The New York Islanders returned from the All-Star break, and their message to the NHL is clear. They mean business. But it's still the Islanders, and in gaining 5 out of 6 points this past week, they did it in unconventional, Islanders fashion.
Three games. Three starting goalies. Not a normal move in the NHL, especially coming off a half of a week off and having a goalie on your roster who went into the break on a 5-2 run with a GAA under 2. But again this is the Islanders, and it also leads to speculation that there may be a move on the horizon.
What once seemed to be a no-brainer as to who would be moved before the deadline (hint: he's Russian), now has turned into a whole handful of scenarios, all of which I'll attempt to break down for your reading pleasure.
Should he stay or should he go? A couple of weeks and a roundtable ago, I thought moving him was absolutely the best move for the team. He's a 5th-grade student older than the other two, but interestingly the cheapest out of the three by the difference of a public school teacher's starting salary.
Nabokov seemed the logical pawn to move because of his age in reference to the Islanders youth movement, and the experience that would be attractive to playoff-bound suitors. But is it possible that Nabokov's run since mid-January has changed the minds of the Islanders' brass?
Possible future with the Islanders: Play out the rest of 2011-12 and help lead an Islanders charge toward a playoff spot, falling just short. Form a bond and a taste in his mouth to continue with the team, signing a deal in the summer and being part of a Nabokov/Poulin next two seasons.
Probable future with the Islanders: Still likely to be the one dealt before the deadline.
It's not 2011 anymore, and Al Montoya (partly because of injury) has lost his "number 1 in the fans' hearts" status. What were once cries of "We should be riding Montoya til he breaks down" have now turned into "Why is Montoya starting? We should be riding Nabokov til he breaks down" chants.
Montoya hasn't been terrible since his return from injury, and he has played sparingly. But even with his 3rd Star of the Game accolades against the Sabers, he hasn't been the Al Montoya of 2011. It's possible it's rust. It's possible it's because of the injury. But either way, his play in 2012, and Nabokov's for that matter, makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, it will be Al who is shown the door at the deadline.
Montoya contract-wise is in the same boat as Nabokov. He is an unrestricted free agent after this season and he is making next to nothing by NHL standards. Nabokov has the experience factor over Montoya, but Al could bring interest from a team looking for an insurance policy or even a team out of contention looking for an answer in goal.
Possible future with the Islanders: Trade bait. In order to give Poulin an extended taste of the NHL, someone has to go, and as long as the Islanders can even smell the tail of the 8th place team, they're planning on holding on to Nabokov. That makes Montoya expendable, even if the return is less than stellar.
Probable future with the Islanders: Playing the rest of the season for a roster spot in 12-13. Montoya has gotten questionable playing time, even when he was playing great, which makes you wonder if someone in the hierarchy isn't that much of a fan. Even so, what the Islanders could get for Nabokov may be too enticing to pass up, and Montoya should get a chance to shake off the rust and prove to the Islanders that he should be part of the team in 12-13. Even if it's only in the backup role.
He's the youngest, most talented, and least likely to be going anywhere. But his sudden call up from Bridgeport to start Tuesday's game had a lot of people questioning the motives behind the move.
It's possible he was being called up for the Islanders to see if he was ready to step into the NHL in a full-time role. It's possible he was called up for another team to see the same exact thing. It's even possible that the Islanders' reason for the call-up was the truth, even though that excuse was lamer than one of Ricky D's limbs. Either way, you would hope if Poulin was going to be part of a deal, it would be part of something big.
Possible future with the Islanders: You saw it on Tuesday and now it's over. Poulin gets packaged with another piece or two and is off the some (other) sad sack organization who sends us a player we'll be talking about for years.
Probable future with the Islanders: Your starting goalie for thefor years to come. The call-up was beyond bizarre, but like I said earlier, it's the Islanders we're talking about. It's pretty safe to say Kevin Poulin will be an Islander as long as Mike Milbury remains NOT employed by the Islanders.
Ha! It was called Three Goalie Monte. I'm keeping it that way.
Conspiracy theories, as always, are welcome below.