The last week and a half has been rough for Islanders fans. We went from a high profile waiver claim holding out and being suspended, to fans around the league blasting the organization for the claim, to a few losses to end the week prior to the All Star break.
Let’s not forget to mention the NHL snubbing the Islanders by not choosing a player to participate in the actual game on Sunday in Raleigh. Instead, and rightfully so; Michael Grabner will represent the team in the skills competition tonight.
There was a bright spot this week though, and it wasn’t even the result of snow blindness – pending unrestricted free agent Matt Moulson has been signed to a three year contract extension.
Moulson had been quoted in Newsday last week saying that he wasn’t interested in playing anywhere else, despite the murmurs that he could potentially be dealt in a trade either before or on the deadline. It’s not often as Islanders fans that we hear players wanting to play for the organization, let alone basically begging to stay.
In his post extension interviews with Katie Strang of Newsday, Moulson was elated. He talked about his excitement of the chance to stay with what he termed “the best group of guys he has ever played with” and wants to be part of the organizations turn around and ultimately wants to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Over the last two seasons I have witnessed a player blossom from someone trying to find his game, to a thirty goal scorer, and now into a young veteran who’s about to prove his success wasn’t a fluke. Moulson has confidence and most importantly a skill that many lack – the ability to drive to the net and score gritty goals. For his play, he has justly been rewarded with the three year extension worth just over $3 million a year.
One quick note worth mentioning, holdout Evgeni Nabokov and Matt Moulson share the same agent – Don Meehan. Clearly, Garth and Don continue to share a good professional relationship – a very important and necessary evil in professional sports.
The Islanders will have to visit extending several more pending UFA and RFA players in the coming months – one of which is a player I’d like to see locked up long term as well in our All Star, Michael Grabner.
Better times are ahead of us – patience is certainly something that Garth Snow will reward us for. You’ll see.
Just like how many guessed that Nabokov would be claimed by the Islanders, we were also correct in guessing he’d fail to report and ultimately wind up suspended by the team.
Our comrade Evgeni decided he didn’t like his “raw deal”, so he can now sit comfortably on his duff in his lavish California home pondering what his next move could be – until at least July, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The option to “toll” his contract still exists for Garth Snow and the Islanders, so he may eventually wind up on Long Island even of he’d prefer not to.
The catch with tolling a contract, it would have to get through both the NHL and the Players Union (NHLPA) first. If it does, dear Evgeni would be on the hook for the majority of NEXT season instead of the remainder of THIS season.
You wanted to play the game, check – your move Evgeni.
Speaking of games, an interesting theory to rise out of this debacle – what if Garth Snow played this situation the exact way he wanted? For arguments sake, let’s say that he heard rumblings that Nabokov was on the verge of signing and knew he’d have to clear waivers. By filing a claim, we know it prevented other teams (even KEY teams in the Western Conference playoff race) from acquiring the goaltender. But what if he flat out knew he’d refuse to report. Is Garth Snow savvy enough to parlay a holdout for a bargain basement price into a contract for 2011/12? What’s more, what if he was savvy enough to get 4 months of good hockey out of Nabokov next season and then flip that sweet contract to a contender for a cap clearing player or players and picks?
These are certainly things that make me go hmm.
In a move that was speculated widely over the last few days, free agent netminder Evgeni Nabokov has been claimed by the New York Islanders.
Nabokov, who recently signed a one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings had to clear waivers before he could report due to playing in Europe. The Islanders suddenly found themselves in need of a goaltender due to the injury to Nathan Lawson last night in Buffalo. The extent of his injury is undetermined at this time.
Nabokov’s contract is a one year deal, prorated for the rest of the season at a cool $570,000 dollars. The contract also has a no movement clause, and he cannot report to the AHL as he is ineligible because he played in Europe. What’s more, the goaltender cannot be traded without passing through waivers once again, and ANY move would need his consent.
Nabokov played in the Russian KHL for SKA St. Petersburg, before being released from his contract.
In 22 games this season with St. Petersburg, Nabokov posted an 8-8-5 record with a 3.02 goals against average (GAA) and a .888 save percentage (sv%). The Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native was drafted in the ninth round, 219th overall, of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks. In nine NHL seasons with San Jose, Nabokov appeared in 563 games, posting a 293-178-29-37 (W-L-T-OT) record with a 2.39 GAA and a .912 sv%. He also played in 80 NHL playoff games with San Jose, posting a 40-38 record with a 2.29 GAA and a .913 sv%.
