Nabokov To Remain An Islander?
Per Arthur Staple of Newsday via Twitter: "Evgeni Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, tells Newsday that contract talks with #Isles will likely start soon."
And the Twitter feeds went wild. Nabokov, who is currently sitting due to the flu, could possibly return in an Islanders sweater for the 2013 season. Who would have thought that this would be the case a year after Nabokov was claimed off of waivers by GM Garth Snow and then failed to report? (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)
Nabby has a 14-14-0 record with a 2.24 GAA and a .925 save percentage. His stats are pretty solid for a goalie that has been playing on a team with a fragile defense and an offense that started off terribly and currently sits as the fourth worst team in scoring in the league. With the Islanders six points out of the playoffs, his ability to steal games, much like his 45 save shutout performance against the Philadelphia Flyers, has allowed Nabokov to become the main piece between the pipes for a late season playoff push.
It also has allowed Snow to realize that he needs Nabokov, or a goalie just like him, to help his team continue to go forward. Each season cannot be about rehabilitating Rick DiPietro, and I personally think re-signing Nabokov would be management's way of saying those days could be over. Now I am not saying that means Isles fans have seen the last of DP. As long as he can play, owner Charles Wang and all those below him will continue to support the 15-year man's comeback. Whether or not his body has finally had it is another story.
Keep in mind that the NHL's current CBA is set to expire at the end of the year and there has been talk of a possible "amnesty clause" being included, allowing any NHL team to rid themselves of a contract that became a burden. It would be a golden opportunity for the New York Islanders to rid themselves of the albatross around their necks if this were to be the case. But this is just a rumor and mere speculation. There might not be an amnesty clause and even if there was, there is no telling that Wang would be willing to use it.
However, if Nabokov is re-signed, the Islanders could possibly move forward for the next year or two with a proven veteran goalie as their number one guy with Kevin Poulin growing and learning behind him. Unfortunately, this would likely allow Al Montoya to become expendable either via the trade market as the deadline approaches or to free agency this summer. Management has a lot of high hopes for Poulin and he has shown that he is ready to accept a more prominent role in the NHL instead of just being an emergency call-up.
Nabokov committing to the Islanders would send an incredible message to other free agents and the rest of the NHL as well. He failed to report, then was forced to play and then (possibly) decided to stay, all after having a great year that could likely earn him big money on a contending team.
But I am getting ahead of myself. There is always the chance that a new contract won't get ironed out. It all comes down to Nabokov and Snow, but the Islanders have plenty of cap room and will need to spend once again to reach the cap floor for next season, especially with Brian Rolston's $5 million contract expiring this summer.
The bottom line is that the New York Islanders will only be a successful hockey team and continue to grow if they have stability between the pipes. It appears that Garth Snow recognizes what that means in order for his team to take the next leap forward.
Hopefully we will be hearing of a press-conference in the near future.