Evgeni Nabokov's San Jose Sharks days are over

nabbygone.jpgEvgeni Nabokov has been with the San Jose Sharks for 10 seasons and for at least nine of those he was the team’s No. 1 starter. What has been rumored in many circles (including PHT) seems to be true now; the 2009-10 season will be the Russian goalie’s last year in teal.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson announced that the team would allow Nabokov to leave the team next week via unrestricted free agency.

Wilson noted a direction in the NHL in which teams have had great success with lower-paid goaltenders, most recently with Chicago winning the Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi, who made $827,000 this season.

“If you look at the trends in this league the last four or five years in particular and the dollars that are dedicated to that position,” he said. “If you’re dedicating $5 or $6 million, that’s coming out of somewhere else.”

Nabokov has been one of the top goalies in the league the past few years, winning an NHL-best 131 games over the past three seasons. He has a 293-215-29 record in 10 seasons with the Sharks, with a 2.39 goals against average.

Nabokov went 44-26 with a 2.43 goals against average last season, helping the Sharks reach the Western Conference final this year, where they were swept by Chicago.

I can’t help but agree with the idea that cheaper goaltending is the way to go. After all, you really never know with goalies. You know the position is in a state of confusion when supposed no-brainer greats such as Roberto Luongo are being thrown under the bus.

No doubt, bad goaltending can harpoon even on a dominant team’s dreams; the thing is, reputation and salary only seem to hurt a goalie. At least, that’s the way it seems as of late. Just look at the goalies who had the most success in the playoffs: from Tuukka Rask to Craig Anderson, Michael Leighton and – of course – Antti Niemi, none of them made more than $2 million this year. None of them were odds-on favorites to be anything more than doormats or backups (or minor leaguers) with their clubs. Instead, they helped their teams earn unexpectedly deep playoff runs on the cheap.

Still, I get the feeling someone, somewhere will give Nabokov a very nice payday. Although Nabby won’t turn 35 until July 25, he’ll count as a 35+ contract because his new deal will kick in October instead. That could cause some problems for teams trying to make his deal more cap-friendly. Which makes me wonder, would a big chunk of change and some closer-to-home-cooking draw him to the KHL? It’s nothing more than a question – I haven’t read anything concrete about it – but it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

Either way, Sharks fans might want to pack up their Nabokov jerseys right about now. It’s the end of an era for the goalie and his close-but-not-cigar squad.

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    Tim Leiweke could play role in redevelopment of Seattle’s KeyArena

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    Tim Leiweke is best known as the former president and CEO of sports empires AEG and MLSE. (And also for calling out the “just terrible” character of the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

    But Leiweke has a new gig now, and according to the Seattle Times, he may end up playing a key role in Seattle’s long-running arena saga.

    A powerful, new Los Angeles-based company headed by sports executive Tim Leiweke and concert kingpin Irving Azoff wants to renovate KeyArena and make it compatible for NBA and NHL use.

    “We believe in the KeyArena location,” Leiweke, CEO of the 11-month-old Oak View Group, told The Seattle Times in an interview Thursday night. “We believe that the studies have proven — and we will continue to do additional studies as we go through this process — that there is a chance to renovate and make that arena work for music and sports.”

    We wrote yesterday about the potential renovation of KeyArena. It’s worth noting that Leiweke’s new company was formed in partnership with MSG, which owns the New York Rangers. Leiweke’s old company, AEG — which owns the Los Angeles Kings — is also interested in the KeyArena project.

    Seattle mayor Ed Murray confirmed yesterday that the city will issue a request for proposals in early January “to solicit specific plans from private parties interested in the redevelopment of KeyArena. Proposals would be centered around developing an entertainment facility that can host meetings, concerts and sporting events.”

    Where that leaves Chris Hansen’s SoDo project remains to be seen. Hansen started this week’s avalanche of news by offering to build his arena without public financing.