Now, Evgeni has very few options should he decide not to report. He can play a decent amount of games for the Islanders, or he can sit home and sulk the rest of the season.
Good for Garth Snow for staking a claim and upgrading his goaltending, he shot himself in the foot earlier this season by trading away pending UFA Dwayne Roloson and forcing Lawson and Poulin to step it in a little too early.
I guess time will tell how this plays out, but my guess is he’ll report.
When the Islanders play the Capitals at home, it’s always one of my favorite games to attend. Consider me a closet Ovie fan – I have yet to break down and get a red number eight sweater, but I will (someday). Never mind that little bit though…we are here to talk Isles.
These games are my favorite because the Islanders always seem to play the Caps well and it’s a team I really hope they emulate. The Capitals aren’t too far removed from their rebuild and they keep taking the South East by storm season after season.
Tonight is even better – as three of the most important Islanders are set to return. The biggest of story of the three is how Kyle Okposo will play in his first game this season after missing the last 44 games, due to suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder during preseason. This team has missed his leadership, his skill and of course his grit. Who else is returning you ask? Only the most underrated defensive forward in the game, Frans Nielsen. Nielsen has sat out the last handful of games with a sore groin, but makes his return alongside Okposo and some other guy you may have head about named Rick DiPietro.
DiPietro has had a strained adductor muscle (groin) and then had a bout of the flu. He gets the start tonight, Okposo will play on a line with Nielsen and Grabner – which will be the line to look out for. Okposo and Nielsen will also wear an “A” tonight along with defenseman Andrew MacDonald.
Unfortunately for Rob Schremp – that means he is the odd man out this evening.
Keys to the game: Play Ovechkin’s line well and stay out of the box. Keep the shots to a minimum and from the perimeter, allow DiPietro to see whatever shots he can, clear the front of the net, rebound control, and SHOTS. The Islanders sometimes have a habit of passing instead of shooting. I chalk that up to a young team looking to make that perfect pass to set up their teammates. While that is admirable, it’s not a quality that wins hockey games….at least not when everyone else is looking to pass as well.
I am certainly curious to see how this game plays out with Okposo now playing. I am sure head coach Jack Capuano would prefer to ease him into use, but we know how that goes sometimes.
More after the drop of the puck!
How about the Islanders as of late?
Aside from injuries that continue to mount (Eaton – done for the year, Nielsen – groin, and DiPietro – mystery strain) the Islanders are playing pretty good hockey, (8-2-1 over the last 11). The power play has been clicking at a new rate (seven power play goals over three games) and the youngsters brought up from Bridgeport have been stepping in and filling roles left vacant by their injured veteran teammates. Not too shabby, although – for once I just wish the team could escape the injury bug for a complete season. Perhaps the time is right for some sort of intervention, be it spiritual or otherwise.
How about our boy John Tavares?!?
JT has been giving teams fits down low, both behind the goal line and between the circles. He has been initiating contact, digging for loose pucks and just an overall strength we’ve not seen from him since his awesome performances in the World’s. He has scored two goals in the last few games that have been a great indication that he has the confidence he was lacking earlier this season. He LOVES to stick handle through traffic and make a move in an area that many in the league have a problem doing. He’s scored just over a foot away from the netminders he’s scored on – pretty impressive stuff.
What about this Jeremy Colliton?
Colliton was recalled from Bridgeport to replace the injured Frans Nielsen. Think it worked out? Colliton scored twice on the power play last night, impressive in his own right because we rarely see bodies go to the front of the net the way he did. I wonder if Capuano would want to keep him up with the team instead of dressing Trevor Gillies the next few games. It’s worth a shot.
Another player worth noting, Kevin Poulin. He was stellar in his loss against the Oilers earlier in the week – stopping every shot he faced, but he came up huge again last night. He was sound positionally, controlled his rebounds a lot better than he did his first go round – he did not look out of place despite the tender age of twenty years old. He even earned his first NHL win in his first NHL start thanks to Tavares’ heroics in OT.
It’s great to see the team rebound the way they have after their 14 game losing streak, they have done just about everything in their power to improve their game – despite trading away James Wisniewski and Dwayne Roloson.
If the Islanders win at the very least two more games over the next batch – would you say it’s safe to say that the streak did not hurt as bad? I don’t expect this team to squeak into the playoffs, but I like the way they have been playing and hope it continues.