Going into NHL free agency, the New York Islanders had a few holes they needed to fill. Now they have one of them filled. The Islanders have re-signed goalie Evgeni Nabokov to a one-year deal at $3.25 million. Considered by many to be one of the big reasons that the Islanders were able to get into the playoffs last season, Nabokov is going to be called upon again this year to help the Islanders back to the promised land of postseason play. Of course there is still more work to be done by the Islanders this offseason, but for right now, this is a very good start.
During his first two years on Long Island, Nabokov went 19-18-3 in 42 starts during the 2011-12 season; last year he went 23-11-7 in 42 starts. Over the course of his career, Nabokov has proven he can win big games for teams. Nabokov has won 40 or more games in a season three times — 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 — with the San Jose Sharks. Nabokov has also won 30 or more games on three other occasions while playing for the Sharks. Most NHL teams know how good a goaltender Nabokov is, and now he is bringing a little more credibility to the Islanders’ goalie position.
So, now that the Islanders have a starting goalie locked up for at least this season, the team really needs to start looking at other areas to improve. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, a backup goalie would be really nice. I’m sorry, but I still don’t feel too comfortable with Andres Nilsson or Kevin Poulin as the backup. I only say that because of how unproven both those goalies are at the NHL level. There are still some good goalies on the market as of now. Guys like Tim Thomas, Jose Thedore and Chris Mason are still on the free agent market at the moment. It would not surprise me if the Islanders make an attempt to pick up another netminder during the course of the summer. If that doesn’t happen, then of the goalies on the current roster, I would feel so much more comfortable having Poulin be the team’s backup at the start of the year.
As far as Nabokov goes, I would venture to guess he will play in about 60-75 percent of the games this season. Nabokov has been a workhorse in his career; that has been well documented. In this case though, Nabokov’s age has to be taken into account. He turns 38 at the end of July, and the shelf life of a goalie in the NHL isn’t very long to begin with. For the Islanders to be competitive this season, they need Nabokov to stay healthy, and one way of doing that would be to give him a little more rest throughout the course of the season.
Thankfully Nabokov is back in goal for the Islanders and the team can continue to move forward, adding the right pieces to the club to make them a contender.
Matthew Solomon Covers the Islanders for Rant Sports. You can follow me on Twitter!