Evgeni Nabokov was claimed off waivers on Saturday by the New York Islanders after he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Many people were puzzled by the Islanders' decision, since Nabokov had said before that he wanted to sign with a Stanley Cup contending team, and let's face it, the Islanders are nowhere near that stage.
Most predicted he wouldn't report, and lo and behold, he didn't.
What Nabokov should realize, however, is that he comes off looking pretty bad in this situation. Sure, the Islanders look like jerks too, but they were well within their right and they did need a goaltender. Nabokov, however, looks like a selfish kid, and makes professional athletes look bad.
Now don't get me wrong, I understand where Nabokov is coming from. He is 35 years old and time is running out for him to win a Cup. But he made the decision to go play in KHL this year, and he knew (or his agent at least should have) that because of that, if he wanted to come back to the NHL, he would have to clear waivers if he signed with anyone.
And he should have known teams would probably pick him up, since both Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood were signed by the St. Louis Blues and were picked up by other teams. Granted, those teams are competing for a playoff spot, but still, the possibility was there.
If he really didn't want to risk it, he should have just waited the season out (which is what he seems to be doing anyway) and signed a contract on July 1.
Yes, playing for the Islanders is not what he wanted, but by not reporting, he puts himself in a bad situation. Nabokov was suspended yesterday by the Islanders and that effectively stalls, or possibly ends, his NHL career.
Because he didn't report, he isn't fulfilling his contract, therefore, the Islanders can go to the NHL and tell them they want to "toll" his contract: basically, he can't play in the NHL unless he plays for the Islanders and owns up to his contract. So if Nabokov does not want to play for the Islanders, then he can never play in the NHL again.
The Islanders can't trade Nabokov without putting him on waivers and offering him to any other teams who put in a claim for him for free. You would think, with all this drama, the Islanders would just do that and be done with it, which is why the fact that they haven't does raise some questions.
There are rumours that Chicago put in a claim and Detroit called Islanders GM Garth Snow and asked him to pick up Nabokov so he didn't go to a divisional opponent. Whether this rumour is true is unknown, but it definitely helps make this situation more understandable.
So why should Nabokov report? Well, yes he would be playing on a non-playoff team, but it would help him show he can still play, especially if he can get respectable statistics, after many people have thought he was helped by a good team in San Jose, which was one of the reasons he didn't get a contract offer he liked in the off season.
Since this is only a one-year deal, he would only have to play a couple of months, and then he would be a free agent and would be able to sign anywhere this summer, unlike right now, in which his NHL future is up in the air.
Of course, Nabokov could just sit and hope the NHL changes its rules and allows New York to trade him. But I wouldn't hold my breath.