    Murray did note in his statement that any KeyArena proposals would “join the recently-revised proposal from the group led by Chris Hansen as possibilities for the development of an arena in Seattle.”

    Related: Is the NHL just waiting for Seattle?

    Rantanen to debut on Colorado’s ‘kid line’ with Grigorenko, MacKinnon

    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    It’s not often a 22-year-old is the elder statesmen on his line, but that’s exactly what Mikhail Grigorenko will be on Friday night.

    Grigorenko’s the resident greybeard on Colorado’s “Kid Line,” one that features 21-year-old Nathan MacKinnon and, for the first time this season, 19-year-old Mikko Rantanen.

    Rantanen, taken 10th overall by Colorado in 2015, will make his season debut tonight against Winnipeg, after missing time with an ankle injury and fulfilling a rehab stint in AHL San Antonio.

    Needless to say, the Avs are glad to have him back.

    Rantanen had a terrific ’15-16 campaign. He split AHL Rookie of the Year honors with Providence’s Frank Vatrano, and helped Finland capture gold at the World Juniors. Rantanen also became the second-youngest player (18 years old) to participate in an AHL All-Star Game and earned a late-season recall to Colorado, where he made his NHL debut and appeared in nine games.

    At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Rantanen has the size and physique to be a real force alongside Grigorenko and MacKinnon.

    And he’s hoping he can be a force at the NHL level for a long time.

    “I want to do what I do best, bring my strengths to our team,” he said, per the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I want to do everything I can to stay here. I would like to stay here for a while.”

    It’s fair to suggest head coach Jared Bednar made this move in the hopes of providing a spark. The Avs are 3-2-0 to start the year, but have lost two of three and haven’t played since last Saturday.

    MacKinnon is tied for the team scoring lead with five points through five games, while Grigorenko sits tied for second in assists, with three.

    McIlrath clears waivers, which may surprise a few people

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25:  Dylan McIlrath #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck as Matt Moulson #26 of the Buffalo Sabres defends at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    Alain Vigneault got his wish. Dylan McIlrath has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Hartford.

    McIlrath, 24, was placed on waivers yesterday after getting into just one game for the New York Rangers through their first seven.

    “Selfishly, I hope he clears waivers and goes to Hartford and plays,” the Rangers’ head coach said. “But if somebody would pick him up and give him an opportunity, I’d be very happy for him.”

    Many speculated that McIlrath, a right shot, would get claimed, perhaps by a team like the Boston Bruins. But the emergence of rookie Brandon Carlo, combined with the return of Adam McQuaid from injury, made a claim less likely for the B’s. Carlo and McQuaid both shoot right, as does regular Colin Miller. (Ditto for Kevan Miller, though he’s on injured reserve with a broken hand.)

    And so McIlrath remains a member of the organization that drafted him. Hartford plays tonight and tomorrow at home to Lehigh Valley and Utica, respectively.

    Pastrnak suspended two games for ‘unnecessarily’ launching into Girardi headshot


    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on B’s forward David Pastrnak, suspending him a pair of games for his headshot on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.

    “Rather than staying low and hitting through his opponent’s body, Pastrnak unnecessarily extends up and into this hit, picking the head and making it the main point of contact,” the DoPS explained.

    Pastrnak was whistled for a minor penalty on the play, which occurred in the second period of Boston’s 5-2 loss at MSG on Wednesday night.

    Girardi left the contest momentarily, but was able to return and finished with 16:15 TOI.

    “I don’t really know it makes contact with my face at first, but it is what it is, I’m kind of vulnerable,” Girardi said of the hit, per the New York Post. “He’s going to try to make a hit. He just hit me in the front of the face, so it wasn’t like it was the side-of-the-head hit or something.

    “As soon as I got up, I was fine.”

    Pastrnak, who previously had no history of supplemental discipline, will now miss Saturday’s game in Detroit and Tuesday’s game in Florida. He’s eligible to return on Nov. 3, when the B’s take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay.

    The 20-year-old will also forfeit $10,277.78 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.