Once day one of Free Agency came and went, I had to hurry up and finish packing to head out to the beautiful state of Arizona. So, I never had the chance to give my thoughts on the Islanders day one signings aside from the thoughts on Twitter.
The Islanders signed three new players on July 1: Brad Boyes, Matt Carkner and Eric Boulton.
Let's start going through the signings in chronological order.
One of the first calls the Islanders placed was to Boyes, the forward who used to be really good then sort of fell off the face of the Earth. As the day went on, within a few hours the Islanders had announced they came to terms on a one year, $1 million contract with him. Many people wondered if this was the replacement for P.A. Parenteau or if there was more to come. I had originally figured that Boyes was being brought in as a 2nd or 3rd line option as the Islanders pursued a higher end offensive talent to fill in Parenteau's spot, but after recent comments from Boyes, it appears he will be given every opportunity to succeed at the 1st line RW position.
Can Boyes reclaim what he used to be? That's a rather loaded question. Once again, we're left seeing if Garth Snow found another low risk, high reward guy. With Parenteau signing his deal, it makes it look worse right now. Sean and I weren't quiet on our desire to only have him for three years at around $3.5 million, but the four year, $16 million deal he did get looks manageable and would look much better in addition to Boyes.
However, it is only fair to note that a lot of Boyes' struggles have come playing in a tough situation in Buffalo, where he was frequently shuffled around and even was a healthy scratch at times. Perhaps Lindy Ruff didn't provide a positive influence on him, and he just needed to move one once again to a less structured environment to regain his 30 goal form. Doug Weight was behind this signing it seems, speaking highly of Boyes
from their days in St. Louis together. I'll defer to Weight on his views
obviously, and I will admit it makes me feel better about the signing.
Having said that, in short I feel the Boyes signing must come with another signing up front. And by that, I mean another top 6. Winger, center, it doesn't matter. The Islanders need both and can slot Boyes into the second line center spot if need be. But if no one else is added, then this move is likely lateral at best - but good for what it is and what Boyes can potentially provide.
The Islanders second signing of the day was defenseman Matt Carkner, whom many know as "that dude who fought a lot" on Ottawa. I'm happy with bringing Carkner in because it provides an element the Islanders were lacking, and that is toughness out of players not named Matt Martin. Carkner is very capable of playing a 6th/7th defenseman role, but for the contract he got, I think we'll be seeing a lot of him. He only averaged a little more than 11 minutes a night last season, so I'm not sure how sound defensively he is. But in a 6th defensive man role, he should be fine. Essentially, he's going to be what Eric Cairns was back in 2001-2004.
The Islanders agreed to terms with Eric Boulton on a contract, but couldn't announce that until Tuesday due to having to wait until his buyout cleared. Boulton is a part time player who loves to drop the gloves, and has made his niche in the NHL by doing that for various teams. He's a good guy for the team to have for games against their tough division opponents. Aside from that, there's not much else here. At 35, one has to wonder how much he really has left, and if his skills are any good anymore. When pugilist get to 35 and older generally, they fall off quick. Is that what happened with the Devils last season? We'll find out at some point this season if Boulton is overplayed.
Although the Islanders had an active day, and filled a couple of roles, some of the more crucial ones remained unfilled. If they can fill those other few roles, then this is a much better roster that can compete for a playoff spot down to the wire for sure. But as of right now, it's more lateral than anything. It's a long offseason, and hopefully more will come out about Snow looking for a second line center, or another top 6 winger.
In the meantime, the Islanders are off to a nice start. Now, this must be the offseason where they finish the job. They are simply running out of time to go through another slow start out of the gate.