July 31, 2010

Isles Acquire James Wisniewski; Will buyout Brendan Witt

Friday was a pretty active day for the Islanders. The day started with the announcement that Brendan Witt was put on unconditional waivers. Basically, any team can pick him up and have the Isles pay the salary, but it would not count against their cap. However, none of that will likely matter as he will pass waivers and once that happens, is expected to be bought out.

It's tough to see a player, especially a fan favorite fall so far so quickly. Witt was a warrior here on the Island, a hard-nosed defensemen we have rarely seen here. But you could see that he has been downhill ever since signing the three year extension a couple of years ago. Witt was due $2.5 million next season ($3 million cap hit). The cap hit after the buyout will be $1.3 million for the upcoming season and $833,333 in 2011-2012. I personally hope that Brendan gets scooped up by a team somewhere for the league minimum and can be a part time contributor to a Stanley Cup contender.

Prior to Witt being bought out, the Islanders had eight defensemen on one-way contracts and it appeared that they were set with what they would go into the season with. But many fans, myself included, learned why it makes no sense to declare a team "done" on July 30th.

In the last few posts, I've talked extensively (and repeated myself, at times) at all the options for the Islanders should they look to improve the team. I recalled Garth Snow telling us at prospect camp that he wouldn't rule out a trade. Well, he kept his word.

Snow was able to land James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks for just a 3rd rounder. Earlier in the day, Wisniewski had avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Ducks.

Wisniewski had a very strong year last year, logging 24 minutes of ice time a game and finishing the year with 30 points, 102 blocked shots and 129 hits. Some of you may remember Wisniewski from this play that he was suspended from last year in response to a dirty hit just moments earlier from Keither Seabrook on Cory Perry:

Going into even more details about the benefits of the deal, one has to consider that Wisniewski is a right handed defenseman, which the Isles sorely lacked. He played on the second PP unit a lot in Anaheim, and realistically here he can quarterback the first unit with Mark Streit, and move Kyle Okposo off the point and back to his regular position. It is not inconceivable for Wisniewski to get 35-40 points this year. On a one year deal, should things go south the Islanders could always move him at the deadline, and they would most certainly get much more than a 3rd round conditional pick. The hope obviously is that the Islanders will be able to sign him long term as he is young (26) and fits in perfectly here.

For the upcoming season, everyone on the Islanders defensive depth chart gets pushed down a rung (with the exception of Streit) to roles that they are much more suited for, and keeps Calvin deHaan in juniors and Travis Hamonic in Bridgeport to start the year. The Islanders have a top four that they can now mix and match as they please. Take one quick glance at the new-look blueline with the three newcomers and you see a much better group that last year. The defense is definitely one that can compete for a playoff spot now.

Wisniewski fills every need that the team had left on the blueline: tough, hard nosed, minute-eating workhorse and a good puck mover. He does a little of everything good and still has some potential. The Ducks had other plans, and according to GM Bob Murray they offered him a four year contract at the deadline, but not for the money Wisniewski was seeking. The one year deal for this year was a compromise of sorts. The Anaheim blueline is dangerously thin right now, and very raw. The only 2 experienced NHL defensemen there are Lubomir Visnovsky and Toni Lydman. I think they are going to push hard to bring in Tomas Kaberle or Sheldon Souray.

Earlier in the day, Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Islanders had interest in free agent center Eric Belanger, and were asking the Wild about what they liked in his three years of service there. With the amount of centers already on this team (it isn't set in stone that Josh Bailey is a winger), it certainly seemed a bit odd. Newsday's Katie Strang later said that Belanger was close to signing with a team, but it wasn't the Isles. Many other speculated that the interest in Belanger, as well as new Tampa Bay Lightning center Dominic Moore, meant that the Isles were possibly looking at dealing one. But the trade for a defenseman did not come at the expense of a center.

All of that activity makes one believe that the Islanders are not quite done yet. Here on July 31, one would be foolish to declare them done. Although they are now at the cap floor with Doug Weight yet to sign, I will be a little surprised if they don't bring in one more forward somehow. My gut tells me that at this point they might look to make a trade for someone who makes a decent salary for a very short term and needs a change of scenery (the Blues Brad Boyes?) rather than sign one of the remaining forwards. The offense is not too bad believe it or not, just inexperienced and with a few unknowns. It is not as bad as it was in past years. Adding one good top six winger to the team makes it a strong bottom seed playoff team for sure.

We'll all have to be sure to stay tuned as August begins. We really don't know what the Islanders could be cooking up as the Wisniewski deal seemingly came out of no where. I don't think Snow is done yet. He'll just wait for another perfect fit.



