In a classy move by the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning, goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been traded for future considerations. The trade went down on Monday, with the Lightning sending Nabokov to the Sharks.
The Sharks went on to announce that Nabokov would be making an announcement about his career on Wednesday. That announcement is expected to pertain to the netminder’s retirement.
Tampa initially signed Nabokov to a one year contract over the summer. The goal was to provide some veteran support for Ben Bishop, but Nabokov didn’t do too well and wound up posting a 3-6-2 record over nine starts.
Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is also in the wings for Tampa, so Nabokov was put on waivers.
Now, it seems the road has come to an end and it will do so in San Jose.
Nabokov was taken 219th overall by the Sharks in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Tim Burke, San Jose scout, spotted him in an advertisement in Russia while there scouting another player. They took a gamble and drafted him, starting him in the AHL with the Kentucky Thoroughblades before his NHL debut in January of 2000.
When Nabokov took the ice in his debut, it was against one Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche. Nabby battled Roy to a 0-0 draw, believe it or not, and made 39 saves. In Nabokov’s first three NHL starts, he stopped all but one of his first 58 shots. The only goal against him in that period came as Stéphane Matteau slipped the puck into an empty net as the netminder was headed to the bench on a delayed call.
Nabokov went on from there to hold many San Jose records. He is the franchise’s best goalie. Period. He won the Calder Trophy in 2001 after winning 32 of 66 starts. The following season, he posted 37 wins. He’s just the second goalie in NHL history to post three consecutive 40-win seasons and the first netminder in NHL history to actually score a power play goal.
Despite these accomplishments, the Vezina Trophy always eluded him. He was named the best goalie of the 2008 IIHF World Championship and made the first All-Star team the same year, but the ultimate prize in hockey was also out of his grasp.
Nabokov’s last few years may have been a fair shade away from the glory days in San Jose, but at least he’ll be able to leave the game where he started it. That counts for a lot, especially considering the fact that other great NHL netminders never had the same chance.