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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    Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs

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    Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

    Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

    It’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

    The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

    Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

    Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

    Carey Price,
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    Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

    That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

    On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

    Related: The latest on Price’s injury

    Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

    Dustin Byfuglien

    If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

    So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

    “I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 (audio), per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

    “I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

    Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

    That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

    While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

    Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

    Mike Fisher

    The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

    Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

    If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

    Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

    After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

    The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.