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Will Nabokov return to the NHL?

Evgeni Nabokov tried to return to the NHL this season, but was claimed on waivers by the New York Islanders, who he chose not to report to. (Getty Images)

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Evgeni Nabokov tried to return to the NHL this season, but was claimed on waivers by the New York Islanders, who he chose not to report to. (Getty Images)

Former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov’s hopes of becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer appear to be dashed.

New York Newsday recently reported the Islanders intend to “toll” his contract for next season, keeping him off the market.

Nabokov had signed a one-year, $570,000 contract with the Red Wings in January, but because he began the 2010-11 campaign playing in Russia he had to pass through waivers, which allowed the Islanders to claim him.

The veteran goalie refused to report to the Isles and was suspended by the team. GM Garth Snow told Newsday it was within his club's rights to hold over Nabokov's contract.

Rather than make things difficult for Nabokov, however, this move may work out better for both sides.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported Nabokov and his agent were on board with the move by the Islanders, because in return the club will allow him to play for Russia in the upcoming World Hockey Championship.

LeBrun suggested this is a showcase move: If Nabokov plays well in the tournament his value will improve. If the Islanders opt to shop him on the trade market this summer, he won't have to pass through waivers as he would have in-season.

Nabokov's contract makes him a real bargain for clubs seeking an experienced, affordable starting goaltender next season. Perhaps the Colorado Avalanche, who've been keeping payroll as close to the cap minimum as possible, would consider making a pitch.

WONDERING ABOUT WINNIPEG

The future of the Phoenix Coyotes continues to dominate headlines since their elimination from the playoffs last week.

GM Don Maloney told the Arizona Republic he still believes his team will return to the desert next season. The paper noted if a new owner “ups the ante” - a.k.a. increases payroll - it would make it easier for Maloney to deal with his pending free agents and others who opt to test the market.

Maloney’s re-signing priorities are goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, defenseman Keith Yandle (RFA) and forwards Radim Vrbata and Eric Belanger.

Veteran blueliner Ed Jovanovski will have to agree to a pay cut from his $6.5 million cap hit if he wants to return with the Coyotes next season. Jovanovski’s family lives in Arizona year-round.

Maloney also has to re-sign young restricted free agents such as Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker, though both of them will prove more affordable to retain than Yandle, who emerged this season as one of the league's top blueliners and will seek a substantial raise over his $1.2 million cap hit.

Bryzgalov's situation won't be easily resolved. Though he had a lousy playoff performance against Detroit, he's considered the reason the Coyotes made the playoffs in the first place. If he decides to test the market - a certainty if the team relocates to Winnipeg, based on his recent remarks - the Coyotes will be in tough to find a comparable or better replacement.

Bryzgalov might not be the only Coyote unwilling to move to Manitoba, either.

During the Satellite Hotstove second intermission segment on Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday, analyst Glenn Healy claimed he'd heard management would ask team captain Shane Doan if he wanted to move back to Winnipeg and if not, the club would try to trade him to another team, such as Los Angeles.

Doan has been with this franchise since its final season in Winnipeg back in 1995-96 and with one year remaining on his current contract it was assumed he'd move back with the team. He's been very loyal to the franchise, but he's also turning 35 in October, has never won a playoff round and doesn't have many more seasons left in him.

HAWKS OF A FEATHER FLOCKING TOGETHER?

Center Michael Frolik and defenseman Chris Campoli have been key factors in the Chicago Blackhawks’ impressive rally from an 0-3 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks in their conference quarterfinal series.

The Chicago Tribune reported both players were making “legitimate cases for inclusion” in the club's future plans.

Campoli, 26, and Frolik, 23, are restricted free agents this summer and hope to remain with the Blackhawks.

With about $51 million committed to next season's payroll there appears enough cap space for the Blackhawks to re-sign both players, but that's not a certainty.

Campoli earned $1.4 million against the cap this season and Frolik $1.275 million. While the two aren’t likely to make outrageous salary demands, a good bet is it will cost the Hawks around $4 million combined to retain them, which would take a substantial bite out of the team’s available cap space.

The Blackhawks also have to re-sign RFA goalie Corey Crawford, find a suitable backup for him and either re-sign or replace forwards Tomas Kopecky (UFA) and Troy Brouwer (RFA).

If Campoli and Frolik are willing to entertain affordable short-term deals, it would provide management with sufficient wiggle room to re-sign Crawford and address other roster needs.

 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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