The New York Islanders have had a couple of weeks to think about the way that their 2012-2013 NHL season went, but trade rumors know no boundaries. Ever since their ouster from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, hockey fans and analysts alike have examined New York’s situation between the pipes, and the suggestions have been endless.
Names such as Jonathan Bernier, Mike Smith, and Ryan Miller have been dropped when speaking of potential alterations to the Isles’ goaltending situation, but it is yet to be seen what GM Garth Snow will do about in regard to acquiring or signing a goalie. There are certainly a number of possibilities that can occur between now and the start of the 2013-2014 NHL season, but the chance of Roberto Luongo returning to Long Island has already been thrown into the air.
Recently, TSN’s Bob McKenzie had Islanders fans buzzing over the possibility of Luongo returning as he tweeted:
It’s believed NYI would, under right circumstances, have interest in VAN G Roberto Luongo, tho 1st order of biz is to gauge cost on Nabokov.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2013
Nabokov is UFA. As for circumstances on Luongo, almost goes without saying it would mean VAN taking Rick DiPietro for compliance buyout. — Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2013
Whether or not the Islanders and Canucks would be able to work out a deal where DiPietro and Luongo are swapped remains to be determined, but stranger things have happened. Despite the fact that a number of hurdles would need to be cleared before Luongo would make his way back to Long Island, there are still a few internal questions that the Islanders would need to address before thinking about acquiring a big ticket goalie.
What Will Be Done With Evgeni Nabokov?
After carrying the Islanders during the regular season, Evgeni Nabokov did not have the performance that many were probably expecting from him during New York’s first round match-up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, Nabokov’s efforts over the last two years with the Islanders can’t be glossed over as he has been one of the main driving forces for a young and improving team.
If the Islanders choose to negotiate another contract with Nabokov, then it is likely that a deal will get hammered out between the two sides. While Nabokov could potentially be inked to short-term contract at a cost effective price, it will be up to Garth Snow to gauge how much he believes the goalie has left in the tank and what he can offer to New York.
Evgeni Nabokov carried the New York Islanders during certain points of the 2012-2013
NHL season, and he would likely be on board for another chance to re-up with the Islanders, but there will undoubtedly be questions surrounding the goalie’s ability to withstand a full season’s workload. If Nabokov were asked whether or not he could stand up to the rigors of a full season, then he would undoubtedly proclaim himself ready to assume the duties of a starting goaltender.
Nabokov will turn 38 by the end of July, but the goalie has given no indication (both on and off the ice) that father time has robbed him of his abilities as an NHL-caliber netminder. Resigning Nabokov would not handicap the Islanders financially and would give New York a better chance to get an extended look at what Kevin Poulin could do as an NHL backup. While Garth Snow and the Islanders’ upper management could choose to go in a different direction in regards to addressing their goaltending situation this summer, Nabokov will likely be a candidate that is strongly considered for contract renewal unless New York can find a better deal via the trade market.
Implications On Youth Movement?
Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson will undoubtedly be vying for a spot on the Islanders’ roster in the coming years, but it is yet to be seen what either goalie can offer the team between the pipes.
Over his limited times with the Islanders, Poulin has shown that he can handle some NHL duties, but he has also shown that there is some room for improvement to be made in his game. On the other hand, Anders Nilsson’s lack of B12 limited the goalie and the amount of games that he played with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers over the ’12-’13 AHL season.
While neither Poulin nor Nilsson were able to stand out during their respective ’12-’13 hockey campaigns, one thing is for certain, and that is the fact that both goalies need a bigger sample size of work before their long-term worth to the team is judged. Both goalies could eventually turn out to be keepers, but Poulin and Nilsson’s playing time won’t likely be adversely affected by the acquisition of a goalie such as Roberto Luongo.
The Numbers Game
Of course, Roberto Luongo would not come to Long Island without his lengthy contract, but that does not mean that Poulin and/or Nilsson would necessarily be robbed of playing time down the line. With Rick DiPietro being on the radar for a compliance buyout or a potential trade, Bob McKenzie clarified the contract implications of both Luongo and DiPietro when he stated:
DiPietro’s buyout is steep, $1.5M per year for next 16 years, not to be confused with Luongo’s buyout #s: a shade over $1.5M x 18 years.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2013
Since DiPietro and Luongo’s buyout implications are more or less along the same lines, a trade which would see the Islanders acquire a goalie of Luongo’s caliber for DiPietro’s contract would be beneficial for the Islanders. Not only would New York receive Luongo’s services in such a scenario, they would still have all of their compliance buyouts available to use.
Many Islanders fans have wondered, and rightfully so, what implications Luongo’s contract would have on the team’s ability to resign its younger players (Tavares, Strome, et al) by the time their contracts expire. While Luongo’s contract can be seen as a potential handicap, one must also consider the fact that the NHL salary cap could very likely increase over the next few years – something that could make a Luongo buyout scenario seem very manageable in five years, especially with Alexei Yashin being off of the books.
Despite the fact that the Islanders have hung around the cap floor for the last several years, hockey fans shouldn’t mistake the franchise’s economic frugality as a sign of bankruptcy. Garth Snow is savvy enough to know the implications that Luongo’s contract could have on the Isles’ future, and it is unlikely that the GM would endanger New York’s future by taking on a contract that would severely handicap his franchise.
The New York Islanders and owner Charles Wang will undoubtedly have to shell out some lucrative contracts if the current crop of prospects deliver on their perceived promise, but if the Islanders turn out to be a contending franchise by the time that they get to the Barclays Center, then the money issue will likely not be an issue any more. Charles Wang certainly has the money necessary to retain a bunch of Islanders prospects, but it will ultimately be up to the prospects to prove their worth to the team. Nobody knows if the Islanders will continue to bleed money like they have in the past, but a new venue and recent renewed interest in the team certainly bode well for the organization’s future.
Roberto Luongo Makes Sense for the Islanders
Lengthy contract or not, having Roberto Luongo play for the Islanders once again would be a good deal for New York. Not only would Luongo bring back an ever-improved resume since his departure from Long Island, he would give the Islanders another dependable veteran presence in the crease.
Sure, Luongo is 34 years old, but that shouldn’t take away the fact that the goalie has made multiple trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since arriving in Vancouver. How New York’s defensive units will shape up over the next couple of years is certainly a valid question, but the Roberto Luongo that the Isles would be receiving this time around would certainly be an improvement over the Luongo that New York let go at the turn of the millennium.
Much like Evgeni Nabokov, Luongo has established himself as an able veteran presence – despite the fact that his status in Vancouver has constantly been up in the air over the last couple of years. Luongo would undoubtedly receive fan and organizational support as long as he would perform his duty in adequate fashion, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the goalie continue his solid play in a second tour of duty with New York.
As Bob McKenzie pointed out, Roberto Luongo’s services could certainly be used by the Islanders, but logistics are the only thing that stand in the way:
No question in my mind Luongo is a good “hockey” fit for NYI but whether Isles or Canucks could ever finesse a workable deal is the issue.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 30, 2013
There is no question in my mind as to whether or not the Islanders could benefit from the services of Roberto Luongo. The goaltender has made a name for himself since his journey from Long Island to Florida, and I for one wouldn’t mind one bit if the Islanders traded Rick DiPietro (and his contract) for a player with a slightly higher contract ($2.2 Mil. difference) that can still perform at a very high level in the NHL.
Islanders fans might remain divided over such an issue until the goaltending situation smooths out, but it is certainly nice to see that fans are so vigorously, and positively, debating the future of New York’s goaltenders.
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.