A positive turn of events for the New York Islanders on Monday, as it was announced that goaltender Evgeni Nabokov would indeed play for the team in the 2012 season, if the team so chooses to keep him on board for the regular season.
Nabokov played a good portion of the 2011 season in the KHL, but ended up being released from his deal and became an NHL-eligible unrestricted free agent midway through the year. In January, the free agent goaltender signed with the Detroit Red Wings, hoping to give a very strong team an extra boost for a playoff run. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, any player that has played in Europe during the same regular season that he is signed in has to clear waivers to be eligible to play for that team. As we all know, Nabokov did not clear those initial waivers, claimed by the Islanders the very next day.
An interesting article posted today had Nabokov quoted as saying that he was nowhere near ready to join the Red Wings as soon as he was signed on, not having skated and/or played in well over a month, saying that the Wings were prepared to wait for him to prepare, to give the Central Division club some more depth in net. Since the Islanders had claimed him, they were not going to head towards the playoffs and it was going to be fruitless for him to get into shape for only a small period of the season.
With that all said and done, Nabokov will prepare for the 2012 season with the Islanders, still on the 1-year, $570,000 deal he signed with the Red Wings, which carries over due to him not playing in 2011. The interesting thought will be where Nabokov fits in or whether or not the Islanders will keep the goaltender for the coming year. Nabokov should be able to attract some good trade offers with teams that may need some goaltending, the Islanders may look seriously at that, since they still have a franchise goaltender (in theory) with Rick DiPietro.
I think we'll all keep a close eye on this situation, this could have some serious pool implications, especially if he can win the starting job here.