The Islanders will exercise an option that allows the team to retain the rights to Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for another season.

Because Nabokov refused to report after he was claimed on re-entry waivers in January, he violated the terms of his one-year, $570,000 contract. The Islanders have the right to "toll" the contract and extend it another year.

"He was signed by Detroit and put on waivers," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. "We claimed him and he didn't report. Therefore, we had to suspend him, and it's within our right to toll the contract."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, confirmed to Newsday that they have been made aware of this plan.

In order to officially toll and push his services to next season, the Islanders will have to submit a request to the league before July 1.

"We haven't submitted our request yet, but we have plenty of time to do it," Snow said when reached by telephone Friday.

Nabokov originally inked a deal to return to the NHL with Detroit, but because he began the season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, he had to pass through re-entry waivers first. When the Islanders claimed him, he refused to report and subsequently was suspended.

Assuming the Islanders toll his contract, a trade could be the next step in what has been a lengthy and dramatic saga. Per Article 13.23 of the league's collective-bargaining agreement, the Islanders were prohibited from trading Nabokov to another club "for the balance of the playing season" but can move him once that expires.

Heading into training camp with three goalies -- Al Montoya, Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin -- the Islanders might view that as the most appealing option.

"If we were to entertain something like that, it would be after the playoffs," Snow said. "The phase we're in right now is that we just finished up our exit meetings and we have to go through scouts meeting and look at any avenue to make the team better."

In the meantime, the former Vezina Trophy finalist will not be idle. Meehan confirmed that Snow has consented to allow Nabokov to play for Russia in this year's IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. The tournament begins April 29.

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