rush rookie goaltender, Kevin Poulin, into a role that was too soon for his development. Therefore, Nabokov would have provided stability while allowing Poulin to remain with the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Although Nabokov's agent stated that his client would be happy with any NHL team, having been aware of the waiver possibility, it was clearly untrue.

Nabokov failed to report to the New York Islanders and made it clear that he does not wish to be part of the New York Islanders organization. As a result, GM Garth Snow has suspended Nabokov, which shall make him ineligible to join another NHL team this year. According to TSN, since the Islanders own his rights, Nabokov can sit out for all of next season if he never reports to the team.

Clearly Nabokov wanted to join a Stanley Cup contender since the Red Wings are at the top of the Western Conference standings. But Nabokov knew the rules and the risk he was taking by signing a contract with an NHL team after spending time this year in the KHL. Of course a rebuilding franchise may not sound appealing to an athlete at his age searching for a Stanley Cup after being unable to win one with the San Jose Sharks for parts of ten seasons, but there is less than half of the season left. This was an opportunity for Nabokov to get quality playing time and showcase himself to the rest of the league in order to get a contract with a contender next year.

His current actions may have completely ruined those chances for him.

-Rob McGowan

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5 Comments

Patrick Storto's picture

If Nabokov refuses to report, this contract that he currently has with the Islanders can be moved over to next season by the Islanders.

He would be an idiot not to report. At least play out the year and then sign somewhere else next year. if not he's going to end up with $575,000 with the Islanders for all of next season.

George Prax's picture

Nabokov may not have handled the situation properly, but I feel like what the Isles did was a little classless here. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Nabokov wouldn't play for the isles. The guy is greedy, he left the NHL to go to Russia cause no one wanted to pay him Luongo money, and although he was willing to play for league minimum, it was pretty obvious to me that he contacted the Red Wings or at least it was one of if not his only choice. And I'm nobody. I would imagine that Garth Snow would have more information on this than I do.

Even assuming he thought Nabokov would play for him, was it really necessary? And even if it was, he's there, he doesn't want to play on the Island, and you suspend him, pissing him off even more? I really wouldn't be surprised if they exercised their right to carry over the contract, just to piss him off even more.

They're lucky that Ken Holland is a class act who puts his team ahead of his pride in every instant, because otherwise that bridge would have been burned with the Red Wings.

I understand the point that you can't allow players to dictate the terms of a contract. If they put him back on waivers it does send the bad message that if you don't want to play for a team all you have to do is not report. But this is a special circumstance, and the Isles didn't have to claim him in the first place. Now you have a ticked off GM, you have a ticked off player and a ticked off agent, and a player you can do nothing with.

The Isles have been making a bad habit of doing these kinds of shady things, the most recent instance being the crap with Chris Botta. No wonder they can't get out of the cellar.

Rob McGowan's picture

Players are supposed to be professionals, regardless of who they play for and whether or not they are happy. Hockey is a game, but at the end of the day it is still a business. Nabokov did not handle this professionally. The rules are clearly stated in the CBA.

Nabokov's agent said they understood the risks they were taking in signing a contract with an NHL team after playing in Europe. If he was a professional, he would have accepted his pick up by the Islanders whether he liked it or not.

Players shouldn't dictate the way the NHL operates and that's what Nabokov is trying to do. Snow was trying his best to upgrade his team. Some players get traded at the deadline, or at any point in the season, from a contender to a bottom seeded team and it can be against their wishes. But if every player came out and complained about where they were sent then the league wouldn't function; more than likely at least half of every season's trades would not go through.

I understand where you're coming from Prax, but I don't blame Snow for anything here, and I'm not just saying that because I'm an Islanders fan. Nabokov just looks like an ass.

George Prax's picture

I understand where you're coming from too Rob, but I just don't see it that way. Just because something is a rule, or well within the confines of the law, doesn't mean that it's necessarily right. I mean, as fans of hockey and the NHL we should know this better than anyone. You bring up the comparison of players being traded at the deadline. Well, Nabokov didn't have a team to be traded from. He was a free agent. Whatever decisions he made in the off-season, he didn't play for this league, so I don't really understand why any team could simply take him because of that fact.

I understand why they have that rule in place, but wouldn't there be a better way to ensure that teams don't hoard players until later in the season? Moreover someone like Forsberg isn't even eligible for that rule, so it makes it even more nonsensical.

Yes, what Snow did was within the rules, but it was useless. They may need a goalie, but he had to think there would be some resistance on Nabokovs part. Moreover he should know that he isn't allowed to trade him after picking him up, and that if Nabokov does anything for the Isles, it would be giving them a worse pick at the deadline. I just didn't see the point in that, and it just causes grief for everyone involved.

Rob McGowan's picture

I agree with your references to Forsberg. Which is why I say that Garth Snow shouldn't be called classless or say that his attempt was useless. If anything, the NHL should look over that rule in the CBA. Clearly they are trying to avoid teams bringing in former NHL all-stars from overseas before heading into the playoffs, which I can understand. But I do agree with you; like you said, if Forsberg doesn't have to go through waivers or anything like that, why should Nabokov? Just because he chose the KHL over the NHL and Forsberg was injured?

Keep in mind that Garth Snow was probably not the only GM that made a claim on Nabokov; I'm sure there were several GM's that saw an easy opportunity to add a solid piece to their line-up heading into the playoffs or for the rest of the season. Therefore I don't think Snow should be the one that is criticized, but rather that this section of the CBA might want to be reviewed in order to prevent more crap like this.