Nabokov comes full circle to retire as a Shark
Evgeni Nabokov is a Shark once more, but his second go-round with the team that drafted him will be short-lived.
Nabokov, who the Sharks acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday for “future considerations,” is expected to announce his retirement in a noon press conference on Wednesday at SAP Center.
The 39-year-old Russian goaltender will go down as one of the greatest backstops in Sharks franchise history. He holds virtually ever team goaltending record from wins (154) to shutouts (50) and games played (563).
A ninth-round pick back in 1994 by the Sharks, Nabokov’s six-foot, 200-pound frame was smaller than average for a goaltender, but he made up for it with his positioning and aggressiveness, often venturing way out of his crease to challenge on shootout or breakaway attempts.
In his first career NHL start on Jan. 19, 2000, Nabokov squared off against the legendary Patrick Roy and stood up to the task, making 39 saves in a 0-0 tie.
From there, his career took off, winning Rookie of the Year the following season, making two All-Star teams and amassing more than 30 wins in six seasons. His career goals against average is 2.44 to go along with a .911 save percentage; Nabokov played in at least 40 games every season — excluding his first and last — and only had a save percentage below .900 once.
While he never won a Stanley Cup, Nabokov made 84 playoff starts in his career and made one of the greatest saves in playoff history in 2008 in the second round against the Stars. He preserved a 1-1 tie in the first overtime with a tremendous glove stop on Brad Richards in a game that would last four overtimes.
Nabokov was not retained by the Sharks and left as a free agent after the 2009-2010 season. In the limelight of his career, he played for the Islanders from 2011-2014 after a brief stint in Russia.
This season, he was 3-6-2 with a 3.14 GAA in 11 starts with the Lightning, who waived him last week.
After going unclaimed, the Sharks and Lightning teamed up for a respectful gesture: sending “Nabby” back full circle to San Jose to end his career where it first started.