Islanders claim Evgeni Nabokov

Updated: January 22, 2011, 10:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov left Russia for the chance to play with the Detroit Red Wings. Instead of landing in Hockeytown, the veteran goalie will be taking an unexpected detour to Long Island -- maybe.

Nabokov lost his chance to join the Red Wings Saturday when he was claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders at the noon ET deadline.

A source told ESPN.com that Islanders general manager Garth Snow was informed by Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, that the goalie will not report to the Islanders.

Snow told ESPN.com that he still considers Nabokov an Islander at this point. He said he left a voicemail for Nabokov and is waiting to hear back before making any other decisions.

"My position is, we've put a waiver claim on a player who has an SPC [standard player contract] and he's a New York Islander and we're looking forward to him being part of our team," Snow told ESPN.com.

A message left by The Associated Press with Meehan wasn't immediately returned.

Reached via text by ESPN.com Saturday, Nabokov said he wasn't ready to comment yet.

The Islanders nabbed Nabokov two days after the 35-year-old goalie signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings. He had spent this season with SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, and according to the collective bargaining agreement, any player who starts the season with a team overseas must clear waivers first.

Nabokov, whose deal with the Red Wings contained a no-move clause, was placed on waivers at noon ET Friday.

If he indeed goes through with his refusal to report, the Islanders basically have two options: suspend the player or put him back on waivers.

"When I put the claim in, I had no intention to claim him to move him by any means," Snow said.

Snow said the Islanders have an airline ticket for Nabokov to fly Sunday from Oakland, Calif., to New York, where the Islanders will face the Buffalo Sabres in an afternoon game.

"I'm looking forward to having a goaltender that has experience not only in the regular season but in the playoffs," Snow said. "He also has international experience. He's a great addition to our team and our organization and I'm looking forward to him being part [of it]."

It is the third time in recent weeks that a player returning to the NHL from the KHL was plucked off waivers. The St. Louis Blues were victimized by the process twice as they lost right wing Marek Svatos to the Nashville Predators and center Kyle Wellwood to the San Jose Sharks.

"We tried something, and he's been claimed by another team," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "We move on. It's the nature of the rules and the league."

The Islanders (15-24-7) have struggled in goal because of oft-injured Rick DiPietro and this month's trade of Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders have been going with rookies Kevin Poulin and Nathan Lawson in place of DiPietro, who has missed several games recently because of a groin injury and a case of the flu.

Osgood I haven't put much thought into it, but the Islanders are terrible so I'm not sure why they did that.

-- Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood

Lawson, 27, was forced out of Friday night's win at Buffalo after one period by a knee sprain. The 20-year-old Poulin played the final two periods and earned the win, his second in NHL. DiPietro, 29, is in the fifth season of a landmark 15-year deal with the Islanders.

Nabokov was 8-8-5 with a 3.02 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage in 22 games with St. Petersburg. He became a free agent in December after he was released by the KHL club in the first season of a four-year deal, citing family reasons.

Last season with San Jose, Nabokov went 44-16-10 with a 2.43 GAA and helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference finals against eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago.

The Red Wings, second in the Western Conference, was looking for goaltending help because backup Chris Osgood had hernia surgery last week and is expected to be out until March. No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard has been bothered by a bruised right knee. Howard returned to the lineup Thursday night in St. Louis after missing two games and made 26 saves in the Red Wings' 4-3 overtime victory. On Saturday, however, Howard took the loss against the Chicago Blackhawks, making 29 saves in a 4-1 defeat.

But the Islanders are at the bottom of the pile, with only the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils having fewer points.

"I haven't put much thought into it, but the Islanders are terrible so I'm not sure why they did that," said Osgood, himself a former Islanders goalie (2001-02 and 2002-03)

The Islanders were burned by the waiver rule in January 2009 when they tried to bring goalie Wade Dubielewicz back to the organization after he played for Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL. After signing a deal with New York, Dubielewicz was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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