Evgeni Nabokov Parts with Russian Team, Will Return to NHL—But For What Team?

Michael DeSantisSenior Analyst IDecember 18, 2010

Evgeni Nabokov plays the puck.
Evgeni Nabokov plays the puck.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As revealed on December 13, Evgeni Nabokov has left his team in Russia, SKA St. Petersburg.  He left in the first year of a four year deal.  The contract has been terminated, apparently due to family circumstances.  In his 22 games played with SKA, he had an 8-8-5 record, with a not-so-great 3.02 GAA and .888 Sv. Percentage.

However, the numbers weren't entirely "Nabby's" fault.  In Russia, the ice dimensions are bigger, so the angles were different.  Also, in Russia, they play an offensively minded game, and a lack of defense may have lead to more goals against.  Not to mention, these "family issues" may have added even more pressure, leading to Nabby not being on top of his game.

Nabokov will most likely be returning to the NHL.  The 35-year-old still wants to play, and should perform fine.  His numbers in the KHL weren't so Nabby-like, he should be better in the NHL, because of the environment he's used to playing in. 

Nabokov had a ten year tenure with the San Jose Sharks, but General Manager Doug Wilson confirmed that Nabokov will not be returning to San Jose, despite putting up excellent numbers with them.  In his NHL/Shark career, he had a record of 293-178-37 with 29 ties. 

His agent, Don Meehan, has been talking to some teams, but has not revealed which ones.  Although, there are a lot of teams that would love to get their hands on Nabby.  Some of which could use him most, not in any order are:

Islanders: With Dwayne Roloson at age 41, and likely to retire after the season, and Rick DiPietro struggling with his play, and injury, Nabokov would be an excellent pick up for the Islanders.

Capitals: The young tandem of Michael Neuvirth and Seymon Varlamov has been strong, but Nabokov could solidify them, as well as serve as a mentor.  Thanks to the strong play of these two, Nabokov wouldn't need to face a really large workload here.

Lightning: Tampa Bay has noticeable goaltending issues, with the weak play of Dan Ellis, and Michael Smith.  They could definitely use Nabokov, and are sure to become contenders, as goaltending is the only thing the team is missing.

Senators: Brian Elliot and Pascal Leclaire have been far from solid in the Senators crease.  The need for Nabokov isn't dire, but they could use him more than most teams.

Oilers: With a struggling Khabibulin, and Devin Dubnyk, the Oilers would love to have Nabby to help the netminding in Edmonton.

It hasn't been revealed yet where Nabby may land, but wherever he goes, he'll have value.