July 29, 2010

Moulson Signs; Janks, UFA Updates

Talk about cutting it close: just moments before the Islanders and Matt Moulson went to arbitration, the two sides came to an agreement on a one-year, $2.45 million contract for the upcoming season. Good deal for both sides.

Moulson will get a chance to prove that he is no one year wonder, which should rightfully happen based on his age (soon to be 27). However, I haven’t seen anything in Moulson’s game that says to me that last season was a fluke. He gets too all of those “dirty” areas and isn’t afraid to stand in front of the net. Islanders fans can remember a number of Moulson’s goals coming from tips from standing in front of an opposing netminder. I personally would have preferred to see a two-year deal worked out here between them. Moulson is now going to be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2010-2011 season.

It is very possible that if Moulson gets off to a fast start again, he could be signed to an extension and that absolutely would be the right way to handle that. There is some fear among fans however about how players perceive the organization after some of the events of the current offseason, as well as how the long term future of the franchise looks. I really don’t think Moulson thinks about all that to be honest. Worse things have happened and players who have been here talk about how they like it. Moulson has always spoken about being loyal to the organization that finally gave him a chance. He still would like to be here a while. His buddy John Tavares will be here and he has become good friends with Islanders captain Doug Weight as well. So I wouldn’t be too concerned right now, but it is absolutely something to keep in the back of your mind heading into the season.

Jankowski to Montreal: Speaking of the offseason, former Islanders Assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski has landed on his feet with the Montreal Canadiens. He will be in charge of scouting players in Western Canada, closer to his home. He’s very happy and gave credit to the Islanders, saying his eight years here really helped to make this all possible for him. Just as we will be doing here, Jankowski said he will keep an eye on the Island to see how many of our young players drafted under his watch develop. Best of luck to Ryan in his new position.

Free-agent update: As far as we know, the Islanders are certainly still interested in and kicking the tires of some left over UFAs. The pickings are getting really slim now however, as Alex Frolov has signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Rangers while Alexei Ponikarovski has signed for one year and $3.2 million with the Kings. The Frolov deal is a nice one, but the Poni signing is a very desperate move by the Kings. After most likely losing out on Ilya Kovalchuk – the grievance over the rejected contract won’t mean much as it will be resolved and he will be in New Jersey – the Kings went back to Frolov, who refused to return after feeling he was mistreated last season by the Kings.

There are still some useful players out there when looking at the Islanders needs, such as Paul Kariya, Max Afinogenov and Lee Stempniak. If Kirill Petrov makes the roster, Afinogenov or Slava Kozlov could be good veteran country men to bring in for him. The ultimate low-risk, high reward guy out there seems to be Marek Svatos.

On defense, you still have Willie Mitchell, Shaone Morrisonn and Ruslan Salei. I think that if the Islanders do any more tinkering on defense, you would be more likely to see a trade. Snow has already admitted that he has been looking at trades on the blueline and wouldn’t rule one out.

James Mirtle has an up to date list on his blog with players that are still unsigned and as you can see there are some useful ones to fill out the roster and compliment some of the youngsters. Keep in mind that more and more players in recent years have become non-roster invitees, and the Islanders have not been afraid to hand those out the last few years (Park, Dunham and Berard).



July 26, 2010

Monday Musings and Matt Moulson

It seems like there has been no offseason at all this summer.

Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but as far as the Islanders are concerned it seems like a new story pops up every few days.

Last week, the big story was MSG Network electing not to renew the contract of beloved color commentator Billy Jaffe. Many fans have not taken kindly to the news that Jaffe will not be returning for a 5th season as an analyst.

What makes the story even worse, however, is the report out of Islanders' Point Blank, which was confirmed by Newsday that the move was not done by MSG, but rather the Islanders. While Jaffe's contract was with MSG, it is believed that the Islanders' had a say on who they wanted behind the mics. Reports indicate that they felt Jaffe was not positive enough in his analysis of the team, and thus rejected the contract that MSG agreed to with Jaffe.

Obviously, this shouldn't matter too much because it doesn't affect the Islanders play on the ice. As a matter of fact, none of the front office moves that the team made will do anything to affect that, at least for the time being. But the fact of the matter is that fans enjoyed watching Howie and Billy work together on the broadcasts, and enjoyed all of the insight that Jaffe provided. You could tell he had a mind like a coach, and I personally loved it the most when he would explain and diagram plays. One of the best things about him was that he told it like it was, good or bad. Many teams have a biased broadcasting team. I never had that feeling while watching the Isles, and I enjoyed it. It's not like Jaffe was telling us something we didn't know.

