So, now what?
Now that Evgeni Nabokov has decided to not report to the New York Islanders, what happens next?
Well, for starters, the Islanders are within their rights to suspend Nabokov. That means Nabokov doesn't get paid and has no other options in terms of playing elsewhere. He just sits.
That scenario could simply carry on for the balance of the season. End of story.
Or maybe not. The Islanders could appeal to the NHL to "toll" the contract, which essentially means push it to next year. In that case, Nabokov would then "owe" the Islanders a year and Nabokov would not necessarily become a free agent on July 1.
The Islanders do have other options if they so choose.
They could try to trade Nabokov to another NHL team -- though it's practically impossible for that to happen for reasons outlined below -- or they could put him back on waivers to allow him to resume his NHL career with some other team. Call that the "out of the goodness of their heart" clause, which gives you some idea of its merit and/or likelihood.
But, again, the Islanders are not obliged to do anything at all.
In order to trade Nabokov, here is what would have to happen (put on your thinking cap, because this is going to get complicated):
The Islanders would inform the league they intend to trade Nabokov. Before any trade could be executed, though, the NHL would go to any other club(s) that put in an original waiver claim (besides the Isles) and ask whether those teams have interest in acquiring Nabokov for the $3,375 waiver price. If an original claimant wants Nabokov, they get him. If more than one original claimant wants him, the team lowest in the standings on the day he was put on waivers gets the player. Nabokov never actually gets put on waivers a second time in this scenario.
So in that case the Isles cannot execute the trade. Original waivers claimants take precedence over the Islanders' desire to trade him.
If the Isles were the only team that put in a claim, the Isles still are not free to trade Nabokov. Not yet.
That's because as a player who played in Europe after the NHL season began, Nabokov must clear waivers any time he is being traded or assigned.
In that case, any of the 29 teams, including Detroit, can put in a claim on Nabokov. If more than one team puts in a claim, the team lowest in the standings gets him. In this actual (second) waiver scenario, there is no priority given to a team that originally claimed Nabokov the first time he was on waivers.
What would seem obvious is that were Nabokov to be put on waivers a second time, Detroit would most certainly put in a claim. So the odds of Nabokov ever clearing waivers for the purposes of being traded by the Isles would appear to be virtually non-existent.
If all that isn't confusing enough, keep in mind Nabokov has a no movement clause. He can't be put on waivers or traded without his permission.
Although since he clearly doesn't want to be an Islander, odds are good he would waive for a chance to relocate.
But when, or if, that will ever happen; your guess is as good as mine. It's entirely up to the Islanders and there is, quite frankly, not much impetus for them to do anything at all.
In fact, if they can "toll" the contract and effectively prevent Nabokov from playing anywhere next season but Long Island, doing nothing now may give the Islanders the most leverage in this standoff.