Sharks ink holdout Evgeni Nabokov
Five games of shoddy goaltending was more than enough to make the San Jose Sharks meet the demands of holdout Evgeni Nabokov.
Nabokov, 27, inked a two-year contract reportedly worth $7.15-million US on Tuesday.
The all-star puckstopper will be paid $3.525 million US this season and $3.625 million US the next after earning $575,000 US last season, his third in the NHL.
"Who we kidding here? To say that the performance of the team does not factor into the urgency of your analysis is just not being truthful,'' Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi conceded. "It forced us to do something in our evaluation planning that maybe we would have put off.
"It heightened the urgency because of how we're struggling right now."
Lombardi hoped to negotiate a longer five- or six-year pact but, failing to do so, now risks losing Nabokov to unrestricted free agency in his prime.
"That would have been ideal for us," admitted Lombardi, who pitched several long-term proposals to Nabokov and Don Meehan, his agent.
"(But) the closest we came on that was a three-year deal. So we didn't really get close."
Nabokov skipped the entire pre-season, plus the first two weeks of the regular season in which the Sharks went 1-4-0-0 and surrendered 22 goals.
Miika Kiprusoff, Nabokov's backup in 2001-02, was particularly ineffective, going 0-3-0-0 with a 5.65 goals-against average and a .772 save percentage in three appearances.
Kiprusoff, a native of Turku, Finland, wound up splitting the goaltending chores with Finnish rookie Vesa Toskala, who was 1-1-0-0 with a 2.61 GAA in four appearances.
With Nabokov's return, Toskala was immediately assigned to the AHL.
"But to pin this start on the goaltending is not fair and accurate," Lombardi argued. "There's a lot of factors that go into a 1-4 start.
"To blame it on the goaltending, that's not realistic."
Nabokov was drafted in the ninth round -- 219th overall -- by San Jose in 1994, but quickly rose to stardom at the NHL level, ranking fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in each of his first two full seasons.
He went 2-2-1 with a 2.17 GAA, a .910 save percentage and one shutout in 11 games in 1999-2000 before being named San Jose's No. 1 netminder a year later.
Nabokov captured the 2001 Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year by going 32-21-7 with a 2.19 GAA, a .915 save percentage and six shutouts in 66 appearances.
The native of Kamenogorski, Kazakhstan, managed to improve on those numbers last season, posting 37 wins, third-most in the NHL, a 2.29 GAA and a .918 save percentage with seven shutouts in 67 games as the Sharks clinched their first-ever Pacific Division title and reached the Western Conference semifinals.
Nabokov capped his all-star campaign by becoming the seventh goaltender in NHL history credited with scoring a goal, versus the Vancouver Canucks on March 10.
It marked the first goal scored by a European-born netminder plus the first scored on a power play.