NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — To expect Evgeni Nabokov to get through 60 starts in a season at this point in his career is asking a lot.
But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a fine insurance policy.
According to a report in Newsday, the Islanders may consider bringing the soon-to-be 39-year-old goaltender back in 2014-15, but almost certainly not as the starter for a fourth straight season.
Statistically, the Islanders’ goaltending has been terrible this season. Youngsters Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson, despite having their moments, have failed to impress, posting woeful .892 and .882 save percentages, respectively.
Nabokov, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract just seconds after free agency opened last July, has appeared in 36 games this season, posting a 2.87 goals-against average and .902 save percentage, decent numbers when one considers just how bad the Islanders have been defensively.
They currently have allowed the second-most goals in the NHL, which is the main reason why they will miss the playoffs one season after making their first appearance in six seasons.
Though Nabokov has shown he can still play this game at a high level, as evidenced by his 41-save performance in the Islanders’ 2-0 win over playoff-hopeful Columbus on Sunday, he’s broken down physically a few times this season. A lower body injury sidelined him from mid-November until mid-December, and the Islanders went 1-9-2 during the stretch. A similar injury then knocked him out for three weeks in January.
Nabokov told Newsday he really hasn’t thought about retirement. Assuming he doesn’t find a starting job on the open market, a return to the Island would make a lot of sense for both sides.
“I feel like I can still do it,” Nabokov said. “[NHL defenseman] Rob Blake told me, ‘When it’s time, you’ll know.’ I don’t know yet.”
An ideal scenario would feature the Islanders bringing Nabokov back next season in a largely reduced role at a largely reduced price, while either trading for a starting goalie or opening up their wallet in free agency. Possible targets via trade include disgruntled James Reimer in Toronto, while the top potential unrestricted free agents include Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller and Jaroslav Halak.
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