The Islanders had two major contract announcements during the afternoon drive on Tuesday regarding both Jay Pandolfo and Ryan Strome.
Pandolfo had been in camp with the Isles on an invite, hoping to get a spot on the team after being bought out by the Devils after the 2009-2010 season. Pandolfo didn't look like himself after suffering a separated right shoulder and the Devils decided it was best to move on.
Pandolfo spent most of last year without a home, but wasn't content on ending his hockey career at that point. He rehabbed himself after surgery, and agreed to sign on with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL where he got into 12 games and notched six points. He would be released on Christmas, and had to continue to work his way back.
Getting a try-out was just the first step in his comeback attempt. But Pandolfo went out and gave it his all, and ultimately did enough in the team's eyes to earn a spot on the bottom line.
"I feel good," Pandolfo told me on September 21st at media day. "Being able to start at the same time as other guys helps out rather than trying to come in later on. I wanted to make sure I was ready physically, and I am."
"The organization is doing all the right things on and off the ice and that's what you have to do to win. You can tell these young guys are buying into it, when you see a lot of them signing long term deals and committing to the organization. They wouldn't do that unless they expected to win."
The fact that Pandolfo felt healthy gave him a decent chance from the start. In the time I've spent watching him, both during camp and in the games I felt he still had something to provide. Did I think it was better than what some of the other guys had to offer? Not necessarily, but I have no problem singing him to the one-year, $600K contract he got given how unimpressed I was with Micheal Haley during preseason.
I see a lot of people saying he shouldn't be in the line-up over Matt Martin, and I won't disagree with that. But keep one thing in mind: there was a spot open that at the very least Pandolfo, Haley, Tim Wallace and Trevor Frischmon were gunning for, and not necessarily Martin. Did the best man get the job? At this point in time, in the five game sample, yes. I was happy with how solid defensively Pandolfo looked. At this point, that's what you want to see and it gives you some added depth to switch out with Trevor Gillies or even Martin for games that are likely to be less intense.
Strome on the other hand, does not appear to have a spot on this current Islander team. However, with the 5 PM Tuesday deadline looming to sign players to an entry level contract, the Islanders locked Strome up. The clock won't start ticking unless he plays more than nine NHL games this season. In all likelihood, with Marty Reasoner's knee having acted up at times this preseason, the Isles are trying to protect themselves against something drastic happening and needing to scramble to find a replacement center.
If Wednesday during practice Reasoner doesn't feel right, the Islanders can easily make Strome an official part of their roster for the time being when they are due at 3 PM. If not, then they can send Strome back without him or the team having to worry about hammering out an ELC in the future. Nothing lost by doing this now.
Strome is obviously hopeful that he'll stay with the team, but with so many natural centers and a few others who can slide in there if needed (such as Brian Rolston) the odds are stacked against Strome. He really shouldn't see much, if any time in the NHL this season as he didn't physically appear ready to me to be able to handle the daily grind. he's very talented and very fast, but I think by next season we'll see him as a much improved player who becomes better at maintaining puck control at high speeds.
The Islanders have a few more decisions to make before the deadline Wednesday. It should be another interesting day, even if some of the drama has been taken out of it with Pandolfo getting signed.