Yzerman: Evgeni Nabokov aware he may turn 3rd string by winter
The veteran goalie signed knowing he was filling a roster spot until a Tampa Bay goalie prospect was ready for promotion to the NHL.
One of the priorities for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the offseason was to shore-up the goalie position and getting a backup for Ben Bishop. Anders Lindback being re-signed wasn't out of the question, but with how he fared in the Lightning organization, it seemed like a certainty he'd move on (and he has, signing with the Dallas Stars).
It wasn't just because of financial terms that Lindback moved on, or at least you can take that from the signing of 39-year old Evgeni Nabokov for the role of #2 goalie. Nabokov did not seem to be the ideal signing for many Lightning fans that would have preferred a younger option such as Chad Johnson or other free agent goalie to split time with Bishop in the crease.
The thing is, Nabokov's one-year, $1.65 million contract came with the understanding that he could find himself to be 3rd string by the winter of 2014/15. General manager Steve Yzerman shared that news (along with other information in the wake of the NHL draft and roster moves preceding and during free-agency) among staff at the Tampa Bay Times Forum ion July 2nd as well as on the radio in an interview on July 3rd.
EDIT: transcription of the radio interview, taken directly from Clare's comment on this article:
Q: You have some interesting candidates to be goaltenders here in the future. You got some really nice young prospects but you decided to go with a veteran now as your backup for this year, Evgeni Nabokov, who's capable, obviously, of being a number one as well. What was the thought process and how do you expect to handle, sort of, the goaltending over the next year or two?
A: Well we're very excited. You know, obviously Bish had an outstanding year. His first year as a starter. He's coming off, you know, the dislocated elbow and wrist surgery at the end of the year. We expect him to only get better. He handled his first year very well with the workload, having to battle through injuries and we thought he showed great determination and mental toughness to be able to do that and play well. Now with Kristers Gudlevskis and Andrey Vasilevskiy we just thought it was more-really important to have a solid veteran and we've got two guys-Kristers played a couple of games in the NHL. Andrey just graduated from junior hockey eligibility. They're young guys. They're unproven, very talented. We just want to be cautious and go slow. So we bring in a good solid veteran to kind of serve as a mentor for the young guys, a good stabilizing backup for Bish and if our young guys are really good-We told Nabokov that "hey these young guys may see some time if they come up, we want to transition them in and are you okay with that?" He told us "Steve I'm happy to help these guys as much as I can." So we're just trying to protect ourselves. You know going into the season with Bish, who's still relatively inexperienced, and a young backup who's never played in the league, that's a little bit dangerous so we err on the side of conservative.
This information regarding Nabokov sheds light on why the Lightning's backup goalie position was the last issue addressed in free agency: The club wasn't looking for a player searching for long-term stability as-so-much someone to hold down the fort for a full season at best.
Nabokov's willingness to sign with Tampa while knowing he could be pushed aside doesn't guarantee we'll see Andrei Vasilevskiy or Kristers Gudlevskis backing up Ben Bishop come January or sooner, but it does indicate that the club would not be surprised if that happens.