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What will the Isles do about their goaltending?

May 13, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov Getty Images

For all the accolades the New York Islanders received during their first-round series with heavily favored Pittsburgh, the one area of their game that didn’t shine was goaltending.

And that’s an understatement.

In six games, veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov allowed 24 goals, finishing with a save percentage of .842.

Nabokov is 37 and can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Isles do, of course, have another goalie under contract (which is also an understatement), but Rick DiPietro — who was sent to AHL Bridgeport this season — can’t really be considered a viable option if New York wants to build on this year.

Kevin Poulin, 23, and Anders Nilsson, 23, are in the organization. The Isles could always re-sign Nabokov for one more year and give those two a chance to show their stuff.

However, if they want to be more aggressive…

Roberto Luongo

Everyone knows why they shouldn’t do this. Luongo is 34 years old and has a contract that runs through 2021-22. A year ago, this wouldn’t have even been worth discussing, as Luongo would’ve been unlikely to waive his no-trade clause to go to Long Island. But things have changed since then. Luongo wants to start somewhere, and New York — with a good young team and a move to a new rink coming soon — doesn’t seem like such a bad destination anymore. It’s also conceivable Isles GM Garth Snow could convince the Canucks to retain some of Luongo’s salary, assuming something of value (expect to hear Nino Niederreiter’s name pop up in trade rumors) goes to Vancouver.

Jonathan Bernier

The 24-year-old former first-round pick is coming off a solid season as Jonathan Quick‘s backup in Los Angeles. Bernier went 9-3-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. So for obvious reasons, he won’t come cheap. And if the Isles are interested, they won’t be the only ones.

Ryan Miller

The longtime Sabres’ netminder has a limited no-trade clause (per CapGeek) in which he can list eight teams to which he won’t accept a trade. Miller has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, so if the Isles do pursue him (and he’s willing to go there), they’ll want to make sure they can re-sign him to an extension. Because like Bernier, he won’t be cheap to get.

Unrestricted free-agent goalies include Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom and Phoenix’s Mike Smith. The former is 35 and somewhat injury prone; the latter is 31 and will be seeking big money.

  1. BlackandGoldMNBruinsFan - May 13, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    They’ve got Tim Thomas under contract as well, right?

    • jcmeyer10 - May 13, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      Whod’a thunk that would be a viable option. One of those, “oh yah, I totally meant to do that” kinda moments.

    • imleftcoast - May 13, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      Cheat the poor Timmeh, cheat the poor.

  2. tfaltin - May 13, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    #freejonathanbernier

  3. ashtongronholz8 - May 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    They’ll pick up backstrom. Wild trade heatley for luongo haha.

  4. ibieiniid - May 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    one thing’s for sure; with what the islanders showed us this year as far as their future goes, theyve likely moved themselves off of some younger guys’ no-trade lists.

    • barkar942 - May 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      Absolutely. Plus, they hare moving to a new home in Brooklyn soon. Wait and see who signs with them this free agency season.

      • imleftcoast - May 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM

        If they want to meet Jay Z and think BeyoncĂ© is hot . . . , they’re not hockey players. Anything but Nassau Coliseum has to help them though.

  5. JoeAvg - May 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    I don’t think anybody goes for Luongo’s contract even if Van picks up part of the tab. It’s length is just as prohibitive as the money for a 34 year old. They’re going to forced to buy him out and let him go for nothing in return.

    • hockeydon10 - May 13, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      One slightly interesting comment I read concerning Loungo also revolved around another goaltender rumbling a little bit about where he plays; Carey Price.

      Price (.905 / 2.59) to Van
      Loungo (.907 / 2.56) to Mtl
      Schneider (.927 / 2.11) shopped around.

      Price gets to play very near his home town and his contract doesn’t run until he’s 57 years old.
      Luongo gets to play in his hometown, and the Habs can certainly afford it. Schneider gets Van a much better return than Luongo ever would. Also, he gets away from a GM that’s pretty quick to throw his goaltenders under the bus.

      And to tie it into this article, the Isles do have a good prospect pool, so why not Schneider to Isles. Working for a GM that used to be a goalie!

