It wasn’t long ago that the hockey world was discussing the rather strange situation surrounding the New York Islanders and Evgeni Nabokov. Last season Nabokov was claimed off waivers by the Islanders but the veteran goaltender refused to report to the team, publicly displaying the fact he didn’t want to play for the organization. The rather awkward situation resolved itself this season when Nabokov agreed to report to training camp and has since had a rather solid year for the struggling Isles.
Evidently, Nabokov’s view on the Islanders has since warmed quite a bit as the goaltender has signed a one-year, $2.75 million to remain with the Islanders.
Don’t you just love happy endings?
Nabokov’s actions last season were pretty disappointing. As an athlete, when you are signed or claimed by a club it is your responsibility to go and play for them to the best of your ability. Nabokov let preconceived notions he had about the Islanders get in the way of his responsibility as an athlete.
Finally, Nabokov relented and reported to training camp with the Islanders heading into the 2011-12 season. At the time, the goaltending situation for the Isles was pretty complicated. Aside from Nabokov the Isles also had Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro in line for playing time, making it seem uncertain whether or not the veteran would even be a fixture in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Islanders, injuries have run rampant in net (DiPietro hurt again – shocking, right?) forcing Nabokov into a prominent role.
Nabokov has had a pretty good season, bringing consistency and dependability to the Islanders’ crease for the first time in recent memory. Through 40 appearances Nabokov has compiled a 17-18-3 record with a 2.56 GAA and a save percentage of .910%.
Based on his statements after signing a new contract it is safe to say Nabokov has had a change of heart toward the Islanders. After publicly saying he didn’t want to report to the club a year ago, Nabokov states that he is thrilled to play for the Islanders in 2012-13 and that he is excited to try and help the club make it back into the playoffs.
Nabokov returning to the Islanders makes a lot of sense. It’s a logical move for the Islanders as it seems like the club never has any sort of experience or consistency in the crease and have constantly had to deal with injuries to their netminders. By retaining Nabokov they have a veteran with valuable experience that can step in and hold the ship steady. It makes sense for Nabokov to return as it seems extremely unlikely that any other NHL teams would be interested in his services had he decided to walk away from the Islanders. This is evidenced by the fact that other veteran goaltenders, such as Ty Conklin, have repeatedly been on waivers and have gone unclaimed.
We’d love to believe that Nabokov has legitimately become a huge fan of the Islanders and their organization but there are doubts that his interests are strictly tied to the fact he might have a tough time finding work with any other organization. Honestly, would you blame him? Still, we’d rather think that Nabokov has simply seen the light and realized that despite their poor play the past several seasons that the New York Islanders as an organization are one of the most respectable in the NHL.