NHL Trade Rumors: The 10 Teams That Need Evgeni Nabokov Most

Michael Stuart@HB_MikeStuartCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2010

NHL Trade Rumors: The 10 Teams That Need Evgeni Nabokov Most

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    CHICAGO - MAY 23:  Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the San Jose Sharks makes a second period save while taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 23
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The last few weeks here at The Bleacher Report have been great for writers and readers like myself.  It's been a true pleasure to read the NHL Trade Rumors series that has been circulating on the site. 

    Personally, I've been a part of slideshows regarding players like Jarome Iginla and Dustin Penner.  In this slideshow, my focus is going to shift to another facet of the game.

    After a decade of playing time with the San Jose Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov wasn't offered the contract that he wanted to stay in the National Hockey League.

    Nabokov decided that his talents would be better used serving KHL powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg.  After a while in Russia, Nabokov was released from his contract and it looks as though he is aiming for an NHL return.

    This season in the NHL, fans have been treated to some good, bad and just plain ugly goaltending performances.  In this slideshow, I will examine the 10 teams that need Evgeni Nabokov most.  As he is a free agent, the only obstacle for a team to overcome would be the salary cap.  This makes Nabokov very attractive to any team in search of goaltending.

    Enjoy the read.

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No. 10: Edmonton Oilers

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    EDMONTON, CANADA - DECEMBER 16: Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save off Jakub Voracek #93 of the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place December 16, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
    Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

    Before I start talking about the Oilers I just want to make something very clear to my readers.  When I was assigned to write about the 10 teams that were in real need of Nabokov, it was really difficult to come up with 10 who I really thought would take a run at him.  Outside of the top four teams, this is purely my opinion.

    Everyone knows that at this moment, the Edmonton Oilers are going to rely on Nikolai Khabibulin to carry the majority of the workload this season. 

    While the team does have a few good youngsters in the system, there is just too much risk to put on the shoulders of someone with little NHL experience. 

    The reason I put the Oilers on this list is that Khabibulin's stats have dipped over the past couple of weeks.  For a team that has looked as though they are poised to really play well, the goaltending needs to be better. 

    If Edmonton's goaltending situation continues to decline and the play of their rookies continues to get better and better, I could see management going out to make a move.  Of course, this is a long shot, but I don't honestly think that it's out of the realm of possibility.

    All of this being said, it wouldn't shock me if the Oilers stuck with Khabibulin regardless of his play.  If he plays well, the team will surely exceed all expectations.  If he doesn't play well, another top 5 draft pick looks as though it could come Edmonton's way this coming summer.

No. 9: Philadelphia Flyers

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    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 11:  Brian Boucher #33 of the Philadelphia Flyers stops a shot in the third period against the Boston Bruins on December 11, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Flyers defeated the Bruins 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by E
    Elsa/Getty Images

    It's no secret to most NHL fans that the Philadelphia Flyers were really trying to acquire a number one goaltender after last season's Stanley Cup Final. 

    If it weren't for some solid play from veteran Brian Boucher and some incredible play from rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers' name would still be popping up in the goaltending rumor mill.

    Now I know that the goaltending in Philly really doesn't look as though it could effect the way they are playing right now.  To be honest, this team looks like it is the best in the East, if not the league, by a large margin. 

    The question for many Flyers' fans is whether or not Bobrovsky can continue to play at the level he has been.  His play has been stellar and truly inspiring to watch.  Of course, we can say we've seen it all before with rookie goaltenders who come out on a high note. 

    If I was in charge of the Philadelphia Flyers, I would look at the Steve Mason situation in Columbus.  After coming out and being one of the top goaltenders in the league during his rookie year, Mason's stats plummeted to the bottom of the charts.  He was letting in bad goals, good goals and every other type of goal you can think of.

    For a team that is poised to take a run at the cup like the Flyers, would they really want to take that risk?  My answer is no.  That's why I think they could take a little bit of a look at Evgeni Nabokov.

No. 8: Florida Panthers

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    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 7: Goaltender Tomas Vokoun #29 of the Florida Panthers warms up prior to the game against the Colorado Avalanche on December 7, 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Once again you are looking at a team that appears to have its goaltending situation locked up. 

    The reason I have put the Florida Panthers on this list is that there is a really good chance that Dale Tallon trades Tomas Vokoun this season. 