    • ikillchicken - May 13, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Eh…A couple months from now, Mike Smith will sign some ridiculous 7.5M dollar deal and then suddenly Lu’s deal won’t look so bad. Sure, there’s a risk that this contract burns you in the last few years if Lu becomes completely unusable. But in the short term, you’re still getting one of the better goalies in the league for a paltry 5.5M cap hit. In fact, I don’t think there are more than a couple guys in the who league that have been better at a lower or equal cap hit. And none of them are on the market. What the Canucks get back is debatable but the mere fact that teams are talking to the Canucks about Lu (even if they aren’t offering much) proves they’d be willing to simply take on his contract at the very least. The only reason Lu hasn’t been traded already is that Gillis is holding out for a decent return.

  6. gregp1212 - May 13, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    They should trade for Michal Neuvirth, Holtby’s backup in DC. He is 25 years old and seems like he can be a full time starter.

  7. usher716 - May 13, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    As a Sabres fan, I’d love to see Miller go to the Islanders, or anyone.

  8. ethanmacleod1685 - May 13, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Nabby took them to the playoffs, he had a bad year, yes, but they should keep him and wold be wrong not too

  9. 19to77 - May 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Halak’s looking unlikely to remain with the Blues after making his feud with Hitchcock public. He’s a talented netminder with a year left on his contract, no trade protection and a team that has stated it wants to build through trades this summer. Worth considering too.

  10. bcisleman - May 13, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Nabby should be brought back. Look at his stats last year when the Isles’ D was absolutely woeful. .914 sv%, The key was that he only played in 42 games. He was just one short of that this season in a 48 game schedule. Even with that, he turned things around and had a terrific end to the season. Problem was that he played 15 of the last 17 games going down the stretch. That would be a lot for a 27 year old much less a 37 year old. He was clearly worn out by the playoffs and only turned in ine good game (Game 2).

    Isles need a good young goalie to be a 1A and assume 40-50% of the load. Poulin isn’t ready for this. He needs to go back to the AHL. If Boston doesn’t extend Khudobin, he’d be ideal. Nabby is much too valuable as a locker room presence to let him go and we certainly do not want to be shipping out major assets for a goalie. Isles should also add a few goalies to the prospect pool as Poulin, Nilsson and Koskinen have been struggling.

    • barkar942 - May 13, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      bcisleman, you are an Islander fan- what does the Islander fan base think about Tim Thomas potential comeback? He and Nabby could share the load- that could be an interesting tandem for a year.

      • islesjb - May 13, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        I know you directed this towards BC but in my opinion, the Thomas signing was nothing more than a paper move that was designed to keep the Isles above the cap floor. He hasn’t shown any indication that he plans on playing again and from what I’ve heard, he’s a negative presence in the locker room.

        I would prefer that Thomas never suits up in an Isles uni.

  11. islesjb - May 13, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Hard to speculate on who the Isles will go after but I think it is safe to say that Garth is going to make a play at a couple guys. I like the sound of Bernier because of his age and the hype surrounding him. The Isles need a young goalie stud who can be a franchise guy who can take them deep alongside JT and Strome for years to come.

    The Islanders definitely have the chips to make a big play for someone of Bernier’s caliber. With three top-5 draft picks yet to play a minute in the NHL, and guys like Brock Nelson and Matt Donavan (though moving him would be stupid) in the system, something can be worked out.

    Whatever happens, it is extremely refreshing that the Islanders are even in the conversation about making big free agent signings or trades. It’s amazing what one first round playoff exit and a state of the art arena on the horizon can do for a team’s credibility.

    Regarding Nabakov, I can’t see him being brought back for anything other than a back up role. If that happened, I would be completely fine with it. He’s a leader in the locker room and is a great mentor for a young team. He also gives extremely entertaining post game interviews. Either way, he can be largely accredited with the Isles making the playoffs this year (tremendous play in April) and I will always be thankful for that.

  12. mattymarts17 - May 13, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    What about Halak from STL? They have Allen and Halak and the HC did not get along too well towards the end…

  13. capsfan19 - May 13, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Whooahhh miller would be sick!

  14. canadabaseball - May 13, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    I think u could throw Cory Schnider into that list 2

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