New York Islanders: The Curious Case of Evgeni Nabokov: From Refusal to Renewal

Christopher BeniniContributor IApril 25, 2012

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 29: Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the New York Islanders tends net against the Calgary Flames at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 29, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It was 15 months ago when it looked like the rich were going to get richer. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had just inked a one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings and it seemed as if the Detroit Red Wings just became the frontrunner to win the Stanley Cup. 

Then all hell broke lose. The Islanders snagged the then 35-year-old goaltender off of waivers and he never made it to the Red Wings. This was followed by an offseason full of drama where it was reported that Nabokov went as far as hanging up the phone on Islanders General Manager, Garth Snow 

Then as the weather heated up, so did the rumors. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Nabokov could be traded to the Flyers if they failed to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. The Islanders may suspend Nabokov if he refuses to play, The Islanders could toll Nabokov's contract, tweeted Katie Strang. 

Then all of a sudden. A ray of hope.

Reports surfaced that Nabokov not wanting to go to the Islanders was not true. Nabokov stated that it wasn't that he didn't want to play for the Islanders, he just was not in NHL game shape.

Nabokov struggled early in the season, both with injuries and his performance on the ice.

Eventually he put it all together and was phenomenal with the Islanders for the majority of the season. During a stretch from December to February, Nabokov was 14-10-1 with a goals against average under 2.25.

As Nabokov's play heated up, so did the trade rumors. Nabokov, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets' Rick Nash were the two most popular players among trade deadline rumors. It wasn't until a few days before the trade deadline that the Islanders announced they would be taking Nabokov out of trade talks and focusing on signing him to extension. A month later, Nabokov inked a one year extension with the Islanders.

"I'm thrilled to commit to this team," said Nabokov. "We have a great group in the locker room of young, talented players and we're heading in the right direction."

What a quick turnaround. Is there something in the water of Uniondale, Long Island? Is it possible that players could be seeing the potential of this Islanders team? Hopefully this is just one example for players that didn't see the benefits of playing for the Islanders, and will show that this is a franchise on the rise.