If you had no idea that Islanders general manager Garth Snow and Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov were the protagonists in Sunday’s soap opera-like saga, it would appear to be a classic junior-high tale of unrequited desire.
He didn’t show. He never called. He hung up on me!
One day after the Islanders claimed Nabokov off waivers and he refused to report, an ugly battle erupted between the 35-year-old netminder and the beleaguered organization.
With the Islanders holding out hope he’d change his mind and show—Snow and team owner Charles Wang said they had left him several messages that went unreturned--Nabokov told ESPN.com he had no intentions of reporting. But here was the funny part: he said he never received a message, either.
And that’s when things got interesting.
Snow defended himself and said that Nabokov actually hung up on him when he called Saturday.
According to Snow, Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan called shortly afterward to apologize. Meehan said Nabokov was juggling multiple phone lines and didn’t realize it was Snow calling.
“I just gave him the benefit of the doubt and I said to Donnie, ‘Do me a favor. When he gets done with all his phone calls, give him my number and get back to me,” Snow said.
Regardless, Snow never received a callback, prompting Wang to reach out to the former All Star and Vezina Trophy finalist. That message also went unreturned.
Soon after the puck dropped at Nassau Coliseum, an ESPN.com report surfaced in which Nabokov told a reporter that he had not heard from Snow and had no intention of reporting to the Islanders.
Nabokov then called Snow during the first intermission to patch things up and clear the air.
“He said he didn’t know it was me,” Snow said. “I’m not mad. I’ve been traded. I’ve never been put on waivers, but there’s a lot of confusion."
The two also made plans to continue the talk later.
“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 as part of our group.”
Although Snow and Wang both sounded hopeful that Nabokov would change his mind, all indications point to him staying put.
A source with knowledge of Nabakov’s thinking told Newsday Saturday he would not report and Nabokov confirmed that to ESPN yesterday.
"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov told ESPN.com from his home in Northern California
Nabokov also said he was not expecting the Islanders to claim him in the first place after he signed a one-year deal with Detroit Thursday.
“I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, “Wow, what’s the point?” he said.
Although Snow declined to comment on his plans if Nabokov doesn’t report, the Islanders have several options.
They can suspend him without pay, rendering him unable to play anywhere else in the NHL this season. They can “toll” his contract, essentially pushing it back to next season, during which he would the Islanders a year of service. They can try to trade him, but the convoluted waiver process that would require makes it highly unlikely. Or they could do him a favor and simply waive him without penalty.
After Sunday’s drama, don’t expect the latter.