The last three years, the Islanders finished 26th, 30th and 26th. I thought Jaffe was more than positive given the circumstances. His analysis was so good, that he was a regular on the VERSUS telecasts and makes regular appearances on NHL Live.

Fortunately, the replacement will be someone the fans are quite familiar with. The front-runners appear to be current MSG hockey analyst Butch Goring or Islanders legend and former Florida Panthers TV analyst Denis Potvin. Both are fine, but neither will provide the level of analysis as Jaffe would have. But again, it's not like the fans need someone to spell out the good and the bad for them.

Personally, I think a dark horse like Chris King could be a good choice. I've always liked the work he did on the radio broadcasts. Maybe this is the time for him to finally get his shot after being demoted of sorts last season when the Islanders opted to simulcast their TV broadcasts on the radio. We'll see.

Sean and I had received an e-mail about Jaffe not being renewed on Thursday afternoon, and only reported it on NYI FYI's Facebook and Twitter accounts. We had put out e-mails to a couple of contacts, only getting one response back saying that they weren't able to report on anything. We completely understood that and didn't want to run with anything false. Sean and I like it when you guys e-mail your questions, and we certainly appreciate the individual who tipped us off on that.

Sean and I wish our best to Jaffe, and we thank him for an enjoyable four seasons as an analyst. He'll be scooped up by someone. They will be getting one hell of an announcer and one of the best in the business.

Moulson to Arbitration: Unable to come to terms on a contract so far, the Islanders and Matt Moulson appear to be headed to arbitration to determine a fair salary for the left winger. This may be the best way to go here. Moulson had a breakout 30-goal year last year, his first full year in the league. He will be 27 in November, and should prove that he is no one year wonder. Personally, Moulson gets in all the right areas and has a style of play that tells me he won't be. He may not hit 30 again, but he can absolutely be a 20-25 goal scorer in this league.

Having said that, the Islanders had some leverage here and this is the reason arbitration hearings are held. The last Islander to go to arbitration was Trent Hunter, when he was awarded a one year, $1.55 million deal. During that season the Islanders came to terms on a five year, $10 million extension with Hunter. Moulson will get a fair number, and you can be sure the Islanders will not walk away from it seeing as they still have to get to the cap floor. It appears after Moulson's case is decided (which will be Thursday morning), the Islanders will take August to look for a bargain or two before finalizing their contract with Doug Weight. The team will be over the cap floor, so no need to worry about that just yet.



July 20, 2010

Notes From the Week

Update - 11:30PM: The NHL has rejected Ilya Kovalchuk's contract with New Jersey. There seem to be differing opinions on the ramifications and the time period and what happens next as of right now. Hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit clearer and we can provide you with some commentary on it.

Hello all!

It's been a couple of days, but there have been some newsworthy items over the past week when it comes to the Islanders and NHL in general.

First off, there is all of the uncertainty surrounding the Lighthouse Project. At first glance, some of you probably say "yeah, and the sky is blue and grass is green." However, the Town of Hempstead finally came back with their proposal, and it was quite the scale back. The project is slightly less than 50% of what owner Charles Wang envisioned for the plot of land. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has come out and publicly stated that he is siding with Wang against the Town and Supervisor Kate Murray.

Managno backing Wang comes as a slight surprise to some due to the fact that he has had his own idea for the land, namely a casino that would be built by the Shinnecocks. When you realize how the game of politics is played though, it isn't all that surprising. Mangano has enough economic hardships going for him in the county, and loosing the Islanders and having the surrounding area go into depression will surely kill any hope he has as far as future political aspirations.

I know that Sean will disagree with me on this, but something is going to happen on this land and when all is said and done it will include the Islanders. The casino plan is a very interesting one indeed, but many people have problems with a casino going up close to an area such as Garden City. I think in the end, those fears will be realized and some of the residents in the surrounding areas who are vehemently against the Lighthouse will be forced to take the lesser of two "evils". The TOH seemed to leave the door slightly open, never once saying that this was a take it or leave it offer (but also telling us it is not a starting point, either). They will meet somewhere in the middle, and everyone will be there shaking hands for the photo opportunities.

Schremp and Kohn Accept: Both Rob Schremp and Dustin Kohn accepted their qualifying offers, coming in the final hours before the July 15th deadline. Both will receive slight raises over what they got last year. Kohn is still a very unknown commodity for the team, and right now it appears as though he may find himself in Bridgeport again to start the season. Schremp played pretty well for the Islanders last season, and in the months up until he got hurt was beginning to go on a tear. If he plays similar to the way he did for a good portion of the 2nd half of his season, he will be extended once again next summer. Schremp knows he still has a lot to prove, so he is a story line to follow again for this season.

