This morning the news surfaced that SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL and its prized goaltender Evgeni Nabokov(notes) amicably decided to terminate the player's contract by mutual consent due to "family reasons." Nabokov signed a four year contract in Russia last summer.
The overall reasons for the separation are unclear at this point. Those "family reasons," however, may be very true.
"Nothing serious happened," Nabokov's Russian agent Sergei Isakov told Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport. "There were some unforeseen family circumstances Evgeni had to face. He called me on Sunday and on Monday I took the train to St. Petersburg to talk to the SKA management. Nabokov asked to terminate his four year contract with the club. He had to do it for family reasons. He has to go back to North America. I cannot tell you what happened with my client's family."
Nabokov is expected to leave for the States on the "next available flight," according to Isakov. Nabokov's family left Russia a few days ago. Nabokov's wife is American and his children were born in the United States.
It is quite possible that his family could never truly adjust to life in Russia, even though the money Nabokov was making in the KHL was very good. Isakov, however, denied that Nabokov's family were uncomfortable in Russia. "There were no problems. Nabokovs had excellent living conditions in St. Petersburg. The club gave them a car. SKA was helping as much as they could. Even now SKA's GM asked me ‘What assistance does Evgeni need with his departure?'"
Nabokov played only 22 games in the KHL winning only eight of them. His GAA was over 3.00 and his save percentage was .888. Isakov mentioned that the new SKA coach, Vaclav Sykora, trusted Nabokov a lot less than Ivan Zanatta. There were also reports that Nabokov refused to dress up for games as a back up after his less than stellar play for SKA. Nabokov denied such reports.
Nabokov's agent Isakov said that the lack of trust was not the reason Nabokov decided to leave SKA. Because Nabokov and the club decided to terminate the contract by mutual consent, the goaltender won't receive any money from the club apart from what he has already made.
"We don't think that signing with SKA was a mistake. But such as the circumstances. Family is more important than hockey," Isakov told Lysenkov.
The future is uncertain for Nabokov, who is more likely to try to come back to the NHL. He will, however, have to clear waivers.
His Russian agent Isakov said there is a possibility he may even be back with SKA at some point.
"He won't end his career. Nabokov is wanted in the NHL, in Russia. Some issues have to be settled and then we have to think what to do next. By the way, it's possible that Evgeni Nabokov will be back with SKA. At least I am not excluding this possibility. Right now everything depends on how quickly Evgeni sorts out his family issues."
Nabokov made himself unavailable for comments. He turned off his phone making his agent a temporary spokesperson.
Don Meehan, Nabokov's North American agent, told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun that Nabby is ready to play, and that Meehan will now speak with teams.
Nabokov was also scheduled to play for Team Russia in the Euro Hockey Tour's Russian leg in December, something that is unlikely to happen now.
- Evgeni Nabokov