A few eyebrows were raised when the Isles let Evgeni Nabokov hit free agency, only to bring him back just hours into the signing period.
To hear GM Garth Snow explain it, the club simply didn’t want to mess with chemistry.
“The team wanted him back,” Snow told Newsday. “And Nabby wanted to remain an Islander.”
Snow and Nabokov haven’t always seen eye-to-eye when it comes to negotiations and compensation. That history dates back to how the Isles acquired the Russian netminder (remember this?), and carried over to this offseason, when Nabokov’s future on Long Island appeared cloudy.
In May, it was reported that Nabokov and Snow hadn’t discussed a new deal in over a month.
In late June, it appeared both sides were prepared to part ways as free agency crept closer and a new deal wasn’t close.
“We couldn’t find the middle ground right now but I never close the door on anything,” Nabokov said. “That’s where we’re at.
“I’m still hopeful something will get done.”
In the end, though, it sounds like Snow realized he had a good thing in Nabokov.
The 37-year-old appeared in 41 of New York’s 48 contests last season while posting a 23-11-7 record with a .910 save percentage and 2.50 GAA, backstopping the Isles to their first playoff appearance in six years.
Of course, other factors could’ve been at play.
What promised to be a deep goaltending market thinned out rather quickly. Mike Smith and Niklas Backstrom re-upped in Phoenix and Minnesota; Jonathan Bernier was acquired by Toronto, Cory Schneider went to New Jersey (locking Roberto Luongo into Vancouver) and Ray Emery signed in Philadelphia.
Within the few hours of Nabokov hitting free agency and the Isles re-signing him, it became clear there weren’t many other superior options out there, which probably played a role in Nabokov getting a raise from $2.75 million last year to $3.25 this year.
But according to Snow, it was all about keeping together the current group.
“When you have a core, with most of the guys drafted here or given an opportunity here, we have a tight-knit group,” he explained. “We’re happy with the goalies we have.”