A 2.56 goals against and .907 save percentage aren't terrible numbers, but they also aren't the stuff that Conn Smythes are made of. Since he'll probably command a raise on the more than $5 million he made in 2009-2010, the Sharks have decided to let Nabokov become an unrestricted free agent July 1, rather than offer him a new deal.
Nabokov leads the NHL with 131 wins over the last three years, but the Sharks haven't done much in the playoffs, and general manager Doug Wilson has decided to move in another direction. Instead of resigning Nabokov, who turns 35 in July, Wilson has a number of options he can consider.
In the organization, Wilson has backup Thomas Greiss, who played for Germany in the Olympics. Greiss won 30 games for the American Hockey League's Worcester Sharks in 2008-09, and he posted a .912 save percentage in 16 games for the NHL's version of the Sharks this past season.
The Sharks also have a prospect on their hands in Alex Stalock. A fourth-round pick in 2005, Stalock followed an impressive three-year college career at Minnesota Duluth by setting the AHL's rookie record for wins with 39. He's likely not ready for an NHL workload, but it wouldn't be surprising if Wilson and the Sharks' brass decided to bring him up for a cup of coffee at some point.
Another option could be Johan Hedberg. The one-time Pittsburgh Penguin phenom, who spent four years with Atlanta, is 37, but could be a good option as a part-time starter and mentor for Stalock and/or Greiss.
If the decision is to grab a potential starter on the cheap, a guy like Nashville's Dan Ellis could be tempting. Should Wilson want to pick up a veteran, he could go with Hedberg, Marty Turco, or maybe even Jose Theodore.
However, there aren't a lot of proven playoff winners on the free agent list, probably for good reason. If Wilson wants to make his team a Stanley Cup champion, he is going to have to unearth the next Antti Niemi, or hope a reclamation project works as well for him as it did for the Flyers.