It’s been rumored about all day, but the Red Wings made it official late tonight signing former Sharks goalie and recent KHL exile Evgeni Nabokov to a one-year contract. The Red Wings will now wait 24 hours starting at noon tomorrow to see if Nabokov clears waivers so they can retain his services. As part of the NHL CBA, any player coming from another professional league must go through waivers before joining a team.
We’ve seen the St. Louis Blues get victimized by this process twice this season in their efforts to sign Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood as Svatos was claimed by Nashville and Wellwood by San Jose. For Detroit, Nabokov offers a better backup goaltending option than Joey MacDonald while Chris Osgood is out until March with a sports hernia injury.
The Wings are set for a starting goalie as Jimmy Howard is the man in Detroit, but with his recent injury for a bruised knee and Osgood’s absence creating depth problems in goal the Wings have a need for insurance in goal and Nabokov, despite his stats in Russia (3.02 goals against average, .888 save percentage in 22 games), offers that.
Of course, this is all for naught if Nabokov is claimed on waivers by another team and there’s a host of teams that could use an NHL-experienced goalie on the cheap. The possibility exists out there that the Wings could cut a deal with a team near the top of the waiver claim list (which the Devils are at the top of thanks to having the NHL’s worst record) to swing a trade with them if they make a claim on Nabokov, but doing such a thing is against the rules of the NHL.
There is a chance something could be worked out after the fact, but chances are if a team is claiming Nabokov, they want him for their own purposes.
While it’s questionable what Nabokov could bring to the NHL right now given what he’s done in Russia there’s no doubt he offers a better backup option than Joey MacDonald. For Detroit, they just need a more reliable backup for the time being. If they ultimately land Nabokov, they’ll get just that.