Evgeni Nabokov leaves the NHL, signs with KHL's SKA St. Petersburg

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evgeninabokov2.jpgIf you missed the 2010 Western Conference final between the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks, you missed Evgeni Nabokov’s last game in the NHL. Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport is reporting that the former Sharks goaltender has signed a four year contract with SKA St. Petersburg (link is in Russian) in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. Alexander Zaitsev from website Russian Hockey Fans has the details.

Evgeny Nabokov has signed a 4-year, $24-million contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, as reported by the Russian newspaper Sovetsky Sport.

The Sharks already made their bed with goaltending by saying they weren’t bringing back Nabokov in the first place and then signing Antero Niittymaki to seal the deal. The rest of the league followed suit by not hurrying up to sign both Nabokov and Dallas’ Marty Turco. With money seemingly running thin around the NHL and goaltending jobs being filled by less-expensive players, the writing was on the wall for Nabokov and the money was out there to be had back home in Russia. One interesting note to add, according to Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov, SKA St. Petersburg also went out of the way to make special arrangements for Nabokov.

Nabokov’s Russian agent Isakov told Sovetsky Sport that “Nabokov will come over to Russia in the beginning of August with his entire family. We agreed on the sum with the St Petersburg club long time ago, and we were figuring out living related questions lately, which were related to the move of Evgeni’s family to St. Petersburg.”

The curious side effect of all this is the one it has on Ilya Kovalchuk’s negotiations. Earlier today we mentioned that SKA St. Petersburg was also inquiring into Kovalchuk’s availability. The catch with how things go salary cap-wise in the KHL is that each team is allowed to ignore salary restrictions on one player per team. SKA St. Petersburg has now used that exception on Nabokov, thus making any potential offers to Kovalchuk impossible to complete.

Unless another KHL team was to step out and make a possible offer, Kovalchuk is now left with having to negotiate with NHL teams which means having to make salary demands a bit more NHL-friendly if he’d like to play here. The cynical side of me wants to say that there’s no coincidence in Nabokov’s announcement and the news that Ilya Kovalchuk has re-engaged discussion with the Los Angeles Kings in contract talks.

UPDATE: Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov clears up the KHL salary discussion via
Twitter
.

There is no salary
cap in the KHL for players signed (or poached) from the NHL. For those
who were asking.

In other words, the KHL has carte blanche from KHL President Andrei Medvedev to sign any players from the NHL they can potentially bring on. Of course, then it’s up to those teams to be able to afford the players which is another thing entirely in some cases.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

***

Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.