The ongoing saga of Evgeni Nabokov takes another turn today as the Islanders have suspended Nabokov for refusing to report to the team after claiming him on waivers on Saturday. Detroit signed Nabokov to a one-year contract on January 20th hoping to bring the former Sharks star goalie in as a backup to Jimmy Howard.
In the process of returning to the NHL from the KHL this year, Nabokov had to be put on waivers in order to play in the NHL. With Nabokov’s deal being for just $575,000 it was virtually assured that someone in need of goaltending help would grab him.
Now the drama gets interesting because either Nabokov can report and unhappily play for the Islanders and play out this season and walk away from the team as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Nabokov chooses to stay home, however, the Islanders hold all the cards to his future. The team can then “toll” his contract until next season meaning that Nabokov will be Islanders property for the 2011-2012 season with the same $575,000 contract he initially signed with Detroit.
The situation is ugly either way as the Islanders could get an unmotivated and unhappy goalie to play for them this season making things in the locker room sketchy to say the least. Nabokov, meanwhile, could end up being stuck with a team that he doesn’t want to play for next season thus submarining his efforts to sign a more lucrative deal during the summer.
The clear best answer here is to have Nabokov report to the Islanders and just play out the string so to speak and hope that somehow the Isles might want to find a way to get him somewhere he’d rather be. Then again, Nabokov had to be aware of the possibility he might not end up with Detroit when he signed and that his ultimate wish to be a Red Wing might not come true. If Nabokov is fine with that and doesn’t mind being a hold out then he’s certainly not going to get other teams excited about trying to acquire him for next season.
Things are never dull in Long Island it seems and this latest go-round with Nabokov and Isles GM Garth Snow (including both sides playing a bizarre game of phone tag) is a prime example of that. All the Isles want is for Nabokov is to come in and play for them while Nabokov wants nothing more than to never play for the Islanders. You’d hope there’s an easier way to go about this, but with the NHL’s CBA there isn’t. Instead of phone tag, they’re playing a game of chicken to see who moves first. If nothing else, the Islanders just pressed down the accelerator.
The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.
The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.
“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”
McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.
But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.
That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.
“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”
Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.
Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”