With Dan Hamhuis and the potential of paying him four or five million dollars a season to patrol the Flyers blueline now out of the picture, Paul Holmgren has some options. Late in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night, Holmgren was frequently seen speaking with San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, and the news soon filtered out that the subject of their conversations was soon-to-be free agent goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
The Sharks announced two days ago that they were going to let Nabokov walk on July 1, ending his tenure in San Jose. Following that announcement, you have to assume that the Sharks lose a lot of their ground in any negotiations for his rights. They're already getting rid of him anyways, so how much bargaining room do they have?
At the same time, though, we learned tonight that at least one other team is interested in acquiring those rights, which makes things a little more attractive from the Sharks perspective. Still, the Flyers would have the upper hand in these talks, and you'd have to expect they wouldn't be sending anything major back to the Sharks in a potential trade.
To start, let's examine the goalie market. We saw Jaroslav Halak, a much more attractive option than Nabokov, return a decent prospect and a lower-level prospect. That's for a guy who's younger, arguably better and only a restricted free agent.
For the Flyers, acquiring Nabokov would be a much bigger risk in that they don't get anything if they fail to sign him before July 1, so if we had to guess, we'd have to assume the Flyers would only give up something like a second or third round pick. Note: the Flyers picked up a third round pick in the 2011 draft tonight.
So, assuming that they don't get ripped off for the rights to the guy, and I would consider anything outside of a second (pushing it) or third round pick and perhaps a low-level prospect a severe overpayment. After all, Hamhuis only got the Flyers a third.
Let's jump ahead, then, and think about the ramifications of the Flyers acquiring the rights to Nabokov. Assuming they don't overpay and assuming we're okay with the risk of possibly losing something for nothing to get the chance to sign him before he hits UFA, would we be okay with Evgeni Nabokov as the next Flyers goalie?
Let's break this down into bite-size pieces.
- His contract: I spoke with the guys from Fear The Fin, SBN's Sharks blog, and they say that they expect Nabokov to get between four and five million on his next contract. He made $6 million last year and he had a cap hit of $5.375 million on his last deal, which he signed in 2006.
With his age (he'll be 35 in July) and with the unattractive nature of this year's goalie market, the Flyers could perhaps get Nabokov to agree to an incentive-laden deal. Either way, the Flyers would be paying him about the same as they would've paid Hamhuis. The FTF guys also said they expect Nabokov to want a two or three year deal.
Could he take a lesser deal? Who knows, at this point. I doubt he'd take less money or a shorter term from the Flyers without at least seeing what other offers come his way on July 1. Signing him to a deal worth four or five million could handcuff them when it comes to re-signing Braydon Coburn, finding a third-pairing defenseman and a free agent winger.
Holmgren spoke with Nabokov's agent on Friday night though, according to the Daily News, so he knows what he's doing before he potentially trades for him. The goalie is represented by Don Meehan, who also represents Chris Pronger. There's a history here, the DN suggests, and that bodes well for us.
- The Flyers' defense: Would playing behind the Flyers defense, albeit not as good as we hoped it would be had they signed Hamhuis, be a boost to Nabokov's game? The San Jose blueline isn't bad or anything, but the Flyers are much better in that department, and if they could make a guy like Michael Leighton look good, what could they do with a guy like Nabokov, who admittedly has a ton of skill.
- A stop-gap: Geoff's post on Thursday gave us a lot to look forward to with Johan Backlund. If the Flyers can get two solid years out of Evgeni Nabokov, it might be all they need while a guy like Backlund, or perhaps another young goaltender from the system or even elsewhere, takes the time to develop. We've been talking for a while about wanting the Flyers to get a young goalie, but we have several here -- they just need the time to grow.
- Is he still good? Nabokov had a great year last year, but can we expect that for one or two more? Here's an excerpt from a FTF post a few days ago.
Years of seventy plus start seasons have a tendency to wear on a goaltender, even one who speaks the iron man language as fluently as the Russian keeper. And although Nabokov had a phenomenal season during 2009-2010, posting a .922 SV% which arguably deserves the distinction of being named the Sharks regular season MVP, expecting him to continue or exceed those numbers next season is a long shot.
For starters, one look at his career save percentage shows that 09-10 was an anomaly. Nabokov has always been viewed by fans and media members as a top-five goaltender in the league, and whether that is true is still a point of contention in some circles-- however, his save percentage since the lockout doesn't seem to back that assertion up.
In fact, Nabokov is decidedly average by this metric. He has posted a .910 SV% since the NHL closed its doors in October of 2004, which lists him at 25th amongst goaltenders who have played at least 100 games.
In other words, he sits behind such notables as Cristobal Huet (.914), Chris Mason (.913), and Martin Biron (.910). Not the greatest company when speaking of an elite goaltender. While his .922 SV% this past season was notable, it is likely the safest of wagers to say that it will regress to the mean-- in other words, drop to the level we would expect it to be considering his career average and another year under his belt.
Keep in mind, that's coming from the people who love the guy.
We'll likely learn a lot more about this thing tomorrow. For now, let's discuss the possibility of this actually happening. The second round kicks off at 1 PM ET on Saturday. Stay tuned.