June 1, 2008

Islanders Begin Cleaning House

Well, just as I had anticipated we are now starting to hear some more news with the Stanley Cup Finals coming to a close. Even though the series isn’t over yet, teams are starting to decide what direction to move in with the draft only three weeks away and free agency one month away. For the Islanders, the direction seems to be more clear; a youth movement.

Speaking to Newsday’s Greg Logan, general manager Garth Snow revealed that goalie Wade Dubielewicz, wingers Ruslan Fedotenko and Miro Satan, center Josef Vasicek and defenseman Aaron Johnson will not be retained and will become free agents on July 1. This creates more spots for the young guys such as Kyle Okposo (20), Blake Comeau (22), Jeff Tambellini (24), Ben Walter (24), and Frans Nielsen (24). You can also include whoever the team drafts 5th overall later this month in that list as well.

According to the article, Snow does not yet have a concrete plan as to what to pursue in free agency, and also claims his draft board is not completely set. However, it does seem that they have already determined that a number of spots will be up for grabs for some young players.

The biggest loss out of all of this will be Dubie, who quickly became a fan favorite when he won four straight games at the end of the 2006-07 season to get the Islanders into the playoffs. Last season despite the Isles finishing under .500, Dubie still managed a 9-9-1 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .919 SV. Over the past few seasons, the Isles had difficulty getting good performances out of their backups, with Dubie being the exception.

Snow claimed that Dubie rejected the team’s contract offer, and Logan has speculated that is because the first year might have had a 2-way provision in it because of Joey MacDonald’s 1-way status for the upcoming season. Snow claimed that due to poor conditioning on Dubie’s part, the coaching staff had to ride DiPietro for too many games, thus creating the hip injuries that Rick later sustained.

Regardless of all that, it would seem to me that MacDonald is now the backup for next season. Islander fans grew attached to Dubie, as they do with many players. One has to keep in mind that this happens often especially with backup goalies all around the league, and you can’t get too upset when many of the details of the story are unconfirmed. Now, I wouldn’t expect the team to go after another backup, even though that wouldn’t be a terrible idea. However, MacDonald did look OK in his couple of games with the big club near the end of last season.

As for the other free agents to be, I can’t say I’m surprised to see them go. Satan had a sub-par season, and seems only a shell of the 30 goal per year player he once was and it would not be worthwhile to bring him back. Fedotenko and Vasicek were both one year deals because they were stopgaps, and with the infusion of youth the team is going towards they are no longer needed. Aaron Johnson is young, and due to injuries and a numbers game did not get much time to showcase himself. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t play very well in the time he was given, and didn’t put up the numbers that he proved he could be capable of, even if you projected them over an 82 game season.

Now things are starting to heat up, and while the team still plans on staying competitive next season and making a playoff run, that will all depend on what they do with free agency. A youth movement could mean some youth mixed in with veterans, or a lineup completely full of youth. With no plan in place yet for free agency, we’ll have to wait to get more of an idea.

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