SAN JOSE SHARKS GOALTENDER EVGENI NABOKOV WILL NOT BE RE-SIGNED
The San Jose Sharks announced today that negotiations to re-sign starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov were over. In an article on SJsharks.com, it was announced that the team would move in another direction with in-house unrestricted free agents (Marleau, Malhotra, Nichol, Wallin) and restricted free agents (Pavelski, Setoguchi) left to sign. There are also a number of quality unrestricted free agent goaltenders (Ellis, Mason) that will be available on the market July 1st.
“Nabby has been a big part of this team for the past 10 seasons and played an important role is our successes. This decision boils down to a dedication of dollars in a salary cap system and under this system, teams can’t keep everyone,” San Jose Sharks GM/EVP Doug Wilson said after a meeting with Nabokov.
There was silence on Evgeni Nabokov’s status after a June 1st update on the blog of beat writer David Pollak. Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan told Pollak that they had not yet heard from the Sharks, but did not expect to until the middle of June. The next week Sharks President/CEO Greg Jamison noted that individual player meetings had begun, but the organization and the hockey staff was still in the analysis phase.
This blog reported last Monday that multiple sources believed the Sharks were leaning towards re-signing Evgeni Nabokov. There were subsequent media reports that the Sharks were undecided on Nabokov, and another that the parties were on a different page financially, but attempts to confirm them were unsuccessful. Now that the organization is moving in a different direction, there are going to be as many that are shocked inside HP Pavilion as outside it. Greg Jamison said the decision would come down to conversations and analysis with the coaching staff, individual player meetings, and with contributions from the hockey staff. He said the organization would need to “to formulate a strategy going forward.”
That strategy no longer involves a former Calder winner and Vezina runner-up, the franchise leader in games played (563), wins (293), saves (13463) and shutouts (50). As noted earlier on this blog, “Evgeni Nabokov has faced more shots and played more minutes with a San Jose Sharks crest on his jersey (14757, 32492), than the next four goaltenders combined (Irbe, Shields, Vernon and Toskala).”
The decision was not wholly unexpected. After averaging 70 starts and 43.6 wins over the last 3 regular seasons, Nabokov is being judged in the same manner as the rest of the franchise, on postseason success. The landscape for starting goaltenders in the NHL may have changed. While Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco are two respected, talented and experienced netminders, the postseason success of Jaroslav Halak, and unheralded Michael Leighton, Antti Niemi and Brian Boucher might have caused many organizations to rethink how their teams are constructed from a salary cap perspective.
“We are excited about the goaltenders coming up through our system and we will also keep an eye on assets that may become available in the coming weeks,” Doug Wilson said of the announcement.
This decision comes after the recent trade of Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis for promising Danish forward Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. HabsInsideOut chronicled the wrath of the media and fans towards GM Pierre Gauthier. The city was buzzing after the trade of a player many believed carried the team into the later rounds. A handful of comparisons were made to the difficult decision the San Jose Sharks had to make in 2003 when a trio of #1′s came to the fore at the same time, Evgeni Nabokov, Miikkka Kiprsuoff and Vesa Toskala.
At the time, this blog said of the Kiprusoff trade, “Creating a goalie competition is one of the main reasons the Sharks are battling for first in the Pacific Division. It worked somewhat for Shields-Vernon. With Miikka lighting the league on fire one would have to think it would have worked for Nabokov-Kiprusoff as well.”
Now the Sharks are in a position with two quality, but unestablished, young goaltenders in Thomas Greiss and Alex Stalock. The Sharks historically have developed goaltenders at a slower pace. To establish a competition in net and get back to a position of pushing their netminders to earn starts, San Jose may have to dip into the free agent market. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun offered a look at the most likely free agent goaltending candidates.
And that might be the intriguing play come the first week of July: Will these free-agent goalies hold out for more money or grab hold of the first secure job offered to them? With so many goalies available, teams might have the upper hand in terms of salary negotiation. That’s fine with Ellis, who hopes to sell himself as a bargain so as to find a good fit.
