Former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov did something on Tuesday night that he hadnt done since the very first win of his NHL career.
When Islanders goaltender Al Montoya was hurt at 18:40 of the second period in Winnipeg, Nabokov was called upon to play for the first time since he injured his groin on Nov. 17. Nabokov stopped all 19 shots he faced, and two more in the shootout, in helping the Islanders to a 3-2 victory over the Jets.
Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic told NHL.com:
"I'm not a goalie and I couldn't imagine coming in cold like that, but I thought he played a great game. He gave us an opportunity to win, and he was stellar in the shootout, so you can't ask for anything more."
The other relief win for Nabokov came on March 2, 2000 against Nashville, when he came on in relief of Steve Shields at 4:47 of the second period. The Sharks trailed 3-1 at the time, but rallied to win 4-3 in regulation to give Nabokov his first ever victory.
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In nine games with New York this season, Nabokov is 2-5-0 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.
Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.
Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.
Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.
Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.
Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.
Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.
Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.
While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.
Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.
General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.
There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve).
Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.