With a young, homegrown core already committed to Long Island for the foreseeable future, the Islanders added another vital piece Wednesday, locking up goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
for the 2012-13 season.
The Islanders anchor in goal this season, Nabokov currently leads the team in wins (17), goals against average (2.56) and save percentage (.912). The 36-year-old signed his new contract as number 22 on the NHL’s all-time wins list and cited the young core’s commitment to the team as a driving factor behind his deal.
I am thrilled to continue what we started. Obviously the goal is to make the playoffs...I’m happy to be a part of it. I want to be a part of it. - Evgeni Nabokov
“I am happy to stay with this group of young guys,” Nabokov said. “With guys like Johnny, Moulson, Streit, Grabs… the list can go on. It’s a great group of guys and I like what I see.”
Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, who claimed Nabokov off waivers on Jan. 22, 2011, was pleased to have this year’s number one goalie return next season.
“Evgeni has proven that he can still play at an elite level,” he said in an official statement. “He’s given us a chance to win every night and we’re excited to have him back for another year.”
While the Islanders have shown a propensity for signing their homegrown talent to extensions, inking an all-star veteran further establishes the change of culture on the Island. Judging by what Nabokov has seen this season, he said it is his goal to help the Islanders make the playoffs next spring.
“I am thrilled to continue what we started,” he said. “Obviously the goal is to make the playoffs. I think this year it will be tough to accomplish that, but next year we’ll start from scratch. I’m happy to be a part of it. I want to be a part of it.”
|Nabokov poke-checks the Flyers Wayne Simmonds for the victory in the shootout in Philadelphia on Feb. 7, 2012. |
Nabokov gives the Islanders more than a chance to win every night. The winner of over 300 games has a knack for stealing victories, like he did with a 45-save, 1-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 7. At his peak performance this season, Nabokov was virtually unbeatable, posting six wins and two shutouts in seven games in mid-January and keeping his save percentage above .914.
Even with heavy media speculation surrounding his future with the team during February’s trade deadline, Nabokov remained confident that he would wear blue and orange next season.
“I was hoping that sooner or later, it would work out the way it should work out,” he said.
A family man, he cited the community on Long Island as further incentive to sign the deal.
“All you want to have is a great school for the kids and a great environment,” Nabokov said. “We were able to find that here. The family was happy and that’s all I need.”
Personally and professionally, Nabokov is happy. As for the Islanders, they’re thrilled to have another player to commit to Long Island.