“I’m hoping to find my niche where I’m a cheaper option than the $4 million and $5 million guys, maybe an option for a team that’s feeling the cap crunch,” said Ellis, who turns 30 on Saturday. “I’m not a huge money guy. I live in Omaha, Neb., in the summertime. My most important thing is to find a team who I can win with.”
The trade of Halak to St. Louis shocked starting goaltender Chris Mason. “They gave us every indication they wanted Chris to be the guy,” Mason’s agent Tom Laidlaw told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was reported by HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman that Mason was looking for “3 years, $11.25 million from St. Louis… Blues decided to commit that money to someone who was 25, not 34.” This was similar to news that Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier did not even contact Jaroslav Halak’s agent Allan Walsh prior to the trade with St. Louis. According to reports, Gauthier believed Halak was out of their price range without negotiations.
The Sharks went in a different direction. After planning for a future without Nabokov, they gave him and his agent time to prepare for the NHL Entry Draft June 25-26th, and the start of free agency on July 1st. Nabokov was the most vocal player expressing a desire to return as the team cleaned out their lockers on May 26th.
“(The ball) is not in my court really, it is up to the organization. Then after that, it will be in my court. It is their decision, then my decision. It is a weird situation, I haven’t been in that situation in a very long time. To be honest, I don’t know what is the right way to answer,” Nabokov said at the time when asked about his future. Now that future will be undertaken with a different team.
[Related] San Jose Sharks 2010-11 contract status/salary cap chart – Sharkspage.
[Update] San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak has more today from GM Doug Wilson and Evgeni Nabokov. According to Pollak, Nabokov told him he had no regrets during his time spent with the organization, and he did not see this move coming. General manager Doug Wilson said the team was interested in trading or signing a free agent goaltender, and not relying entirely on younger goaltenders.
“I just need to move on with the rest of my life and make the decision that’s best for my family,” Nabokov said. “That’s part of the business and we’ll see how the things are going to go.
“For me personally,” he added. ” it’s been good years in San Jose. This organization has been nothing but good to me and I have no regrets.”
[Update2] TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported via twitter on Thursday that along with St. Louis, San Jose was the other “major suitor” for Halak. McKenzie confirmed the report to Sharkspage, but did not have any furthur information about the discussions. Montreal Gazette beat writer Dave Stubbs also told Sharkspage that reporters were in the dark on the Montreal side. Doug Wilson has said multiple times over the years that his staff keeps a “ghost roster” of every NHL player and the needs of each NHL team in the event an opportunity arises. Wilson made a similar comment in a response to a question from Dave Pollak regarding Halak.
[Update3] In 2005-06 Halak played 20 games for the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL before he was called up to the AHL, at times in front of as few as 800 fans. The Ice Dogs had a very small, rabid fan base, but the team struggled due to a lack of marketing and an oversaturation of entertainment options in the region. They also had to compete with 2 more popular NHL franchises in Anaheim and Los Angeles, and they eventually folded in 2007. In Montreal, the Canadiens finished second in the league with a 21,273 average attendance at the Bell Centre.
[Update4] More from CSNCalifornia’s Jaymee Sire with video from Doug Wilson: BREAKING NEWS: Sharks to Part Ways with Nabokov:
Doug Wilson: Well it’s an organization decision and you take a look at what the trends are in this league and the dedication of dollars to that position. And Nabokov’s been an outstanding player for us and responsible for some great successes. And we have to take a look at where we’re at and where we’re going and we wish him nothing but the best in true appreciation for him. We’ve got some very good young goaltenders coming. There’s quite a few goaltenders that we expect to be available to build our tandem going forward. And it comes down to dedication of dollars, not only this upcoming year but going forward the next four or five years.
Jaymee Sire: How hard was that conversation you had with him?
DW: Well I have great respect for him. It’s the least favorite part of my job. But he’s a man that, as I say, I admire and we had a conversation face-to-face and that conversation will be kept confidential.
Who is the top free-agent goalie?
Marty Turco: 13.63 %
Evgeni Nabokov: 51.72 %
Michael Leighton: 12.08 %
Chris Mason: 11.12 %
Antero Niittymaki: 6.21 %
Dan Ellis: 5.24 %