17 for #17: Ilya Kovalchuk finally ended his saga, signing with the Devils, which many people assumed he would do for a couple of weeks. But it wasn't for the rumored seven year, $60 million deal the New York Post reported a couple of weeks back. Instead, Lou Lamoriello decided to sign Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102 million contract. Best of luck with that one. True, the Devils locked up one of the top five forwards in the league to a very cap friendly figure, but there is no way he plays until he is 44 - and that's not the plan anyway. The deal is obviously extremely front-loaded, so Kovy makes the money he wanted for the years he wanted and can do his thing for as long as he can. It has been established that he isn't the biggest fitness buff out there, but his skills and finesse might be enough to carry him along for much longer than people may think. The Islanders were serious on trying to sign Kovy, regardless of if you want to believe it or not. They wanted to go short term with him, and did talk big money. It is believed that short term meant one year. Still, the interest was genuine and that's all you can really say. Kovy had plenty of offers out there though that were for much longer than one year. He chose one of them, and that is that. We roll ahead...

Now what? Well, there seems to be some differing opinions on what the Islanders may do now, if anything at all. The do still seem to be interested in adding scoring. On the free agent market, you still have Alex Frolov, Lee Stempniak, Paul Kariya and Max Afinogenov. The trade market seems to be fairly quiet for now, as Simon Gagne was dealt to the Lightning shortly after Kovalchuk re-signed with the Devils. That won't last as the Devils may be foreced to part with a forward or two to ensure they can re-sign Zach Parise after next season. Brian Rolston and Jamie Langenbrunner have come up in rumors over the past day.

Garth Snow has said that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of adding another defender to the roster. There are still guys such as Willie Mitchell and Shaone Morissonn out on the free agent market. Many teams seem to be waiting to see what Mitchell's health status is, and riughtfully so. Some team out there is going to get one heck of a d-man on a great deal, who eats minutes and plays a great shut down role. Maybe it can be the Islanders. If they decide to go the trade route, then we may start to hear the names of Kevin Bieska from Vancouver and Sheldon Souray from Edmonton bandied about. Bieska has one year at $3.5 million left on his deal and is on the outs with the Canucks. He will start next season elsewhere for sure. Souray has two years remaining at a cap hit at $5.4 million per year. Souray was placed on waivers a few weeks ago but went unclaimed. There is a thought out there that the Islanders might be interested in a swap of Brendan Witt for Souray, a move that would add $2.4 million towards getting to that cap floor. Jason Gregor of Oilersnation.com cites an executive from one of the Isles or the Oilers at the end of this entry, telling us that it is something that could be kicked around. Souray, when healthy would be a good addition to the Islanders blueline. Would he be willing to waive his no trade to come here? That could be another issue all together. As always, we shall see. Things should heat up a bit once again now that Kovy-gate is over and done with.



July 11, 2010

Orange wins Prospect Game 5-4; Islanders Rumors

Team Orange won the prospect game on Saturday night 5-4. The teams played had a skills competition after the game as well. There were some Islanders that stood out, and that is good considering some of them are very close to making contributions to the team.

One of the noticeable ones was Matt Martin, who has seemed to work on his skating a little bit. There were already hopes that Martin would fill the job of being the ultimate enforcer/pest while putting up a decent amount of points, and from we saw in his brief stint last year left us wanting more. Great to see Martin continue to work on his game.

Goalie Mikko Koskinen looked very strong, which is encouraging when you take into the consideration that he had to batter through a major hip injury last season. His reactions were generally quick, and he didn't look too awkward on his skates. This kid is big. He'll put on some more muscle too. One would assume that he will be the starter in Bridgeport this season.

Many fans walked away pretty satisfied with Nino Niederreiter. We finally got a see a little bit of what we had in him, and he is big. The scary thought with him is that he is only going to fill out more being that he is so young, and his style of play could make him quite the force on the left side for the team for a long while. He also showed us he is quite good with handling the puck.

Unfortunately, we did not get to see Kirill Petrov in this game. He has suffered a shoulder injury, and is going to be evaluated by team doctors on Monday. Lets hope for the best as he seems like a strong possibility to make the team this year.

The Islanders have some nice coverage of their prospect game, complete with a slew of photos here.

