Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who announced his retirement from the game on Wednesday, dropped the puck in a ceremonial face-off prior to the Caps-Sharks game tonight at the SAP Center.
The 39-year-old is San Jose’s all-time leader in games played by a goaltender (430) and wins (293).
Evgeni Nabokov, 39, went into this season accepting of the fact that his days as a starter were likely over. He signed a one-year, $1.55 million contract with Tampa Bay in hopes of providing Ben Bishop with the solid understudy he lacked in 2013-14. That didn’t work out and today he went unclaimed on waivers.
With 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy expected to serve as the Lightning’s backup for the rest of the season, the question now is if Nabokov will accept an assignment to AHL Syracuse or retire. The answer won’t come for a few days, Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan said, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.
If Nabokov decides to close the books on his playing career, he’ll be finalizing a tenure that included 697 NHL contests with the San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, and Lightning. He won 353 games and has a career 2.44 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Originally taken in the ninth round of the 1994 NHL Entry, he won the Calder Trophy in 2000-01 and finished second in Vezina Trophy voting in 2007-08.
He had a 3.15 GAA and .882 save percentage in 11 games this season.
With no teams taking a flier on Evgeni Nabokov — the veteran netminder cleared waivers this morning — the Lightning spoke Monday about the difficult situation at hand.
“You dread things like that ever having to happen,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Tribune. “Sometimes the reality that this is a business comes out. It’s an extremely tough situation.”
Nabokov, 39, has an uncertain future. It’s unclear if he’d accept an assignment to AHL Syracuse and the No. 2 goaltending spot behind Ben Bishop is now Andrei Vasilevskiy’s, who earned the gig with a strong showing earlier in the season.
As you’d expect, there is talk of retirement. Nabokov has looked shaky throughout the year. He was signed this summer to provide veteran experience and stability in the backup spot, something that was problematic in Tampa Bay last season, but couldn’t be relied upon consistently and may now be forced to call it quits just three games shy of the 700 plateau (a fairly noteworthy accomplishment, as only 24 goalies in league history have played that many.)
Bishop said it’s tough watching Nabokov go through this.
“It’s a somber feeling right now,” he explained.
In an ideal scenario, the Tampa Bay Lightning likely envisioned Evgeni Nabokov providing veteran experience behind Ben Bishop, at least until Andrei Vasilevskiy was ready for the jump.
That just hasn’t been the case in reality, however, and the Lightning responded as such by placing him on waivers Sunday (according to a wide variety of reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman).
The team hasn’t officially backed that up yet, so we can’t be sure that Vasilevskiy, 20, will get the call to back up Bishop. That would certainly seem to be the logical case, especially since the promising prospect has three wins in four starts this season.
Hey, at least Bishop is playing extremely well:
Looking further, it’s difficult to shake the impression that Nabokov, 39, is approaching the end of the line.
The veteran netminder’s overall numbers are lousy (3-6-2 with a .882 save percentage). He hasn’t won since Dec. 11 and only saw the ice for two abbreviated appearances in January.
Nabokov floundered a bit in his third season with the New York Islanders in 2013-14, managing just a 15-14-8 record with a mediocre .905 save percentage. That disappointing output limited his offseason options to backup gigs, and now we’ll need to wait and see how many opportunities he gets going forward.
Of course, there’s always the chance a team scoops him up at full price and he shows that he still has something left in the tank …
The Tampa Bay Lightning suffered a 7-3 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. It was the Lightning’s worst defeat of the season and that wasn’t even the low point of the night for them.
Tampa Bay announced that forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman both sustained lower-body injuries during the contest. Hedman was forced to exit the game late in the first period while Johnson’s night ended in the second frame.
The extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately apparent, but any length of time Tampa Bay has to go without those two would be trying for the club. Johnson, who was named to the All-Star roster, has 17 goals and a team-leading 46 points in 43 contests. Hedman was averaging 22:21 minutes per contest and had 20 points in 25 games before Monday’s game.
Although Tampa Bay held its own early in this contest, the tide turned when Jakub Voracek and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored 51 seconds apart in the second period to give the Flyers a 4-1 edge. Tampa Bay responded by pulling goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, but Ben Bishop didn’t fare any better.
That took the pressure off Flyers goaltender Rob Zepp, who was playing in his second career game because Steve Mason has a knee injury. Zepp stopped 21 of 24 shots, which proved to be more than enough for him to improve to 2-0-0.
Braydon Coburn sustains lower-body injury