Evgeni Nabokov has been claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders after the thirty-five year old goaltender signed a contract worth $250,000 for the remainder of the season with the Detroit Red Wings. Since the Russian netminder had been spending the season with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, Nabokov had to pass through waivers before joining the Red Wings, per the current CBA. He has racked up an 8-8-5 record with a 3.02 goals against average (GAA) and a .888 save percentage while playing overseas.
Surely the Red Wings organization, as well as its fans, cannot be happy about losing a veteran (and former all-star) goaltender that would have definitely helped their hockey club. But the pick-up by Garth Snow comes at a time where a reliable back-up was needed.
After Dwayne Roloson had been traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the back-up position altered between Kevin Poulin and Nathan Lawson, the latter being the goaltender that was preparing to assume the new role for the rest of the season. But then the starts were split between the two goaltenders since DiPietro went down with a grown strain. Since his return a few nights ago, DiPietro has only appeared in two games and has been an occasional healthy scratch for maintenance and recovery.
In last night’s 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, Lawson went to the Islanders locker room with about three minutes remaining in the first period with an injury to his leg. Although there hasn’t been an official announcement on the severity of Lawson’s injury, he did not return and Kevin Poulin was forced to finish the game. The win went to Poulin since he finished the game as Lawson now continues to wait for his first NHL victory.
Nabokov’s presence will probably force him to wait even longer. It is expected that Lawson and Poulin will be sent back down to Bridgeport unless DiPietro continues to experience injury trouble down the road. If that’s so, it is assumed that Lawson would be the first one called up to sit on the bench with Nabokov between the pipes. It’s a smart move by GM Garth Snow; a veteran goaltender will be available in aide of DiPietro and Poulin won’t be forced to play in the NHL earlier than expected. Although Poulin has shown tremendous potential with his quick reflexes, there are several areas of his game that could use some work, such as his rebound control.
The pick up also continues to support the decision of trading Dwayne Roloson. Nabokov’s cheap and affordable salary is a lot less than Roloson’s contract and will expire by the end of the year. However, it is my understanding that according to the current CBA, Nabokov cannot be traded by the deadline since he was acquired in a waiver wire pick up after singing a contract with another team.
The former San Jose Shark will keep the Isles competitive and may even help them move up in the standings. Although a top-five pick is always a nice thought, the team needs to show signs of improvement with each year of the rebuild. Anywhere out of the bottom five would be a nice start and Evgeni Nabokov will certainly help those chances.
***UPDATE*** 3:01 PM
Sources are reporting that Evgeni Nabokov has chosen NOT to report to the New York Islanders. Therefore, unless the Islanders decide to put Nabokov back on waivers he cannot sign with another NHL club this season.
I am not expecting the Islanders to place him back on waivers since he is clearly making a statement that he would rather risk not playing in the NHL than joining their organization. This will also lead to rumors on whether or not Garth Snow will pursue another veteran back-up goaltender.