Red Wings general manager Ken Holland confirmed the team agreed the deal. Nabokov was went on waivers at noon Friday, and Detroit should know his status by the time it faces Chicago at home Saturday.
The 35-year-old Nabokov has to clear waivers in the NHL because he started the season in Russia's KHL.
Chris Osgood, Detroit's backup goalie, had hernia surgery last week and is expected to be out until March. Starter Jimmy Howard has been slowed by a bruised right knee.
Howard returned to the lineup Thursday night in St. Louis after missing two games. He made 26 saves in the Red Wings' 4-3 overtime victory.
"I don't need anyone to push me. I push myself. I practice hard," Howard said after the game when asked about Nabokov. "It's out of my hands. If he can help us, he can help us."
Nabokov's entire NHL career has been with the San Jose Sharks, but they didn't offer him a contract this season. He made $6 million last season in the final year of his five-year deal.
Nabokov posted a save percentage of .922 with San Jose last season, his best in 10 seasons with the team. He had a 2.43 goals-against average and helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference final, where they were swept by Chicago.
He went on to sign with the Russian team SKA St. Petersburg.
The 26-year-old Howard is in his second full season with Detroit. After posting a sparkling 2.26 goals against average last season, he's at 2.83 in 2010-11. The Red Wings entered play Friday with the NHL's third-best record, but Detroit has had to scramble lately because of injuries in goal.
Howard bruised his right knee in the first period against Columbus last Friday night. Joey MacDonald started this week at Pittsburgh, and the Red Wings lost 4-1.
The team said Friday it had recalled goalie Jordan Pearce from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League — and loaned MacDonald to Grand Rapids in order to make room for Pearce on the active roster.