Unable to return to his former team, long-time San Jose Shark and playoff dud Evgeni Nabokov will travel back to Russia and play for SKA St. Petersburg. As fantasy owners, let us all pray that holdout Ilya Kovalchuk will not choose the same route.
There are a few reasons why Nabokov will not lead the rest of the Russians out of North America.
1. His playoff record. Despite being an excellent fantasy option and racking up over 40 wins for three straight seasons his inability to make the big stops and keep the Sharks in the game led to his demise.
2. His salary. Nabokov carried a modest 5.375 cap hit but topped out his deal making six million. How can you not expect the same money or more after delivering the results during the regular season for three straight years. His statistics did not regress and he could point out the Sharks scoring inability in the playoffs to offset his bleak lines. In Russia, he receives his exact salary from 2009-2010 and gets four more years to win a championship.
3. Breakout play of Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. Both of the aforementioned proved to the team that they can carry the offensive load when it matters. As good teams become great in a cap era, some players will force others out with their play. Due to that fact, Nabokov became a free agent and lost his NHL starting goalie status.
4. RFAs and the loss of manpower. Devin Setoguchi deserved a modest raise and the team lost and important part of their bottom six in Manny Malhotra. For those same pieces they could have signed Nabokov, but they chose multiple players over an aging asset. Instead, they chose…
5. Antero Niittymaki. One anonymous GM named Niittymaki one of the most underrated goaltenders in hockey. The Sharks play a system in which Vesa Toskala and briefly Miikka Kiprusoff thrived in, so signing the former Olympic starter makes sense. He is no stranger to big games and played a better first quarter of the season than most netminders.
Keep him on your short list for drafting netminders.