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Saturday, April 23, 2011
Weekend wrap: Nabokov's contract, Richards' options, Kings' goalies

By Pierre LeBrun

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A few notes after a few phone calls around the league Saturday:

• Not only are the New York Islanders going to "toll" Evgeni Nabokov's contract, meaning he'll owe the club that one-year, $570,000 contract next season after not reporting in January when the Isles claimed him off waivers, but it turns out the netminder and his agent are fully on board with it.

Veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports told ESPN.com he has informed Isles GM Garth Snow his client is fine with the contract being tolled. In return, Snow will allow Nabokov, who was suspended by the Islanders for not reporting, to play for Russia in the World Championships.

The idea is that both Nabokov and the Islanders would benefit from the veteran goalie putting on a solid performance in Slovakia. His stock may rise, as the Islanders will likely put him on the trade block this summer.

• Look for the Kings to be a serious player in the Brad Richards sweepstakes July 1. The New York Rangers are the likely front-runners for the unrestricted free-agent star center and the Toronto Maple Leafs will throw a ton of money at him, but the Kings will definitely take a shot at it, a source told ESPN.com.

Richards, by the way, met with Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk this past week, but there is really nothing new to report there. With the Stars' ownership landscape still unclear, it appears more likely Richards will hit the market. The Stars would certainly remain among the teams he would consider even past June 30.

• Some observers wondered if the Kings would start rookie Jonathan Bernier for Saturday night's game against the Sharks, but truth is they gave it very little thought. From the Kings' perspective, I think the concern is if Jonathan Quick would suffer any emotional damage if San Jose knocked out L.A. with him on the bench.

My HNIC colleague Ron MacLean made a good point during our Hot Stove segment Saturday night when he pointed to Carey Price being pulled out of the Philadelphia series a few years ago and how that affected him the following season.

Having said that, Quick needs to expect a serious push next season from Bernier. The feeling in and around the Kings is, while Quick has been very good for them the past two seasons, Bernier is also a great goalie in the making and he'll get more of a shot next season.

• Finally, Kyle Wellwood has been terrific for the Sharks since being picked up in midseason; he's really surprised a lot of people. Credit GM Doug Wilson for taking a chance on him. Wellwood is an UFA this summer. If he keeps this up, the Sharks will take a good look at bringing him back.