The former San Jose Sharks goaltender might have made the biggest mistake of his career when he left the NHL to go to Russia.
Even though his contract was for a boatload of bucks (four years and the equivalent of $6,000,000 per year, tax free in the KHL), it was clear he really wanted to come back stateside. When he voided his own contract in Russia to sign a league minimum deal with the Detroit Red Wings, he did it for one reason and one reason only: to win a Stanley Cup.
Let’s not forget that he played on some very good San Jose teams that were just about always favored, but just couldn’t get it done come playoff time. After some years of serious chokes, the Sharks got all the way to the Conference Finals, but were ousted by the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. So when Evgeni Nabokov left millions on the table for another shot at a Stanley Cup ring, he didn’t think anyone would stand in his way.
But the CBA got the best of him. Any player who is leaving a contract in another professional league must pass through waivers after signing his contract. Nabokov and Red Wings GM Ken Holland saw this as a possible problem, so they added a No Movement Clause to the contract to prevent a team from claiming him just to try and extort a pick from Detroit. Well it seems nobody told that to New York Islanders GM Garth Snow.
Now, obviously, the Islanders need goaltending. After trading Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Rick Dipietro renting out his own penthouse in the hospital, the Islanders were riding two young minor leaguers in Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin. And with the Islanders having as poor of a season as they are having, it became a real baptism by fire for both prospects, whom the Islanders are expecting big things from at the NHL level…in the future.
But did Snow really think Nabokov would want to play there? A veteran goalie nearing the end of his career does not take league minimum to play for a team with a lesser chance of winning than Rex Ryan has of dodging any foot sniffing references (yeah, I did it).
But I guess he was well within his right to do it. Maybe it was against good morality, but damn it, his team need wins if they want to make the playoffs!
But on a serious note, the Islanders are trying, and for the most part failing, to create a winning environment for their younger players. So bringing in a goalie like Nabokov could definitely help that. At the very least it would allow them to have their goalie prospects where they belong, in the AHL.
But as the situation unfolded, Nabokov refused to report to the Isles, hung up on Snow when he tried to reach him by phone and essentially ended his NHL career, as his contract is deferred to next season, with a team he will inevitably not report too again.
Just a couple of days ago, however, Snow had a prime opportunity to fix the goalie situation, and this time there would be no risk of a player not reporting.
Tampa Bay waived goaltender Mike Smith. While Smith is having a subpar year (wound up as a third-string goalie behind Roloson and Dan Ellis), he has still shown in the past that he is a decent NHL goalie. He will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and even though he makes $2.4 million, the prorated cap hit for this time of year is significantly less, and the Islanders have no shortage of cap space available.
But the day passed, and Smith cleared waivers and was sent to the AHL where he will no doubt finish his tenure with the Lightning organization.
So it begs the question, what the hell was Snow doing?
In the end, it will just be added to a list of Islanders GM fails that have seen Mike Milbury set the Islanders back so far they could have been an expansion team. And it will be another year of embarrassing on ice play, empty home games and rumors of relocation, all of which make this New York Ranger fan giddy.
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