July 15, 2007

Taking His Time

With free agency 2 weeks old, the frenzy appears to have concluded. The last big signing was Sheldon Souray to the Oilers for 5 years, $27 million. The Islanders were not willing to go more than 3 years with Souray, and he wanted to cash in on the career year he had with Montreal last season. At any rate, there are still some decent defenseman out there on the market. It is unclear right now what direction Snow plans to go with the defense.

Danny Markov, Ossi Vaananen, Andy Sutton and Bryan Berard all are available and have been linked in rumors with the Isles. One Isles target, Vitaly Vishnevski, was snatched up by the rival Devils and signed on for 3 years. Markov plays a very intense style which might be cause for concern if the Isles plan on keeping the oft injured Radek Martinek around. Markov can move the puck well for a defensive defenseman, and could still be on Snows radar. Right now, Markov is looking for a 3 year deal worth more than the $2.5 million he made last season in Detroit. Ossi Vaananen is a very hard hitting defenseman who was the odd man out in Colorado after the season ended. He could be a very nice addition for the Isles and the price might not be very high this late into free agency. Sutton has a huge frame, and was hoping to get a huge pay day as well. That seems to have subsided and he could be had for a reasonable price. I'm very interested in him for his defensive skills that would greatly help the team and Brendan Witt out. Berard could be a potential replacement for Tom Poti if he can prove he's healthy. If he is able to, then I would not mind taking the chance on him. In 05-06, he out up some very good offensive numbers (12-20-32) in a limited amount of games (44) for the Blue Jackets. His -29 was not something to be proud of, but the Blue Jackets aren't something to be proud of defensively overall either.

Trade options could be Vancouver's Mathias Ohlund, the Coyotes' Derek Morris and Ed Jovanovski or Toronto's Pavel Kubina. All of them would help the Isles out in some way or another. Ohlund would probable be the best option as he is a very good 2 way defenseman and a definite 1st pairing defenseman. Pavel Kubina would look very good on Brendan Witt's side and would do well on the power play. Jovanovski is a stretch and would need to prove he can stay healthy and he would be quite and addition for the team. He plays an aggressive style and is a good quaterback on the PP. Morris is a decent offensive blueliner who never really blossomed in the NHL yet, but might in Ted Nolan's system.

Right now, the Isles appear to be set on forwards except for the fact that they might have a couple too many. This leads many to believe that Snow does intend to trade some to upgrade the defense or maybe even add some offense to the club. The team still needs a 2nd line center capable of 50-60 points and a scoring left winger would be perfect too, however I doubt that the Isles will fill every need by training camp. What seems likely though is that Snow fixes the defense and adds a center, but the wingers we have now are the ones we start with.

Right now, the team looks like most teams usually look like in the middle of the summer- a work in progress. It is most definitely not a time to panic yet. I think Snow has a good grasp on what he is doing. The players he has added so far are very good, and I think might surprise some fans. Snow has added some very good depth to the club as well, adding goalie Joey MacDonald, defensemen Aaron Johnson and Matt Spiller, and winger Tim Jackman. The depth defensemen who were signed are ones to be happy about, as they are much needed upgrades over Drew Fata or Allan Rourke. Things are going in the right direction, and Snow and Nolan are trying to build their team. I'm willing to give them the time to do that. I'm not worried right now. If we look the same in September, then I will be worried.


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