IslandersTV had coverage of the game, with a ton of different guests on such as Calvin deHaan, John Tavares and Garth Snow. Snow was a very interesting interview, as he talked about some NHL moves. He touched upon Kovalchuk again, not ruling the Islanders out but saying that they are "still monitoring that situation" and will "see where that takes us." Interesting. He also stated that he would not rule out trading for another defenseman at some point in the summer. There are some decent defensemen available through trade, and they would be a definite upgrade to our blueline for the upcoming season. We'll see what happens there.

Of course, everyone seems to be excited that we could still be in on Kovalchuk. I still remain skeptical, but it certainly would be nice. The Islanders seem to have been looking at scoring, and there is still some sitting out there. As we get later into the summer, there seems to be a good chance that the Islanders could land a good player at a great price. There were rumors tonight that Kovalchuk was flying to Los Angeles to sign a contract with the Kings, however the Kings have disputed the rumor and said that they are meeting face-to-face with him just as they would with any free agent. So we'll have to see what happens, and again I'm skeptical. But it is certainly nice to see that Snow is quite serious about going after the top talents available.



July 10, 2010

Organizational Changes and Prospect Camp

Hello all! I know its been a couple of days since our last post, but there has indeed been a lot of noise coming out of Islanders Country over the past week. Off-season? What off-season?

As many of you probably already know, the Islanders announced that they are not renewing the contract of Assistant General Manager and Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski, and are also finding a new position in the organization for Bryan Trottier, who was the Executive Director of Player Development.

Both these moves have come as a little bit of a shock to the fanbase, since Jankowski is responsible for a number of the Islanders draft picks since 2007. With the team rebuilding, solid drafting is important and Jankowski was the huge reason for the recent success the Isles have had in that department. With the team close to being done with the rebuild and looking to make the next step, perhaps they realized that it was a good time to make the change. Kati Strang of Newsday reported that the move was not money related, and we will probably never learn the reason. At any rate, we obviously thank Jankowski for his services and the great players he has helped bring into the organization. If he stays in the NHL, someone is going to get one heck of a hockey mind.

What concerns me the most here is that Garth Snow will be taking on Jankowski's responsibilities moving forward. I like Snow a lot, and think that he is a good GM. But that is a little too much work for one man to handle. It's hard enough to keep track of the inner workings of your NHL team, but to have to look out for an AHL team in Connecticut and keep an eye on scouting, well that's a lot to have on your plate. Here's hoping Snow can manage it.

Trottier worked with a lot of the Isles younger players, often going to Bridgeport and was seen taking notes and sometimes standing on the bench during games. Josh Bailey in the past talked about how much of an influence Trottier had on helping him with his game. It seems that the Islanders don't have plans to replace this position either, but it is good that they plan to keep a guy like Trottier in the organization. The Islanders of the past such as Trottier and Eric Cairns seem to have some influence on the young players as each one has talked glowingly about them in the past. We of course wish Trotts the best in his new endeavor for the team, whatever that may be.

While some have a bitter taste in their mouth from these two moves and feel that the team is in fact cutting costs, organizational changes are not uncommon, This week the Vancouver Canucks are going through their own major changes, it has been reported. We'll see what those are as we move along.

The Islanders prospect camp began this week, and we finally get to see what we have in Kirill Petrov, Nino Niederreiter and Kirill Kabanov among others. Petrov made the biggest impression in the fist days of camp it seems. I'm excited to see what the Blue and Orange scrimmage gives us. Many expect that Petrov could be coming over the the team this year, and I feel that is going to be based on how great he does here at this camp. The Islanders would then have to negotiate a contract with Petrov and a buyout from his contractual ties in Russia. He has expressed interest in coming over the North America this year, so we'll see how this goes. You can check back for reports and links to the Islanders prospect camp as we'll hopefully have some good information available later.



July 4, 2010

Isles add Four Players on Day 2

The Islanders addressed a few needs on day 2 of free agency as the team agreed to terms with defensemen Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, and forwards P.A. Parenteau and Zenon Konopka.

Eaton, 33, signed a 2-year deal for $2.5 million per season. He played with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and averaged 20 minutes of ice time, while recording 135 blocked shots, good for 36th among defensemen. He also chipped in 3 goals and 13 assists for a career high 16 points. However, the 6-2, 212 pound Eaton isn't being brought in for his offensive skill from the blueline, but rather for his defenseive skill. He is a very steady guy, and was usually paired up with Sergei Gonchar while with the Penguins. Right now, it is assumed that he will skate with Mark Streit on the top pairing.

