Will Evgeni Be Ready?
It was recently reported by Newsday reporter, Katie Strang, that Evgeni Nabokov's agent stated that his client will be reporting to the New York Islanders training camp in September in anticipation of fulfilling his contract with the team.
However, whether that fulfillment comes through the donning of an Islanders jersey or that of another's will remain uncertain.
The saga began back in the middle of the season after the Islanders had lost DiPietro to yet another injury and rookies Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen were forced to perform way ahead of schedule. Heck, even journeyman AHL goaltender Nathan Lawson got a stretch of NHL action as well. In order to help keep the team somewhat competitive, Snow went out and snagged Nabokov off the waiver wire after he signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings that would cost him $570,000 for the year. Nabokov had been previously playing overseas in the KHL.
But Nabokov slammed the phone down and refused to report to the team. Since the Islanders played this correctly, Snow had the right to hold onto the rights of Nabokov heading into this year since the NHL rules that he technically owes the Islanders one year of service. With his NHL career on the line, Nabokov has decided to give this team a shot.
And he should. Al Montoya, who has definitely won the support of many Islanders fans, will be the back-up to oft-injured Rick DiPietro, who only managed to play in 26 games last year (the most he's appeared in over the past three seasons).
The real question will be how the team and fans will react to a goaltender who insulted this franchise by choosing not to report after playing in the KHL. Cleary Nabokov wanted to return to this league; but the Islanders weren't up to his standards.
Maybe this whole issue with Nabakov is what DiPietro was referring to when he made that sly remark of, "who are we talking about here?" when he was asked about the goaltending competition heading into next season on clean out day. Many were quick to criticize the 15-year man of not showing the respect his teammates, Montoya, Poulin and Koskinen deserve. But maybe he was trying to send a sign that he wanted to be sure that the question was referred to those guys instead of a 36-year old veteran who looked the other way when the call was made.
But with DP's injury history, Nabokov can be a valuable goaltender, leader and backbone to a young team that is expecting to make the playoffs next year. If another injury hits, the team wouldn't have to rely on Poulin or Koskinen again and they would be allowed to develop properly with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
If Snow decides that carrying three goalies is the wrong road to turn too, then he will be able to explore the trade market. Nabokov was known as one of the best goalies in the league before he decided to return to Russia. And let's remember the cost of this one-year deal here - he will be affordable to every team in the league.
Whether or not Snow will keep Nabokov as a player or trade bait remains to be seen, but it will definitely add hype and excitement heading into this summer's draft and trade rumors.
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