August 11, 2007

Isles Think Big on D, add Andy Sutton

On Friday, the Islanders announced the signing of defenseman Andy Sutton to a 3 year deal worth a total of $9 million. Sutton is an 8 year NHL veteran who has always been known for his shot blocking and his size. At 6 foot 6, 245 pounds, there aren't going to be too many people willing to step foot near DiPietro with him and Witt on the ice. Sutton is a definite upgrade over Sean Hill, who left for the Minnesota Wild last month. The fact the Isles were able to sign Sutton for only $3 million per year is a very good deal. On the eve of free-agency, Sutton claimed he was looking for a 4 year deal at $4 million per. As teams passed on that idea, Sutton found himself still available. Although he was easily the best defenseman left on the market, he needed to lower his salary demands and the Isles bit. And it is a good thing too.

The Isles were believed to be very interested in defenseman Danny Markov, however recent sources suggest his asking price might have been far too high. Red Wings GM Ken Holland stated that he wanted Markov back, but not at the $4-5 million per year he is seeking. My guess is Markov only wanted a 1 year deal for that money. The Isles made the better decision in signing Sutton for 3 years at a lesser price per year than Markov.

Last season, injuries limited Sutton to just 55 games, where he had 2 goals and 16 points and had a +6 rating. Even with all those games missed, Sutton still managed to finish 19th overall in the NHL in blocked shots with 162. In 76 games in 05-06, Sutton had 8 goals and 17 assists and finished 4th in the league with 195 blocked shots. This is definitely a shot in the arm for the club, and takes a lot of the burden off of Brendan Witt knowing that there is another stay at home type on the blueline. Sutton might even see some power play time if the Isles don't add a defenseman to replace Tom Poti, as he has always put up decent offensive numbers for a stay at home defenseman.

The Isles are expecting to add another center very soon, but who that center is remains a mystery. The most likely options appear to be Josef Vasicek or Jason Allison, both who are free agents. Vasicek is a very good 2 way forward, but hasn't really realized his scoring potential yet. Allison has only played in 1 of the 4 seasons, missing time for injuries, the lockout and a messy divorce. Still, in 05-06 Allison put up 60 points in 66 games for the Maple Leafs after missing the previous 2 seasons. Even with all the missed time, I think Allison might be a good option. But, the best, and very unlikely option out there is superstar Peter Forsberg. Throughout his entire career, Forsberg has been the ultimate playmaker and has the hardware to prove it with 2 Olympic gold medals and 2 Stanley Cups. Last season he put up 55 points in 57 games and in 05-06 put up 75 points in just 60 games. While battling through injuries and for the most part playing on just one leg, he was still able to put up spectacular numbers the last 2 seasons. This shows just how much of a franchise center he really is. At 34 years old, he still has a lot left in the tank, and if he proves he's healthy by training camp (which may or may not be the case) then I can see Snow making a pitch for him with all the cap space left over. As I said, this is a bit of a fantasy if anything, so I'd rather look at the trade market before I turn to Allison or Vasicek.

Stay tuned over the next week or so as Snow will most likely be adding a center very soon.

No comments: