The Islanders announced on Saturday that Jay Pandolfo has agreed to a try out with the team when camp opens in a couple of weeks. About a week ago, Newsday's Katie Strang posted a list of players who the club could possibly have in camp on invite: Pandolfo, Sergei Samsonov, Chris Clark and Bryan McCabe. There is strong reason to believe that all were extended invites - among other players as well - but so far, going this route only made the most sense for Pandolfo.
Pandolfo hasn't been in the NHL since the 2009 - 2010 season with the New Jersey Devils. After that season he was bought out and participated in a handful of AHL games last season before his Christmas Day release from the Springfield Falcons.
Neither Pandolfo nor the Islanders have anything to lose with this, and I'm disappointed in some of the comments I see from fans regarding this. The point of an invite is that it gives you a look at someone without having to give them a guaranteed spot on the roster. I want Nino Niederreiter, Matt Martin and others to feel their jobs are at stake and be pushed. Now, how far can someone like Pandolfo push them? Well that remains to be seen, sure. But with so many forwards already on the roster, if I'm a young player and I see a 36 year old veteran coming in, I'm not taking my chances or scoffing at the competition. Especially with an individual who has proven for many years he can be an excellent penalty killer, even though his game has eroded over the past two seasons.
According to Strang, McCabe and Samsonov appear "reluctant" to take the invite at this time, and I can't blame them for that. With camps set to open, any injury could have them signing a guaranteed contract, perhaps for terms even better than they are expecting (see Mike Mottau and his two year deal from the Isles last September 25th). I would imagine the invites are always open, so Clark could still come if he wishes too, despite a similar player in Pandolfo coming (EDIT: Not sure how I missed this, but Strang reports Clark has accepted an invite with the Bruins, who offered one to Pandolfo too). I think as time goes on, McCabe accepts his invite too. Samsonov though, I would be surprised.
I've been asked this a lot over the weekend - if McCabe comes to camp, am I upset? It's a good question. McCabe is not the ideal defenseman this team needs. But at the same time, that's why he'd be coming in as an invite. If he plays well? Then it means he looked fine, looked like he still had enough in the tank and will suffice until someone better comes along (or one of the kids are ready, such as Calvin deHaan). If he looks awful? Then he walks away and is free to talk to other teams (like Brent Sopel did a few years ago after his camp with Detroit). At the end of the day, an upgrade for me in the most basic sense was a guy more durable than Radek Martinek, Jack Hillen or Bruno Gervais. McCabe would certainly be that and a great shot to use on the 2nd power-play unit to keep the opposition guessing after seeing Mark Streit on unit one.
I am always curious to see what players go on invites to other teams, and see who can crack lineups. It's a popular way to fill out rosters or find an extremely cheap gem. The Islanders generally have lucked out with guys like this under Snow, and it'll be a good story line to follow as a distraction from some of your usual ones. We'll see if any of the others accept soon.
More to come on some items we missed on discussing while we were away.