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The Evgeni Nabokov mess: Don't blame the Islanders

There's been quick and strong reaction around the league, from fans and commenters and a player or two, to the Islanders claiming Evgeni Nabokov on waivers after the former Sharks goaltender signed a contract with the Wings.

Nabokov had signed a four-year, $24-million contract with SKA St. Petersburg -- Alexei Yashin's club -- after 10 fairly successful seasons in San Jose, albeit ones that ended with disappointment, sometimes in Nabokov's play in the postseason. He was 40-38 with a 2.29 GAA in the playoffs.

And, when he signed to play in Russia, he gave this quote at a press conference in August:

"Let me ask you, would you want to play for the Edmonton Oilers, for example? Let me tell you that when you have a choice and you have something to choose from, you always want to play for a good team, compete for medals and such. I will speak for myself, but the situation was such that I had no choice of a good team to play for and to play at the high level. To me it was very important to play for a good team, to try to win."

So this is where Nabokov's head was at. No worries. But his KHL contract was terminated by mutual agreement last month after he went 8-8-5 with a 3.02 GAA in the sometimes defense-optional league, and he clearly wanted to come back with a winner, so he signed with the Central-leading Wings, who are without backup Chris Osgood for two months.

UPDATE: Chris Osgood told our Katie Strang he did not say the words attributed to him in the earlier version of this post, so we've taken it down.

But the Islanders have one oft-injured veteran (Rick DiPietro), one currently injured minor-leaguer on a call-up (Nathan Lawson) and one prized prospect whom they want to keep developing in Bridgeport (Kevin Poulin). So claiming Nabokov, who would reportedly make about $300,000 for the rest of the season, is an easy move; Nabokov choosing not to come, which means he can't play anywhere for the rest of the season, seems unwise.

Perhaps he'll change his mind, if he truly wants to restart his NHL career -- Nabokov is 35 and was apparently unwanted by the "good teams" this summer, so this is his only way back for next season.

People may be piling on the Islanders for claiming Nabokov, but they're playing by the league's rules. This one's on the goaltender.

New York Sports