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Snow felt no choice but to suspend Nabokov

by Adam Kimelman /
New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow has been successful in claiming players on waivers before, but what's happened with goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is something he never saw coming.

The Islanders claimed Nabokov on waivers last Saturday, but when the goaltender publicly said he would not report to the club -- including hanging up on Snow -- he felt that by Tuesday, he had no choice but to suspend him.

"We make the claim, we get the player off waivers, we set up a flight for Sunday morning, set up another flight for Monday morning. At that point my hands were tied," Snow said in an interview with the MSG television network. "We had to go though with the suspension. I feel it was going to be a good addition to our locker room, with his track record, his winning percentage, his save percentage."

Nabokov had signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings last Thursday, but since he started the season playing in Russia, he had to pass through waivers before he could become an official member of the Red Wings.

That never happened, however, as the Islanders claimed him. With rookie Nathan Lawson suffering a knee injury and the always-uncertain health of veteran Rick DiPietro, Snow felt he had no choice but to claim an experienced, successful goaltender.

Nabokov has won 40 games each of the last three seasons, and in 10 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, won 30 games six times. He guided the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals last season, and while Snow didn't expect that level of success with Nabokov in net, he hoped the addition would bring some more wins over the season's final few months.

"It's something in the back of my mind you think about, how it would have played out if he would have come and gotten into the locker room, gotten into game condition, gotten into some action, but for me its day by day now," said Snow. "Just let it play out. The way I feel is we put in a claim like we did with Michael Grabner, Rob Schremp, Nate Thompson -- we've had success in getting players that way. It was a no-brainer for me to improve the hockey club with the waiver process."

Snow said he never felt a need to reach out to anyone close to Nabokov to see if the goaltender would consider not reporting.

"I didn't feel a need," said Snow. "We were within our rights to make the claim. It was a signed player that had a standard players contract and I thought it would be a great addition to our team. His track record, resume -- it speaks for itself. For us as a young team with a lot of injuries, we're trying to get some wins."

However, Nabokov seems more comfortable sitting home in California than joining the Islanders. He said he signed with the Red Wings for a chance to play with a Stanley Cup contender. Joining the Islanders -- who entered the All-Star break 14th in the Eastern Conference, 20 points behind eighth-place Atlanta -- isn't something he has interest in doing.

"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov said Sunday in an interview with "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that.

"I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, 'Wow, what's the point?'"

The Islanders have a few options with Nabokov. They can trade Nabokov, but they would have to first put him through waivers again and chance losing him for nothing. They can keep him suspended through the end of the season and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Or they can continue the suspension as long as they want until Nabokov honors his contract.

Snow wouldn't talk about what might happen, although he did say he initially put in the claim on Nabokov with the intentions of keeping him for the remainder of the season.

"He's an asset that if he had reported would have helped us win hockey games," said Snow. "My intention when I made the claim was not to move him, to trade him, to put him waivers again. It was to put on a New York Islanders uniform and help us win hockey games."

Contact Adam Kimelman at
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