    If that's the case, Nabokov would make a lot of sense.  He could step in for a year or two just to warm the young guys up for their chance at taking over the reins. 

    If Tallon was to trade Vokoun, I wouldn't be surprised if he did nothing to be quite honest.  I think that the Florida Panthers are more concerned with having a high draft pick than actually winning right now. 

    However, look at Tallon's winning team in Chicago.  The Chicago Blackhawks were built around Cristobal Huet for a little while before Antti Niemi took over.  Could Nabokov be the Huet for the Florida Panthers?  I'm not totally sure.

    One thing is for sure, Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers have a lot of decisions to make in the near future.  Could Nabokov be in the plans?  I wouldn't count on it, but only time will tell.

No. 7: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 8:  J S Giguere #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs keeps an eye on the play in a game against the San Jose Sharks on February 8, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Sharks defeated the Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Claus Ander
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most confusing teams to figure out in the entire NHL.  Just when it looks like they have turned a corner, they fall right back to the bottom.  I'm honestly not sure just how good this team is.

    As has been widely publicized in the past few days, J.S Giguere's injury may be more serious than first thought.  Leaf fans can look at this one of two ways.  It could mean doom for the Leafs who are looking like they might be sending another high draft pick to the Boston Bruins, or it could mean "The Monster" will get his time to shine.

    Either way you look at it, the Toronto Maple Leafs aren't going to be a better team with Giguere out of the lineup. 

    The goaltending market isn't overly large right now when you look at is a whole.  One thing Toronto has on its side is cap space.  That is a luxury that many teams just don't have. 

    What would happen if "The Monster" was to play horribly.  Would Brian Burke really let Ron Wilson trust his team's fortune to the young rookie, Reimer? 

    Would Burke take a chance at Nabokov on a one year deal just to fill the hole until the team gets to free agency?  I could see it happening. 

No. 6: New York Islanders

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    UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 05: Dwayne Roloson #30 of the New York Islanders plays the puck against teh Philadelphia Flyers at the Nassau Coliseum on December 5, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The New York Islanders have got one of the best goaltending conundrum's in the league.  How old is Dwayne Roloson?  I don't really want to put a number down, simply because it's a number you don't see these numbers in hockey that often. 

    After look at Roloson you have to look at Rick Diepietro.  No offense to him, but his massive contract has got to be one of the worst in the post-lockout era.  He has been injured, he has played poorly, and he just hasn't looked like a true National Hockey League goaltender.

    It's funny when you consider that those two guys give the Islanders their best chance to win.  What's even funnier is that the Islanders have compiled a whopping six wins thus far in the season.  Actually, I won't even call that funny; it's simply embarrassing. 

    Could Evgeni Nabokov be a player who could come in and shake things up?  We've seen that he can put up wins.  I think that he could be a big help to the Islanders and their team as a whole. 

    He would come in and bring a new philosophy and a new presence to a team that just looks as though they don't know what it takes to win.  Well, since the lock-out, Nabokov has been one of the goalies that has tallied lots of wins.  Wouldn't that make sense on Long Island?

No. 5: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 01:  Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Nashville Predators at the Nationwide Arena on December 1, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    As you've read, I am not impressed with Steve Mason right now.  Since his stellar rookie season, his play has just fallen off a cliff. 

    This slide isn't meant to put forth any disrespect to Garon, who has played miraculously.  It is simply meant to show that the Blue Jackets are in need of some serious goaltending help.

    Can Scott Arniel really keep counting on Garon to shut the door?  While his stats are some of the best in the league, he has shown that he just doesn't have what it takes to stick as a number one goaltender. 

    With Steve Mason playing poorly and a career back-up playing too much, something must be done.  Perhaps Evgeni Nabokov is a fit.

    With Nabokov in net, the Blue Jackets could be poised to make their second playoff appearance in franchise history.  He would lift the spirits in the room and he would bring the winning experience he had in San Jose.

    Honestly, I don't think that the Blue Jackets are given enough time in the spotlight when it comes to the rumor mill.  I think that Nabokov could be a good fit here.

No. 4: San Jose Sharks

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 09:  Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks makes a save against  the Buffalo Sabres  at HSBC Arena on December 9, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Wouldn't it be nice if this story just went full circle and Nabokov ended up in San Jose?  I think it would be really quite entertaining to see. 

