SAN JOSE – Evgeni Nabokov was a Vezina Trophy finalist the first time he and newly appointed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had a conversation in the summer of 2008.
“He was at the top of his game,” McLellan said. “At that point, he was elite. Everybody was aware of his ability.”
On Monday morning, McLellan reflected on the long-time Sharks goaltender, who will announce his retirement from hockey on Wednesday in a press conference at SAP Center.
Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced they had acquired Nabokov from Tampa Bay in exchange for “future considerations.” The goaltender was recently waived by the Lightning, and went unclaimed by the other 29 NHL clubs.
“We traded for a goaltender, and obviously a really important goaltender to our organization,” McLellan said.
“It goes back many, many years. He still lives in our community and I think it’s not only a great thing for Nabby, it’s a really good thing and classy thing by our organization and really good for the community. He’s part of it. He lives here, his kids are going to grow up now and play hockey here, and he deserves to be recognized with the honor that was awarded him today by coming back and becoming a Shark once again.”
Joe Thornton and Nabokov remain close friends. According to the former captain, the two get together when Nabokov returns to the area each offseason.
“Our kids are about the same age. It’s always nice seeing the family,” Thornton said.
They spent five seasons together with the Sharks before Nabokov, the Calder Trophy winner in 2001, was not re-signed after the 2009-10 season.
“He played solid for a number of years when I was here,” Thornton said. “He was the number one here, and he set the bar high.”
"Nabby was great,” said Joe Pavelski, who played with Nabokov for three-and-a-half seasons. “When I first came in the league I loved coming to the rink and seeing Nabby. He worked hard, he's had a long career. He's done a lot of good things. I always enjoyed playing with Nabby."