Jurcina, 27, was limited to only 44 games last season between the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets, registering 1 goal and 6 assists for 7 points. The 6-4, 240 pound defenseman signed a 1-year, $1 million contract with the team. He once had a lot of promise, with people projecting him as a top defenseman, but he never panned out that way. He has a big body and does use that size sometimes, but not as often as he should. He is only a couple of years removed from a 150 hit season, so it is good to see that in the past he has been capable of at least playing the body. Scott Gordon coached him at Providence, and no doubt had a huge say in bringing him to the team. He will try to work with Jurcina on using his size more, as well as the booming shot that he possesses.

P.A. Parenteau signed a 1-year, 600K contract with the Islanders. Parenteau, 27, played in 22 games with the New York Rangers notching 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points. Parenteau has been a very prolific scorer in the AHL, with 166 goals and 237 assists for 403 points over 450 games. He came up to the Rangers, and while he didn't score the way he did in the minors found other ways to contribute. He always seemed to be very active, and played well defensively. While he isn't the biggest guy, he wasn't afraid to check a player. This seems like if it works out, he could be a good bottom line winger.

The final haul of the day for the Islanders was tough forward Zenon Konopka. Konopka is a very interesting specimen, as he led the league in fights (33) and penalty minutes (265). At the same time, he also won 62% of his faceoffs (288 out of 462). While that is a very limited sample, it is interesting for one of the toughest guys in the league to be so good in a category like that. It should be enjoyable for all to watch him patrol the 4th line this season and protect the young team the Isles have.

These signings aren't going to set the world on fire, but that's fine. These are all very solid signings and all fill some roles that the team desperately needed to fill. I personally am very excited about Eaton, and think that is going to turn out to be a steal for the team. He's a very solid, underrated player and everything out of Pittsburgh has been very positive about him. Konopka fills a need that the team has not had in...well, quite a while. It's going to be nice to finally see someone who isn't afraid to drop the gloves, and is quite good at it too. Jurcina is a little bit of a project, but Gordon has recommended some nice players during his time here, so I will defer to him on this one. I will say that I really liked Jurcina's game at the Olympics. He was one of the Czechs best defensemen out there. Parenteau seems like he could be a very nice replacement for Sean Bergenheim/Richard Park. He seems to be a hard working player who found other ways to contribute at the NHL level.

Some people look at these signings, and wonder a little about if the Islanders had plans for another defensemen and the scorer that Garth Snow said he would like to add.

First off, I'll start with the defense. Personally, I think that the Islanders are done for now as far as free agent defensemen go. I will not rule out a trade though, maybe even one of Radek Martinek or Bruno Gervais. Should that happen, then maybe you see them add another defenseman. What they have now though is an upgrade over what it was at any point last season. It isn't a drastic upgrade, but the slight upgrade will make the Islanders a better team.

So, then what about that "forward who can put the puck in the net with more consistency?" Well, thats a good question. Many people have been floating around the names of Alex Frolov, Max Afinogenov and Lee Stempniak to help out there. The team has been looking at a scoring forward, but it's not any of these guys.

The team has seemed to set their sights right now on Ilya Kovalchuk, who you may have heard of. Yes that's right, the Islanders are making a serious push for him. It's been reported that Snow has reached out to the Kovalchuk camp a couple of times since the market opened this past Thursday, and it sounds like the Islanders could prepare an offer for him and present it to him on Monday or Tuesday when the holiday weekend comes to a close. The terms? Well we don't know for sure, but the very reliable Darren Dreger of TSN reported that there was talk that the Islanders could go as high as 10 years, $100 million.

That's your basic Kovalchuk news right there. I do plan on going more into depth on the topic, with my feelings and everything, which I plan to post tomorrow (I figure he deserves an entire post to himself, no?). I'm still trying to organize everything that I want to say on that topic, but feel free to leave me your own thoughts in the comments section.



July 1, 2010

NYI FYI Post Dinner Chat

NYI FYI Post Dinner FA Chat

Join the Post Dinner Chat to talk the latest news and rumors together!

NYI FYI Free Agency Chat

Join Our Chat!

