Doug Wilson and Evgeni Nabokov met this afternoon to discuss the organization's plans for next season. Unfortunately for Nabokov, as well as the emotional heartstrings of many fans in San Jose, the Sharks have decided to go a different direction in 2010-2011:
Under the NHL’s current salary structure, there are only so many elite players a team can afford and sometimes something has to give. Due to this situation Sharks will be going forward with a new goaltending situation next year, meaning Evgeni Nabokov, who has held down the top job since 2000, will not be back in teal. Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson spoke with Nabokov in person Tuesday about everything.
This of course runs contrary to previous reports that the Sharks were heavily interested in bringing the 34 year old back for another year.
From a business standpoint this is a strong decision-- while the Sharks pipeline outside of Thomas Greiss will not be ready to compete in the NHL next season, making a foray into the trade or free agent market a necessity, Nabokov was likely looking for a contract that exceeded what his actual value to the team would be next year. He's been an absolute workhorse for the organization, logging 70+ start seasons multiple times during his ten year run behind the San Jose pipes, but has failed to sufficiently outplay his backups during that same time. With somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.0MM+ a decent ballpark after a career year, and Nabokov reaching the point in his career where landing one last big deal should be a priority due to an increasing age, it only makes sense for both parties to amicably go their separate ways.
Tim Thomas has been connected to San Jose on various rumor sites, but you have to figure those reports have no merit-- it's very unlikely Wilson would forgo signing a fan favorite in order to obtain another 35 year old goaltender with three years and fifteen million dollars remaining on his deal.
We'll have a proper sendoff in the near future for the greatest goalie in the history of the franchise, but for now I'd like to personally thank Nabby for all of the great memories over the years. Although he never saw a Stanley Cup with his time in San Jose, Nabokov was the heart and soul of the team for nearly a decade, providing countless hours of entertainment with his quirky interviews, lightning glove hand, and aggressive style in net.
Thanks for the memories Mr. Nabokov. You will be missed.