Free agent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov followed up on his promise from this past weekend by failing to report to the New York Islanders on Sunday.
Nabokov, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings late Thursday evening, was claimed off waivers on Saturday by the Islanders. However, Nabokov reacted to the claim by stating that he would not report to the Islanders to fulfill his contract. Reports differed throughout Saturday as to whether Nabokov would in fact recant on the contract and boycott the Islanders. Apparently Nabokov wasn’t bluffing.
“I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision,” Nabokov told ESPN.com on Sunday.
The Red Wings initially signed Nabokov to help their goaltending situation now that backup netminder Chris Osgood will be sidelined until mid-March after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia. According to the rules of the current CBA, since Nabokov was coming back to the NHL from the KHL, he would have to go through waivers before he could become a member of the Red Wings.
Nabokov’s contract carries with it a cap hit of $250,000, which made him a prime candidate to be claimed off of waivers.
If Nabokov continues to defy his contract, the Islanders have several options. First, the team could appeal to the NHL and ask them to “toll” Nabokov’s contract. This means that Nabokov will have to fulfill his contract with the Islanders at some point – whether it be this season or in the future. If the Islanders decided to go this route, Nabokov would not be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 as he still essentially owes the Islanders the terms of the contract that he originally signed with Detroit.
Another option for the Islanders includes trading Nabokov. However, things get a bit dicey in this scenario. Before a trade can occur, the Islanders would first need to notify the NHL that they intend to trade Nabokov. If that happens, the NHL then goes back to any other team that originally put in a claim for Nabokov to see if they are still interested in claiming him. If they are, Nabokov then becomes that team’s property.
However, even if no other team put in a claim for Nabokov after he signed with Detroit, he must still clear waivers again before the Islanders can trade him. That means that any of NHL’s 29 other teams – including Detroit – would be able to claim Nabokov. If several teams claim him at this point then the team lowest in the standings receives his services for the remainder of the season.
The last option simply involves the Islanders placing Nabokov back on waivers. This option is more of a good intentions move toward Nabokov than anything else. But seeing as how Nabokov would essentially have to clear waivers twice if the Islanders tried to trade him, this could in fact be a viable option.
But to make matters worse, Nabokov has a no movement clause on his contract, which Detroit put in place to deter teams from putting in a claim on Nabokov. This means that Nabokov can not be traded or placed back on waivers without his permission. Although, judging by Nabokov’s luke-warm reception to the news that the Islanders had claimed him, he might be more than willing to waive his no movement clause to go to a contender.
“It’s nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It’s nothing to do with that,” Nabokov told ESPN.com. “It’s just that I’m at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don’t see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that.”
What Nabokov had to say rings clear with many NHL fans. Why would the Islanders of all teams place a claim on Nabokov? New York is not in direct competition with Detroit, nor are they even in the playoff picture where they could pull off a move like this to prevent Detroit from getting better. And with all of the regulations regarding a trade, the Islanders are unlikely going to be able to get something in return for Nabokov to help them build for the future. In fact, if they try to trade Nabokov, they will likely lose him for nothing.
Islanders GM Garth Snow has the ball in his court now and will look to resolve this situation quickly, whether that involves tolling the contract, pushing forward with a trade or trying to talk Nabokov into fulfilling his obligation on Long Island.
“He had his heart set on going to Detroit, obviously,” Snow said. “I told him I respect that, but he’s a New York Islander now and we’d love to have him part of our group.”
How do you think the Islands should or will move forward with Nabokov’s contract over the next few days? Should he fulfill his contract with the Islanders or should they waive him again?