Evgeni Nabokov doesn't want to hear about last year anymore. He's made that much clear and reiterated that point again.
"I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself. When (the waiver claim) happened it just wasn't the right time. I wasn't ready to step in and be the goalie for any NHL team. Detroit was going to give me time to get ready, here it wasn't the same situation."
Last year, of course, refers to what was a disastrous 2010-11 season for the Russian net minder. After not getting any substantial offers during the off season, Nabokov returned to Russia on a four-year contract. That trip lasted just 22 games though, and Nabokov signed a contract with the Red Wings in January 2011 after getting bought out. However the Islanders claimed Nabokov on waivers as he had to go through that process to be able to return to the league, and he refused to report.
The hockey world took this is a slight against Long Island, and wondered out loud what team Nabokov would ultimately play for. They were surprised when he showed up to camp in September. They were surprised when he was still with the team in October. They remained surprised after the trade deadline.
Over the winter, when asked about staying, Nabokov was very honest and open to the idea, citing the group of guys and how much fun they were having at the time as the team sat in the playoff race. Nabokov was a huge part of why the team was within striking distance of a spot a few times this winter.
The Islanders and Nabokov were unable to come to terms before the trade deadline even though talks had begun in the weeks before that. But as is the case many times, it took a little bit longer to get the extension hammered out.
The Islanders and Nabokov agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.75 million deal for next season. For the Islanders, what could have been one of the big question marks heading into the off-season is now known.
Nabokov is "thrilled" to be coming back to the Islanders and is approaching this with a "finish what we started" approach. He has personally taken on the role of being the guy to backstop this team back into the post season. "It's a great group of guys and I like what I see here," Nabokov said, citing the teams young age and up-and-coming status as a key point.
Needless to say, we've all talked about what Nabokov has done throughout his career. For the most part, anything you could think of, he's been there and done that. His experience is something this team was in dire need of, and couldn't afford to lose it. Nabokov meanwhile has shown that he can still play at a high level in the NHL and that is what the Islanders need a full season of if they are to take this next step - NHL level play.
Nabokov now doesn't have to worry about going through the UFA process in the summer and possibly being the odd man out again. Goaltenders often have a hard time finding work, and Nabokov stays with the players he's more recently familiar with and remains in the best place to get playing time.
This is one of those deals where you can just say it's a win-win for both sides no matter how unlikely it seemed at any point in time. Well done by all. Welcome back for another year, Nabby.