SKA St Petersburg and Evgeni Nabokov part ways in first year of 4-year, $24 million contract due to family reasons

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Monday, December 13, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

KHL hockey SKA St Petersburg and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov part ways family reasons

One of the KHL’s biggest offseason additions has parted ways with his team this morning in a blow to the league’s emerging status. SKA St Petersburg announced Monday that the club’s contract to goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was rescinded in the first year of his 4-year, $24 million deal due to family reasons. “The contract between the club and the goaltender (Evgeni) Nabokov was rescinded because of the family circumstances of the hockey player,” was the official statement as translated by’s Adam Kimelman. According to Nabokov’s agent Don Meehan in an email to Sharkspage, the former Sharks netminder is looking to return to the NHL.

Nabokov’s debut with SKA St Petersburg was a difficult one, allowing 5 goals on 33 shots to the Latvian Dinamo Riga squad. As the season progressed, the former Calder Trophy winner and Vezina finalist’s KHL season would not improve. In 22 games played Nabokov registered a mediocre 8-8-5 record, with a 3.02GAA and a .888SV% and 2 shutouts. According to Kimelman, Evgeni was pulled Sunday after allowing 3 goals inside of the first 9 minutes against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

The SKA St Petersburg lineup is dotted with former NHL talent from Maxim Afinogenov, Alexei Yashin and Denis Grebeshkov to former Shark Andrei Zyuzin among others, but the high profile lineup is only 8th in the league 36 games into the 56 game season. SKA St Petersburg is 3rd in the West Conference with a 19-9-8 record for 36 points. The additions of Nabokov and Grebeshkov were intended to carry the team to a regular season Continental Cup campaign, but the puck moving Grebeshkov is also struggling with only 3 goals and 6 assists in 36 games.

The departure from San Jose was a difficult one for Nabokov this summer as the Sharks moved in a different direction signing free agents Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi. San Jose Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson recently commented on the move to season ticket holders prior to Saturday’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We made a tough decision, but I do feel we were very honest and up front with Nabber, but I miss him as a man and as a person because he brought a lot to this franchise,” Wilson said. In his 10-year tenure with the team, Nabokov was the franchise leader in games played (563), wins (293), saves (13,463) and shutouts (50). Evgeni briefly negotiated with the Philadelphia Flyers before accepting a contract that would allow him to play in the Kontinental Hockey League until the 2014 Sochi Olympics began in Russia.

From the start, Nabokov wanted the approval of his family before making the move to Russia, but the transition would be a difficult one. “I think it will be a lot tougher on the cultural, everyday life level. For an American person, his wife, it will be very different,” Russian television reporter Pavel Krepkiy told Sharkspage in July. “I am sure he worked out something where it will be as comfortable as possible, it will still not be as stable and calm as it was in San Jose. I think it will be tougher for his family, than for Nabokov.”

For an American born wife and American born children, the move to Russia could be a significant culture shock. Even for players the adjustment is difficult. During the lockout TSN’s Ellen Pinchuk posted a forlorn video of Ak Bars Kazan goaltender Fred Brathwaite staring out the window of his apartment at the local McDonald’s. If Nabokov decides to return to the NHL, his destination remains uncertain. According to ESPN’s Scott Burnside, he would have to clear waivers before he could rejoin another NHL team. Teams with the lowest percentage of possible points would have first chance at adding Nabokov. It should be no surprise that the first three in the waiver line are all from the Eastern Conference: NY Islanders, New Jersey, and Toronto.

[Update] Why Evgeni Nabokov left KHL; agent said signing wasn’t ‘mistake’ – Dmitry Chesnokov for Yahoo’s Puck Daddy.

“Nothing serious happened,” Nabokov’s Russian agent Sergei Isakov told Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport. “There were some unforeseen family circumstances Evgeni had to face. He called me on Sunday and on Monday I took the train to St. Petersburg to talk to the SKA management. Nabokov asked to terminate his four year contract with the club. He had to do it for family reasons. He has to go back to North America. I cannot tell you what happened with my client’s family.”

Nabokov is expected to leave for the States on the “next available flight,” according to Isakov. Nabokov’s family left Russia a few days ago. Nabokov’s wife is American and his children were born in the United States.

[Update2] Agent Sergei Isakov: Nabokov flies to San Jose -

[Update3] Former Sharks goalie Nabokov parting ways with Russian club – San Jose Mercury News.

With “family considerations” cited as the reason, former Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and the Russian league team he signed a four-year, $24 million contract with are mutually parting ways, according to multiple reports.

Sources with the Sharks say that Nabokov’s wife, Tabitha, and two children did not relocate with him when the goaltender began playing for Ska St. Petersburg in the KHL.

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