Could Evgeni Nabokov become an Islander Saturday?
Although the 35-year-old Russian goaltender signed a one-year deal with Detroit late Thursday night, he must first clear waivers at noon tomorrow.
And given the Islanders recent goaltending carousel—oft-injured Rick DiPietro and rookies Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin—they may be so inclined to put in a claim.
A source confirmed to Newsday Thursday that the Islanders have had internal discussions about claiming Nabokov. That interest may have been heightened Friday when Lawson suffered an injury to his left knee in the first period of the Islanders 5-2 win over the Sabres at HSBC Arena and did not return to the game.
With DiPietro back in Long Island battling the flu, 20-year-old rookie Kevin Poulin was forced in between the pipes in the second period after Lawson was hurt making a play to stop Jochen Hecht at the right post at 16:58. Lawson finished out the first period but did not return to the game.
With the lack of continuity the Islanders have experienced in goal recently—they traded veteran Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay—Nabokov could be an enticing option.
The former All-Star and Vezina Trophy finalist, who amassed 293 wins in a decade playing for the San Jose Sharks, became a free agent in December after being released from SKA St. Petersburg of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.
Because of the circumstances surrounding his return to the NHL, however, he cannot report to the Red Wings until he clears waivers.
Beyond the experience he would bring to the Islanders goaltending position, Nabokov also comes at a reasonable price tag. He signed a one-year deal worth $570,000, athough that would pro-rated for the remainder of the season.
The Islanders are one of the team’s with first dibs to claim him, since priority is given to the team with the lowest spot in the standings.
Assuming the Islanders put in a claim and neither Edmonton nor New Jersey have interest— Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters yesterday he had no intention to claim Nabokov—Nabokov would be theirs.
Whether or not he would report to a team out of playoff contention however, is another issue entirely.
When reached by telephone Friday, Nabokov’s agent, Don Meehan, declined to comment on that particular scenario.
“We’d prefer to focus on Detroit right now,” Meehan told Newsday. “To talk about anything else would be purely speculative.”
And although GM Garth Snow has shown a willingness to make moves to acquire picks and prospects already this season—in addition to moving Roloson, Snow also shipped defenseman James Wisniewski to Montreal—he could not claim Nabokov with the sole intention of trading him.
According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Nabokov would have to be put through waivers again before being traded by any team. Nabokov would also have to give permission to be put through waivers since his recently-inked deal with the Red Wings also contains a no-move clause.
Regardless of who may be available in goal for the Islanders beginning tomorrow, Poulin made 26 saves in a superb two periods of relief to preserve the win.
The Islanders took a 2-0 lead in the first on goals from Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson, prompting Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff to yank starter Ryan Miller and replace him with Patrick Lalime.
Grabner’s flukey goal, scored when the puck bounced in off Tyler Myers’ skate, marked the first time in nine games the Islanders have tallied first. Grabner scored an empty-net goal with less than two seconds remaining in the game as well.
PA Parenteau beat Lalime over his left glove at 14:35 in the second period and defenseman Jack Hillen tapped in a rebound in the third for a 4-0 lead. Poulin gave up two goals in five seconds with less than four minutes remaining in the third--both to Nathan Gerbe-- but held on for his second NHL win in impressive fashion.