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Evgeni Nabokov talks future with NHL, New York Islanders

Dmitry Chesnokov
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Early this week the news surfaced that the estranged New York Islanders' goaltender Evgeni Nabokov resurfaced in Russia. According to Vladislav Tretiak, Nabokov was training in Moscow behind closed doors the entire week last week. Nabokov's goal is to play in the World Championships this year in Slovakia.

Nabokov terminated his contract with KHL's SKA St. Petersburg late last year due to "family reasons". It is, therefore, ironic that when Nabokov came back to Russia, he trained with SKA's goaltending coach.

As I mentioned yesterday in Dreger Report on TSN, Nabokov is expected to play tomorrow for Team Russia against Team Belarus.

"I am not going to rate my conditioning in percentages from the optimal. I need to get more practice. The more of it, the better it is. So, I am just going to come out and play against Belarus," Nabokov told Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport in an interview yet to be published in Russia.

As you may recall, after bolting from the KHL, Nabokov signed to a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings only to be claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders. Nabokov refused to report to Long Island and was subsequently suspended by the Islanders.

The rules of international hockey state that a player participating in international events should furnish an insurance policy to cover his existing club contract. For example, in 2008 the Russian Hockey Federation paid a reported premium of $700 thousand for a two week tournament to insure Alex Ovechkin's $124 million contract.

It is unclear whether this was done in Nabokov's case. And does Nabokov even have a permission to play for the National Team while his NHL club is still playing in the regular season?

"The Islanders are aware of everything. I told them that I was going to play for the national team. No one stood on my way. And the [Russian Hockey Federation] will take care of all the formalities," Nabokov told Lysenkov today. "I didn't personally call [the Islanders]."

Nabokov added: "I don't want to elaborate on this topic at this time. The process with the Islanders is ongoing. My words may be misunderstood, people will reach conclusions…"

After the return to the United States in December, Nabokov practiced in California and had "a few NHL clubs interested" in him, according to Nabokov himself. And then Nabokov signed with Detroit.

"Detroit is a special team. A lot of players want to play there," Nabokov told Lysenkov.

"It is a class club that wins often. It is always a contender for the Stanley Cup. … To be on the same team with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and especially Lidstrom. How do these people train? It may only seem that on the ice everyone works the same. But in reality it is not the case."

Asked what his take was on whether the Islanders will grieve his contract and retain his rights for next season, Nabokov replied: "It's not known at this time. But [the Islanders] have this right. If they decide that they need Nabokov, they will be able to do that."

If the Islanders retain Nabokov's rights, he will most likely not be able to play anywhere but Long Island, including the KHL, because of the Memorandum of Understanding the KHL and the NHL signed last year, where the KHL agreed not to poach players with existing NHL contracts.

But it is too early to say what's going to happen.

"I don't know what's going to happen to me in a week, and you're asking me what will happen in 3-4 months!" Nabokov told Lysenkov when asked where he was going to continue his career.

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