    After Nabokov was turned away by general manager Doug Wilson it looked as though his time in San Jose was done.  However, with the struggles of the tandem currently manning the net in San Jose, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Nabokov returning.

    To me, this is another perfect fit.  Nabokov can play in San Jose, he has played in San Jose and he looks as though he would be able to win once more in San Jose. 

    Why wouldn't he want to return?  The players liked him, he was popular with the fans and most importantly he is still feared around the league.  There isn't a team that doesn't respect Nabokov for all of the wins he has already put up in San Jose.

    If I was a fan of San Jose, I would really love to have Evgeni Nabokov come back.  It can't be any worse that it is right now.  The prize free agent, Niemi, has just been terrible.

    As a Los Angeles Kings fan, all I can say is that I hope Nabokov stays out of San Jose.

No. 3: Ottawa Senators

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    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 5: Pascal Leclaire #33 of the Ottawa Senators deflects a shot on goal during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images
    Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

    Things aren't looking too good in Ottawa right now.  The team is in a little bit of a rut and the goaltending hasn't been where it should be. 

    Does everyone remember just how happy everyone in Ottawa was when they acquired Pascal Leclaire?  It was like they had just drafted Wayne Gretzky!  I remember everyone saying "the Sens finally have their number one guy".  Yikes!  It looks like things haven't gone exactly as planned. 

    When you consider that this team is being thrown into action in front of either Leclaire or Brian Elliot, it's not surprise that they are struggling.

    The Ottawa Senators have been without a number one goaltender in his prime for their entire history.  Even though Nabokov is past his prime, he could possibly be the best goaltender in this history of Senators' hockey.  What is that saying about their goaltending situation?

    As we reach the top three for this list, you can see that each of these teams is in some serious need of some goaltending help.  If Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators could find some way to land Evgeni Nabokov, I could see them comfortably making a solid run to the playoffs.

No. 2: Washington Capitals

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    WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 15:  Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Washington Capitals makes a save against the Anaheim Ducks at the Verizon Center on December 15, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Wait!  Can we just back up one second.  Did the Washington Capitals actually win a game tonight?  Well I'll be; they did.  It's really quite incredible when you think about just how bad this team has been.  I haven't been impressed.

    General manager George McPhee has done a good job since taking the reins.  He has put a winner together in a short period of time.  Yet, he hasn't been able to make that big move to put his team over the edge.  I would compare it to Dean Lombardi in a sense.  He has built a team, but he has been reluctant to change things when the team isn't working. 

    Now I'm not calling for Capitals' management to go out and do anything really big.  I'm not suggesting that they trade away Ovechkin if that's what you're thinking.  However, perhaps it is time to bring in a veteran goaltender who can win some games.

    I like that the Capitals have tried to win games with rookies between the pipes.  It shows a great sense of confidence throughout the lineup.  That being said, something isn't working. 

    Over the summer, Nabokov's name kept popping up when it came to the Washington Capitals.  Could these reports start again now that the team has only one win in its last nine games?  I wouldn't be surprised. 

No. 1: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 11: Goalie Dan Ellis #33 of the Tampa Bay Lightning stretches during the pre-game warmup prior to NHL action on December 11, 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Gett
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Lightning have one gaping hole on the roster they ice from night to night.  No, they don't have a problem scoring.  The problem for the Tampa Bay Lightning is that their goaltending tandem just can't stop a beach ball. 

    If you log onto NHL.com and look into the goaltender stats, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the second page to find BOTH Lightning goaltenders.  It's really embarrassing to be quite honest.

    This slide won't be very long to be quite honest.  You may be asking, why?  Well, when you think about it, the Tampa Bay Lightning just need a goaltender.  They don't have anyone that can stop a puck and they desperately need someone.

    From the moment Evgeni Nabokov was released, his name has been tied to the Lightning organization.  This could be Steve Yzerman's big season move in his first year as general manager. 

    Honestly, I think that Nabokov will end up with the Lightning.  For me, it's only a matter of time before they announce the signing.  Of course, I could be totally wrong.  However, that's my gut feeling.

    Over the next couple of weeks we will see this entire Evgeni Nabokov saga unfold.  Hopefully it remains interesting. 

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