Yes, it is very possible.
As last season wound down, every Islanders fan knew the team needed two goalies, a backup and starter, for the season that lied ahead. And most Islanders fans thought that their starting goalie for the past three seasons, Evgeni Nabokov, would be the backup to whatever big name goalie Garth Snow brought in. But negotiations between Garth Snow and Nabokov’s camp began to deteriorate as the summer months approached and he hit the open market unsigned. So on July 1st, the Islanders and Nabby officially parted ways when the Isles brought in former Bruin Chad Johnson on a two year deal and Nabby was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st, 2015. Both the Lightning and Islanders have enjoyed tremendous success thus far this season in spite of their respective backups. Chad Johnson has posted a 6-6-0 record and boasts a lowly .865 save percentage and a rather unimpressive 3.43 goals against average. Just yesterday he surrendered four goals on 19 shots to the Detroit Red Wings after not having gotten a start in three weeks. As for Nabokov, it has also been ugly. He has posted a lowly 3-6-2 record for a very good Lightning squad. In those games he has .882 save percentage and a 3.15 goals against average, numbers which are slightly better than Johnson’s. I write this piece because just a few hours ago Nabby was placed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So… If the Islanders clearly need a backup and Nabokov is available why not give it a shot? Nabby knows the Islanders system and was beloved by the players and coaches for the attitude he brought to the locker room. But despite all of that there are two things that could stop this reunion: Johnson’s waiver eligibility and just the simple question of whether or not Nabokov is a better option than Johnson.
In response to the first reason, I find it hard to believe that Islanders GM Garth Snow would give up on Johnson who is on a two year contract for a player who at this point is essentially a rental. Now is it a guarantee that Johnson is claimed if put on waivers? No, not at all but it is certainly a possibility. Snow has a history of being very patient with young players in the past but does he have the patience to hang on a veteran guy with a team that is almost certain to make the playoffs? That remains to be seen.
In response to the second reason: Could it possibly be much worse? I don’t think it could be. Nabby’s performance thus far this season with Tampa has certainly been abysmal but so has Johnson’s. At the very least Nabby brings a veteran leadership and presence to the locker room as well as a been there done that attitude, something which Johnson does not. But is Nabokov so much better than Johnson that it’s necessary to waive Johnson in order to bring him in? Well that’s up to Garth Snow and remains to be seen, but I think it could be.
So at the end of the day an Islanders-Evgeni Nabokov reunion is very possible. Am I saying it will definitely happen? No, but I could rationalize with Garth Snow’s thinking either way and I would love to see Nabby back in orange and blue.
Isles fans what are your thoughts on a potential reunion with Evgeni Nabokov? Feel free to comment below!