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.