Evgeni Nabokov's strange journey to become an Islander took almost a year, from the time he was claimed off waivers last January to the time he joined the team for training camp in September.
Now, he's decided he wants to be a part of the team for another year. Nabokov and the Islanders agreed on a one-year, $2.75 million contract Wednesday, keeping the 36-year-old in the fold and keeping at least one area of concern stable for the 2012-13 season.
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Nabokov was an unwilling Islander initially, declining to join the team after he had signed a pro-rated deal for the veteran minimum of $570,000 with the Wings last season, following an unsuccessful stint in the KHL. In April, Nabokov and Garth Snow dined together and things were straightforward from the start of camp on.
"I just want to come in, do my job and not worry about anything else," Nabokov said in camp. "That's all you can control. You can't know what the future will be."
A groin injury cost Nabokov a month at the start of the season, but he proved he can still carry the load for an NHL club - his record stands at a modest 17-18-3, but his 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage are the best numbers for an Isles' No. 1 goaltender since Rick DiPietro's last full season, in 2006-07. As the trade deadline neared, Snow decided to try to sign Nabokov rather than shop him around, and Nabokov was OK with that.
Don Meehan, Nabokov's agent, met with Nabokov after the Islanders' 5-2 win at Toronto on Tuesday and the deal was agreed to the next morning. It does not include a no-trade clause, so Nabokov could be a rental for a better team next season if the Islanders falter again.
But Snow's goal is to have Nabokov teamed with either Anders Nilsson or Kevin Poulin (or a mix of the two as call-ups from Bridgeport) to give the Islanders some stability in net.
After a decade with the Sharks, Nabokov's legacy seemed in doubt as he bounced from Russia to limbo back in North America.
"That's not for me to say, whether I still belong or don't belong in the NHL," Nabokov said. "You just play the best you can and let everyone else decide. I like what we're doing here."