Agent Don Meehan reports that the Lightning are one of several teams interested in the services of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
We have goalie issues. The stats don't lie, nor do the catcalls subside with the team eking out wins. Solutions that have been pitched between fans and other bloggers have been either brushed off, dismissed, or disproved when everyone brings up certain angles. There's been a level of panic among the faithful as we've watched the Lightning crease become a running joke.
Then a funny thing happened on the other side of the world.
This summer you may have caught the news that Evgeni Nabokov signed in the KHL to a lucrative deal. The 35-year-old netminder won the Calder award for best rookie in 2000-2001, and he was largely a steady hand for the Sharks in his time with the team.
Why he wasn't signed to an NHL deal, I don't know. Demanding too much? Expecting too much? Or perhaps he just wanted to go home... Whatever the case, Evgeni signed in the KHL...
....and his family have not enjoyed the experience in Russia.
Nabokov has had his contract terminated and seems to be poised to come back to North America.
Nike Kypreos tweeted earlier this afternoon:
Lets talk about the potential here for a bit...
I said Nabokov has been a steady hand with the Sharks, and I will let you judge his stats for yourself. A career sub-2.40 GAA and a .912 save percentage for his career. While the tandem of Dan Ellis have respectable career numbers, it's impossible to overlook the Smellis tandem's .874 save percentage this season, and 3.40 goals-against average. The tandem has been giving up an average of 1.5 goals per period the past 8 games for the Lightning.
Now, there's the knee-jerk reaction that anything is better than staying the course with Smith and Ellis... And in that light, the Bolts exploring Nabokov makes unquestionable sense.
But then you have to start wondering about numbers and logistics: How much would it take for the Lightning to sign Nabokov? How long would he want to be under contract? Those two numbers weigh heavily on the fact the Lightning are already in contract talks with Steven Stamkos -- and that anything long-term will affect what they can offer Steven.
Then there's the waiver thing that Kypreos quote touches on. Evgeni could sign with the Lightning in the next five minutes -- he still would become available to all 29 other franchises as a waiver claim. This would take some creativity to get around, either contractually or with a transaction involving another team that would allow the Bolts to get Nabokov.
Lastly, and this has been brought up by others via Twitter, what happens to the "odd man out" in Tampa? I don't think there is a question right now that Mike Smith would pass untouched through waivers. He's the guy on the final year of his contract, but is also making the most of the two goalies on the Lightning roster right now.
This does cloud and complicate the goalie picture in Norfolk though. A complication that the Lightning may not want. Loaning Smith to another AHL club for the remainder of the season (or Tokarski, or Desjardins -- this does not forfeit the rights to the player) would also be a possibility in order to clear out the temporary backlog of goaltenders in Norfolk.
All this just amounts to speculation on my part right now... Taking a bit of news, and a bit of reported news and seeing where and why... If nothing happens, this still could be enough to push Smith and Ellis to raise their game. I'm just not certain that will happen. They'd been put on notice already and not much has changed.