SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 14: Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the San Jose Sharks enters the ice against the Colorado Avalanche in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 14, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The Philadelphia Flyers have kicked the tires on Evgeni Nabokov before. Last year at the 2010 Entry Draft in Los Angeles, they went as far basically trading for the guy (alright, it was a "verbal agreement"), gaining an exclusive negotiating window with the goaltender for the four days between the draft and July 1.
A deal didn't get done -- largely because Nabokov wanted to hold out and see what he could get as an unrestricted free agent, a move he'd later regret -- but it was a deft move by Paul Holmgren to take a risk-free crack at getting a potential difference maker in goal.
The interest is clearly there from the Flyers, and now, there might be another crack at bringing Nabokov into the fold.
[Garth] Snow will also want to ask himself if he can stomach trading two first-rate goaltenders to contenders in the same calendar year without getting a difference-maker in return. He has a strong working relationship with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. But unless Snow can pry a legit second-pair defenseman or regular-shift forward, why would the Islanders hand over Nabokov to a division rival, a contender that has beaten them regularly for four straight years? The Islanders have no motivation to do anyone any favors where it concerns Nabokov.
Of course, Botta is referring to the trade of Dwayne Roloson a year ago to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In hindsight and perhaps even in foresight, it's clear that the Bolts won the hell out of that deal (the Isles got Ty Wishart, a decent prospect but no star, in return) and surely, Snow doesn't want to get screwed again, and he wants to make the playoffs.
I mean, good luck with that Garth, but you know... holding on to Nabokov, the best goalie he has, is better than the alternative. Still, if the Flyers would be willing to give up one of those pieces that Botta mentions, it'd be a no-brainer for Snow and the Isles. Would it be the same for the Flyers?
We've been over the idea that the Flyers don't need a big-name goaltender, but our biggest gripes with the thought of adding a guy like Ilya Bryzgalov or Tomas Vokoun is cost vs. added value. That kind of deal, in which the Flyers would add nearly $5 million or potentially more to their salary cap, would surely mean the exit of an important piece like Jeff Carter (who is very valuable, despite the hate he gets), and would only result in a negligible difference when it comes to winning hockey games.
The difference with Nabokov is that he's dirt freakin' cheap. Cheaper than both Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher, in fact. By not reporting to the Islanders last season, the team earned the right to both suspend him and "toll" his contract, meaning that for this upcoming season, Nabokov is under contract for just $570,000.
In other words, Ed Snider could pay him with his pocket change.
Botta does say that it'd take a roster player to make a trade happen in the division. But say the Flyers could offer up a middling, underwhelming, relatively expensive player on the roster -- perhaps one with long hair, a propensity to fall often and a no-trade clause that he's indicated in the past he's willing to waive or Kris Versteeg -- and maybe even get a middle-round 2011 draft pick from the Islanders as well?
Using a strength to address a weakness, while not jettisoning vital pieces like Carter and Mike Richards. It makes sense.
You'd gain about $3.5 million in cap space (which might allow you to replace a bulk of the 20-25 goals lost in the departure of Hartnell or Versteeg), add another prospect via the draft (since we know the importance of young talent, a department in which the Flyers struggle) and you'd get a goaltender who's literally perhaps the perfect mentor for Bobrovsky (they're both Russian, yaknow).
Nabokov is old enough where he'll never get a big contract again, and he's at the perfect age to split or even take the smaller slice of starts as Bobrovsky fills into the job that should ultimately (hopefully) become his for years.