Earlier this week, the San Jose Sharks announced that they will not re-sign goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. The Russian goaltender has been with the Sharks since 1999, posting just less than 300 wins. Nabokov earned 5.3 million this past season, but General manager Doug Wilson has his reasons for letting him walk.
“If you look at the trends in this league the last four or five years in particular and the dollars that are dedicated to that position,” Wilson said. “If you’re dedicating $5 or $6 million, that’s coming out of somewhere else.”
He’s right. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup with Antti Niemi, who cost the team less than $900,000 this past season. Philadelphia made it to the finals with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton, who only cost about 1.3 million…combined.
Not only that, but all three Vezina Trophy finalists were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur, and Ilya Bryzgalov were all unable to lead their team past the first round.
The Sharks are now trying to implement a different strategy. San Jose has been swept in each of the last two seasons during the playoffs. San Jose believes they will be able to win without Nabokov, who posted 50 career shutouts with the club.
Nabokov posted at least 40 wins in each of the past three seasons, one of which he only played 62 games. Drafted in the 9th round, Nabokov was a huge part of the Sharks for years, but now he will get the chance to improve another team.
“He’s been outstanding for this organization, a big part of our successes,” Wilson said. “I have great respect for him as a player, as a man and a teammate.”
With Nabokov leaving, it frees up a lot of space on the roster, but is it the right move? Wilson makes solid points when reasoning his decision, but how will San Jose perform without an All-Star goaltender?
San Jose is also shopping Patrick Marleau, who cost the team 6.3 million this past year. Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle are the two players the Sharks have locked up. Both are signed through the 2013-2014 season with a combined 14 millon dollar salary.
If the Sharks are going to allow to let Nabokov and/or Marleau leave the team, they better be planning for a few returns. There are plenty of goaltenders about to become free agents who the Sharks could sign. Marty Turco, Chris Mason, and Jose Theodore are just a few options for San Jose.
If the Sharks don’t use free agency, they could use backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, who played 11 games this season. Greiss also played for Germany in the Olympics.
Will San Jose’s move pay off? What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts.