Midway through last season, former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was claimed from the Detroit Red Wings by the New York Islanders but elected not to join the Isles. This week, Nabokov told Newsday that he plans on attending Islanders training camp and said that he's preparing to play the full NHL season. The 36-year-old goalie doesn't come at a high priceonly $570,000but could he actually help the Islanders?
If Nabokov plays like he did in 2009-10, he could help almost any franchise. He went 44-16-10 with a 2.39 GAA and .922 save percentage. He also played behind a team that scored the fourth-most goals in the NHL and featured a mix of power forwards such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau with defensive stalwarts like Manny Malhotra and Rob Blake. He played on a Western Conference finalist club. The Islanders don't bring the same quality of supporting cast and haven't made the playoffs for several years.
What the Islanders do bring is a few up-'n-comers like Michael Grabner, Andrew MacDonald and John Tavares combined with the most injury-prone goalie in the league and a shell of a backup in Al Montoya. Since 2008-09, Islanders' goalie Rick DiPietro has played in just 39 games with a save percentage under .900. As for Montoya, his numbers in a small sample were pretty good (9-5-5, 2.39 with a .921 save percentage), but he never put up stats that good in extended periods of time in the minor leaguesin fact, the last time he played more than 30 games in any season was in 2007-08 with the Hartford Wolfpack.
What that all means is: Nabokov has a shot at making an impact on the Islanders. However, the netminder will likely have the most impact on the team at the trade deadline. The best-case scenario for the Isles may be a repeat of last year's situation with goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for minor league defenseman Ty Wishart. The 23-year-old defenseman was plus-5 in 20 games for the Islanders last season.