It's July 1st! Details About Free Agency Show and who Isles Should Call

Happy free agency day hockey fans! Ah yes, it’s Christmas in July. Many fans will be tuned to their TV’s, cell phones or computers to see where the players from this year’s free agent crop will land.
First off, let me remind you that we have our special episode of NYI FYI today, from 12-4PM! You can find us at http://wcwpsports.com/ as we will be going out of the sports studio over at C.W. Post.
We’re very excited about our special guests, which includes:

Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank and AOL FanHouse
Kevin Allen of USA Today
Dennis Vaske, Islanders defenseman 1990-1998
Ted Nolan, VP of Hockey Operations for the Rochester Americans and former Islanders Head Coach
Curtis Zupke of the Orange County Register
Michael Boone of the Montreal Gazette
Andy Strickland of HockeyBuzz and 1380 ESPN Radio in St Louis
Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

We’re really excited to have them on the show and do hope that they all have the time to come on with us (barring something crazy happens where they have other obligations, of course). For those of you who have specific questions you want us to ask them, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at nyifyi@gmail.com.  Sean will also have a Cover it Live chat room posted here on the blog for you guys to check out too. If that isn't for you, then we'll be giving you the AIM screen name and phone number to reach us at. We want you guys to take part in the show, so please do not be shy!

Now that the reminders are out of the way, let’s take a look at some players. Obviously, the biggest name on the market is by far Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s going to be interesting to see if a team out there meets his demands, if he takes a lesser deal for some championships, or just decides to go for the KHL. Aside from him, there are no real special players this year. There are however plenty of solid, serviceable veterans that many teams will covet as they try and fill various holes.
From an Islander standpoint, the opinions are all over as to what we should expect. What we do know is that the salary cap has gone up, and the Islanders are more than $10 million below the cap floor. They have let loose all of their UFA’s except for Doug Weight, and let Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim walk as well.
On Wednesday night, when speaking with Katie Strang of Newsday, Garth Snow re-iterated his stance on what he would like to do, explaining he would like to bring in “some size and a defenseman to move the puck.” So looking at that description, as well as thinking a little outside the box, there are a few free agents out there that I think can be realistic for us and within our price range.
-Pavel Kubina is a guy who is on the market and one I would like to see the Islanders add. He is big and puts up points, and is good at blocking shots too. He had a $5 million price tag in Toronto and Atlanta, but now understands that he won’t get the same amount on this contract. Atlanta is letting him walk away after exchanging offers, and Kubina explains that it has nothing to do with Atlanta but more that he is looking for a fair deal. If he considers fair 4-4.5 million, I would be all over this if I were Snow.
-Paul Martin is a guy I know many fans have their eye on. Despite his injuries last season, many teams know what they are getting in a guy like Martin. He likes being in the tri-state area, and both New York teams are said to have some interest. It is also believed that the devils are trying to keep Martin in the fold. I feel that his demands will ultimately be outside of what Snow considers sensible when all is said and done.
-Carlo Colaiacovo’s name has been thrown around a ton for many different teams. He has a decent size for a defenseman and plays with a little bit of an edge. Along with that comes a decent offensive game, but nothing to set the world on fire. He is more than capable at moving the puck though. This issue here is injuries. They have plagued him for a decent part of his career, much like Radek Martinek. As much as I like Colaiacovo’s game, I’m weary of adding him to the roster when Martinek is on it at this time. That is just too many possible unreliable defensemen. But he will be very affordable because of that.
-Zbynek Michalek could be one of the best defensemen you’ve never heard of. He has been very good for Phoenix the last couple of years, and was their top defensive defenseman. At 27, he would be a great guy to invest in long term and lock in at a decent price, while being a very good fit with Mark Streit on the top pairing. Unfortunately, most of the league has heard of him and took notice of him during the Coyotes rebirth this past season. There will be some fierce competition for him as he is no longer under the radar. One of the favorites is believed to be the Ottawa Senators, where Michalek’s brother Milan plays.
Those are the defensemen I would target right off the bat. Granted they may not be the best available, however they are very solid, top-4 defensemen who could skate on the Islanders top-pairing. Should they prove to be out of our price range or have other ideas in their mind, then there are some decent fall back options.
-Jordan Leopold is a very slick offensive defenseman. He doesn’t bring a ton to the table offensively and has had a bit of an up and down career. He can put up a decent amount of points though, and would fit the Islanders high octane system very well.
-Shaone Morissonn has not been talked about at all during the last couple of weeks, but he is out there. I noticed him only a couple of weeks ago and after running his name by a couple of fans on Islander Mania, the feeling was only luke-warm and generally indifferent. I suppose that fits in with Morissonn’s career. A few years back he was Washington’s answer to Mike Green’s defensive deficiencies on the fist pairing. Over the past few season’s however, he has seen his ice time drop by almost 5 minutes per game, and this past season he averaged about 15 minutes a game. He has his flaws, but would not be the worst option in the world for a physical defenseman.
