June 30, 2010

Bergenheim and Tambellini to be UFA's

On the eve of free agency, it’s become more clear what certain teams are looking for and what is out there. Teams had until Monday to qualify their restricted free agents or lose their rights, while Tuesday was the deadline to put players through waivers in order to buy them out during the NHL’s unlimited buyout window.

Needless to say, there were a couple of surprises from the Islanders standpoint.

The team opted not to offer qualifying offers to wingers Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim, meaning both will become unrestricted free agents after midnight on July 1st.

No one is surprised with Tambellini leaving as things have not worked out for him since he came here in 2006 along with Denis Grebeshkov in exchange for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel. More often than not, Tambellini found himself in the press box rather than on the ice.

Bergenheim is a different story however, as many felt that the Islanders would qualify him. It would have cost about $1 million to keep in around, and to be honest that wouldn’t have been prudent. The Islanders can get a comparable player for a little less and save some money to improve other areas.

Bergenheim was seen as an energy/defensive player, and at times he was exactly that. But more often than not, he would disappear for long stretches not only from the score sheet, but from the defensive side of things as well as he wouldn’t hit players as much, if at all. Occasionally, he would also take some bad offensive zone penalties. There could also be some other motivators here, such as the contract holdout in 2006 and the Islanders scratching him and putting him on the block at the trade deadline this season. The latter should have alerted people that he wasn’t in their long term plans and seen as a redundant part.

The other surprise to some, myself included, is that the Islanders did not put Brendan Witt through waivers as a precursor to a buyout. Many felt that after the team waived him and sent him to the minors last season that he would surely be gone, but as of right now that’s not happening. No one knows if this means we should be thinking about him when we take into account how many defenseman that the team could be looking to add, but it should be noted that after doing the same thing to winger Jon Sim last season, he did make the club this year after improving his game in the minors.

As far as their other unrestricted free agents go, the Islanders have only re-signed Doug Weight. Goalie Martin Biron, wingers Jon Sim, Richard Park and Tim Jackman and defenseman Freddy Meyer all will test the waters, meaning the Islanders will have some holes to fill if they choose to do so through trades or free agency, unless the truly feel some of the other prospects are ready to jump in next season.

While many folks already expected the Islanders to add at least one defenseman over the summer, there is an increased likelihood that they now look into wingers as well. Letting go of Bergenheim at that price could be an indication that the Islanders could do better for their money and upgrade a bit, rather than just bring in anyone for the sake of getting to the salary cap floor. So that is certainly one way to look at it.

Either way, things just got a little more interesting. Of course, we wish our best to both Jeff and Sean.

Soon to come: I’ve been working on my free-agent primer, with guys who I think could be realistic options for the Islanders to go after. Look for that a bit later in the day.



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