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Snow: Isles re-signed Nabokov because ‘the team wanted him back’

Jul 9, 2013, 1:01 PM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov Getty Images

A few eyebrows were raised when the Isles let Evgeni Nabokov hit free agency, only to bring him back just hours into the signing period.

To hear GM Garth Snow explain it, the club simply didn’t want to mess with chemistry.

“The team wanted him back,” Snow told Newsday. “And Nabby wanted to remain an Islander.”

Snow and Nabokov haven’t always seen eye-to-eye when it comes to negotiations and compensation. That history dates back to how the Isles acquired the Russian netminder (remember this?), and carried over to this offseason, when Nabokov’s future on Long Island appeared cloudy.

In May, it was reported that Nabokov and Snow hadn’t discussed a new deal in over a month.

In late June, it appeared both sides were prepared to part ways as free agency crept closer and a new deal wasn’t close.

“We couldn’t find the middle ground right now but I never close the door on anything,” Nabokov said. “That’s where we’re at.

“I’m still hopeful something will get done.”

In the end, though, it sounds like Snow realized he had a good thing in Nabokov.

The 37-year-old appeared in 41 of New York’s 48 contests last season while posting a 23-11-7 record with a .910 save percentage and 2.50 GAA, backstopping the Isles to their first playoff appearance in six years.

Of course, other factors could’ve been at play.

What promised to be a deep goaltending market thinned out rather quickly. Mike Smith and Niklas Backstrom re-upped in Phoenix and Minnesota; Jonathan Bernier was acquired by Toronto, Cory Schneider went to New Jersey (locking Roberto Luongo into Vancouver) and Ray Emery signed in Philadelphia.

Within the few hours of Nabokov hitting free agency and the Isles re-signing him, it became clear there weren’t many other superior options out there, which probably played a role in Nabokov getting a raise from $2.75 million last year to $3.25 this year.

But according to Snow, it was all about keeping together the current group.

“When you have a core, with most of the guys drafted here or given an opportunity here, we have a tight-knit group,” he explained. “We’re happy with the goalies we have.”

  1. elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    More like Snow realized he couldn’t get anything else so brought back Nabby as their best option. He’s by no means bad, but may be just a bit too old to carry the team for a full season and then still be able to compete in playoffs without more support.

    Perhaps they have a plan to find him that support, or hope Poulin can do it, but they didn’t appear to be big players in the goalies that were out there. They weren’t in on Luongo at the end from the rumours, and didn’t appear to be going that hard after Bernier or Emery.

    They’re a team ready to compete, they just need a bit better goaltending to round it out.

    • islesjb - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      I read a report that said they offered Nino for Bernier but LA wanted a backup goalie in return so it didn’t work.

      • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        I think I remember hearing something around that too, but they could have pursued it if the only thing holding it up was a backup goalie. Trade Poulin or Nilsson along with Nino (even up both sides if necessary) and bring back Nabby as well to compete for the starting job. Having both would make the Islanders goaltending look a lot better.

      • islesjb - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        Yeah including Poulin was my thinking as well but maybe LA didn’t see him as a viable backup since he is still unproven.

      • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        That’s possible too, that LA didn’t think much of the backups NYI had to offer.

  2. islesjb - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Poulin really needs to step up this year and carry a lot of the load bc there’s no way the Isles can work Nabby like they did last year. If Poulin can step up, a Nabby/Poulin tandem might be enough to get the Isles back into the playoffs but probably not too a whole lot of damage once there. You never know though

  3. billyhauntswizards - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I think this was a bad move by the Isles. If Nabby played well they had a real chance to win the series against the Pens. And Poulin really doesn’t look promising. Should’ve looked for other options.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      Like who?

      • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:16 PM

        The rumour is they hardly pursued a Luongo trade, and if all it took to make Bernier happen was adding a backup to the deal then why they passed is beyond me. Maybe they thought there would be plenty of options and waited too long to act on any of them. No one’s fault but their own in that case.

    • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      I agree with that, I think they’re settling to some extent. As I said above, it isn’t that Nabby’s bad, just that I don’t think he handles a 60+ game workload and stays effective.

  4. 19to77 - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    A lot of good goalies hit UFA or RFA next year, including several mentioned as potential trade targets this summer – Halak, Miller, Hiller, Emery (again), Brian Elliott, even Corey Crawford, who will need a BIG raise from the $2.66m he’s making now. Lots of names, lots of potential acquisitions. Isles were smart to wait another year. Nabby’s got it in him.

    • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      A bunch were supposed to hit this year (Smith, Backstrom, Emery, etc.) or be available in trade (Luongo, Bernier). We’ll see if the Isles were smart or not past the halfway mark of the season as the trade deadline approaches, its a gamble more than a few teams made this year and failed miserably.

      • 19to77 - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        Luongo and Bernier WERE available for trade. Nobody liked Luongo’s contract and Bernier went to what was probably the highest bidder. Smith tested the waters, but either Phoenix offered what he wanted or he couldn’t find a bigger deal with a team he wanted to go to. Emery and Backstrom were surprising (Emery because he left his team, Backstrom because he stayed) but on the whole most of those were in line with people’s expectations.

      • elvispocomo - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM

        Maybe Vancouver didn’t want to buyout DiPietro’s contract at all, or maybe just weren’t offered enough to convince them. A deal could have been had there if they wanted to though, even if they ended up buying out DP’s contract themselves (which of course they did).

        Even if you don’t want another long term contract despite it being a good cap hit for a good goalie, sweeten the pot for LA with Bernier or offer Emery a little more (Emery and Mason combined make less than Nabokov). If you feel you’re a contender then go after someone who’ll help – especially when you can’t fit all the young talent you have in your lineup as is.

  5. mrpinkca - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    I’m actually a bit surprised they didn’t get Bryzgalov. Snow loves to acquire the misfit players.

    Then again, looking at what Lecavalier got, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bryz was looking for big money again.

  6. narfmoo12 - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Funny, Nabokov got more money than the Flyers are paying Emery and Mason combined. Shrewd move by Snow.

  7. endusersolutions2013 - Jul 9, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    He was a playoff disaster. Pens won when they benched Fleury and Nabokov stayed in. .840 save %.

  8. bcisleman - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:11 AM

    Nabby would be fine as a 1b or even a 1a in a tandem setup. He really is NOT the guy you want as a #1 for a contender. He was thrust into that role because neither RDP or Poulin proved capable as backups.

    Going into the 2013-14 season with Nabby and Poulin as goalies is likely to result in a step back for the Isles and possibly even another top 5 selection in the 2014 draft. I am sure that Garth understands this.

    Does Garth want another top 5 pick to replace Nino? Maybe. Is he really willing to roll the dice on Poulin and hope he reverts to 2011 form? Maybe.

    My guess, however, is that there is another trade in the works. Jonas Hiller may not need to be moved in the wake of the Ryan trade BUT Jaroslav Halak almost surely will.

    Doug Armstrong doth protest too much. He has a goalie who wants out. He has an abundance of other quality goalies. And he has a #1 defenseman who will surely eat up all the Blues’ remaining cap space and then some. Anything can happen, but I suspect Garth and Doug are just playing a game of chicken.

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