-Andy Sutton hit his way into the hearts of many Islanders fans, and he could have that chance again. Ottawa is desperately trying to re-sign him with the certain departure of Anton Volchenkov, but he has stated a desire to come back to the Islanders.
So what about the forwards? At one point Snow did say he wanted to add someone with the potential to net about 20 goals. After Kovalchuk, there is a significant drop off in terms of scoring but there are some serviceable players that if put in the right positions could succeed here. He’s also stated a desire to add a little toughness, so I’ll include some players for that as well.
-Alex Frolov, for whatever reason, is a guy I’ve had a gut feeling about since the Islanders played the Kings a few months back. He had a lackluster contract year, and isn’t quite ready to flee to Russia just yet. He has proved that he can put up points in this league, and had done so fairly consistently. He could be ideal for the Islanders if they are looking for some cheap, short term alternative scoring.
-Matthew Lombardi is the apple of many fans’ eyes, and for good reason. He is very versatile as he can play all 3 forward positions and can even net 50-60 points. His defensive game isn’t the worst thing in the world, and he’s decent at face-offs if he has to take them. I personally don’t see the Islanders signing him given their confidence in Rob Schremp, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, but he is an option that is out there.
-Lee Stempniak is a solid 2-way player whose offensive game seems to be all or nothing. A deadline day trade that sent him to the Coyotes from the Toronto maple leafs seemed to rejuvenate him as he went on to score 14 goals in the last 18 regular season games, matching the total he had in 62 games with Toronto. He would be a solid addition and leader for this Islanders squad and can slot in on a few different lines when needed.
-Chris Higgins’ name has been tossed around, and it has been in connection with the Islanders. I’m not sure if that is because there is genuine interest there, or if it is just because he is from Smithtown. I’ll go with the later though, as I don’t think he is the type of player the Islanders will look to sign to a contract seeing as he has had a multitude of problems and doesn’t provide much if he doesn’t score anymore. If he is still out there in August, a training camp invite might be more reasonable.
-Eric Nystrom is another name that has been tossed around, this one for obvious reasons. However, he actually would be a useful player as he brings some size and aggressiveness to the lineup. There would obviously be a pride factor here as well. That’s not to say he doesn’t bust his butt no matter where he’s playing, but playing in his home town for the team he grew up watching and loving might have that effect on him. Regardless, he would be a good player to replace the Jon Sim/Tim Jackman void.
-Vinny Prospal rejuvenated his career with the Rangers this past season after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He and Snow are friends from their Flyers days, and Prospal proved that he can still be useful with skilled players around him. Tavares, Okposo and Moulson will benefit from his playmaking skills. The Islanders have had interest in Prospal in years past, too.
-Paul Kariya is a mystery thus far. Injuries seem to have finally caught up to him, but still had a respectable season for the St. Louis Blues last year with 18 goals and 25 assists. He could come over on a low risk, high reward deal and play the left side on one of the top two lines. It wouldn’t be the first time the Islanders tried something like that. However, something tells me Kariya stays in the Western Conference.
-Arron Asham’s name popped up in Strang’s Wednesday afternoon chat and Chris Botta followed that with quotes from Asham, saying he would love to return of the Islanders gave him a call. He said he’d love to stick up for the young players on the team and be a veteran leader since he himself is now older. He’s 32, and can still contribute in an agitator role. He did well with that the last few years for the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back, but I think that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will try and petition the front office to keep him.
Goaltending will be interesting to see, because I think the Islanders plan on going with Nathan Lawson at this point in time. I personally would rather them base it on which kind of defensemen they sign as you have to be careful with a guy like Dwayne Roloson at his current age. I wouldn’t mind if the Islanders went after guys who were sitting out for a while, similar to what they did with Marty Biron last season. There are only so many goalie spots in the NHL, so one or a couple of Chris Mason, Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Dan Ellis and Antero Nittymaki could be sitting around for some time. If they are still out there in a week or two or 5, it doesn’t hurt to call them up. But goaltending is not a priority at this time.
This list isn’t necessarily the players that I would target, but more so the players that I think the Islanders could go after based upon hearsay and what they are looking for. Snow maintains that he has no restrictions on spending money, but prefers to spend it wisely on player they identify as good deals as they did with Streit 2 years ago and Roloson and Moulson last season. In general, Snow has done a good job in free agency. With the team trying to make it back to the playoffs as the next step in the rebuild, they have to go after some of the player on this list at the very least, as well as cast some lines in the trade waters as there are going to be plenty of solid players on the block with not much required in return due to contract issues.
It should be a fun next few days/months, not only from an Islanders standpoint but for hockey fans in general!