July 1, 2010

It's July 1st! Details About Free Agency Show and who Isles Should Call

Happy free agency day hockey fans! Ah yes, it’s Christmas in July. Many fans will be tuned to their TV’s, cell phones or computers to see where the players from this year’s free agent crop will land.
First off, let me remind you that we have our special episode of NYI FYI today, from 12-4PM! You can find us at http://wcwpsports.com/ as we will be going out of the sports studio over at C.W. Post.
We’re very excited about our special guests, which includes:

Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank and AOL FanHouse
Kevin Allen of USA Today
Dennis Vaske, Islanders defenseman 1990-1998
Ted Nolan, VP of Hockey Operations for the Rochester Americans and former Islanders Head Coach
Curtis Zupke of the Orange County Register
Michael Boone of the Montreal Gazette
Andy Strickland of HockeyBuzz and 1380 ESPN Radio in St Louis
Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

We’re really excited to have them on the show and do hope that they all have the time to come on with us (barring something crazy happens where they have other obligations, of course). For those of you who have specific questions you want us to ask them, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at nyifyi@gmail.com.  Sean will also have a Cover it Live chat room posted here on the blog for you guys to check out too. If that isn't for you, then we'll be giving you the AIM screen name and phone number to reach us at. We want you guys to take part in the show, so please do not be shy!

Now that the reminders are out of the way, let’s take a look at some players. Obviously, the biggest name on the market is by far Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s going to be interesting to see if a team out there meets his demands, if he takes a lesser deal for some championships, or just decides to go for the KHL. Aside from him, there are no real special players this year. There are however plenty of solid, serviceable veterans that many teams will covet as they try and fill various holes.
From an Islander standpoint, the opinions are all over as to what we should expect. What we do know is that the salary cap has gone up, and the Islanders are more than $10 million below the cap floor. They have let loose all of their UFA’s except for Doug Weight, and let Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim walk as well.
On Wednesday night, when speaking with Katie Strang of Newsday, Garth Snow re-iterated his stance on what he would like to do, explaining he would like to bring in “some size and a defenseman to move the puck.” So looking at that description, as well as thinking a little outside the box, there are a few free agents out there that I think can be realistic for us and within our price range.
-Pavel Kubina is a guy who is on the market and one I would like to see the Islanders add. He is big and puts up points, and is good at blocking shots too. He had a $5 million price tag in Toronto and Atlanta, but now understands that he won’t get the same amount on this contract. Atlanta is letting him walk away after exchanging offers, and Kubina explains that it has nothing to do with Atlanta but more that he is looking for a fair deal. If he considers fair 4-4.5 million, I would be all over this if I were Snow.
-Paul Martin is a guy I know many fans have their eye on. Despite his injuries last season, many teams know what they are getting in a guy like Martin. He likes being in the tri-state area, and both New York teams are said to have some interest. It is also believed that the devils are trying to keep Martin in the fold. I feel that his demands will ultimately be outside of what Snow considers sensible when all is said and done.
-Carlo Colaiacovo’s name has been thrown around a ton for many different teams. He has a decent size for a defenseman and plays with a little bit of an edge. Along with that comes a decent offensive game, but nothing to set the world on fire. He is more than capable at moving the puck though. This issue here is injuries. They have plagued him for a decent part of his career, much like Radek Martinek. As much as I like Colaiacovo’s game, I’m weary of adding him to the roster when Martinek is on it at this time. That is just too many possible unreliable defensemen. But he will be very affordable because of that.
-Zbynek Michalek could be one of the best defensemen you’ve never heard of. He has been very good for Phoenix the last couple of years, and was their top defensive defenseman. At 27, he would be a great guy to invest in long term and lock in at a decent price, while being a very good fit with Mark Streit on the top pairing. Unfortunately, most of the league has heard of him and took notice of him during the Coyotes rebirth this past season. There will be some fierce competition for him as he is no longer under the radar. One of the favorites is believed to be the Ottawa Senators, where Michalek’s brother Milan plays.
Those are the defensemen I would target right off the bat. Granted they may not be the best available, however they are very solid, top-4 defensemen who could skate on the Islanders top-pairing. Should they prove to be out of our price range or have other ideas in their mind, then there are some decent fall back options.
-Jordan Leopold is a very slick offensive defenseman. He doesn’t bring a ton to the table offensively and has had a bit of an up and down career. He can put up a decent amount of points though, and would fit the Islanders high octane system very well.
-Shaone Morissonn has not been talked about at all during the last couple of weeks, but he is out there. I noticed him only a couple of weeks ago and after running his name by a couple of fans on Islander Mania, the feeling was only luke-warm and generally indifferent. I suppose that fits in with Morissonn’s career. A few years back he was Washington’s answer to Mike Green’s defensive deficiencies on the fist pairing. Over the past few season’s however, he has seen his ice time drop by almost 5 minutes per game, and this past season he averaged about 15 minutes a game. He has his flaws, but would not be the worst option in the world for a physical defenseman.
-Andy Sutton hit his way into the hearts of many Islanders fans, and he could have that chance again. Ottawa is desperately trying to re-sign him with the certain departure of Anton Volchenkov, but he has stated a desire to come back to the Islanders.
So what about the forwards? At one point Snow did say he wanted to add someone with the potential to net about 20 goals. After Kovalchuk, there is a significant drop off in terms of scoring but there are some serviceable players that if put in the right positions could succeed here. He’s also stated a desire to add a little toughness, so I’ll include some players for that as well.
-Alex Frolov, for whatever reason, is a guy I’ve had a gut feeling about since the Islanders played the Kings a few months back. He had a lackluster contract year, and isn’t quite ready to flee to Russia just yet. He has proved that he can put up points in this league, and had done so fairly consistently. He could be ideal for the Islanders if they are looking for some cheap, short term alternative scoring.
-Matthew Lombardi is the apple of many fans’ eyes, and for good reason. He is very versatile as he can play all 3 forward positions and can even net 50-60 points. His defensive game isn’t the worst thing in the world, and he’s decent at face-offs if he has to take them. I personally don’t see the Islanders signing him given their confidence in Rob Schremp, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, but he is an option that is out there.
-Lee Stempniak is a solid 2-way player whose offensive game seems to be all or nothing. A deadline day trade that sent him to the Coyotes from the Toronto maple leafs seemed to rejuvenate him as he went on to score 14 goals in the last 18 regular season games, matching the total he had in 62 games with Toronto. He would be a solid addition and leader for this Islanders squad and can slot in on a few different lines when needed.
-Chris Higgins’ name has been tossed around, and it has been in connection with the Islanders. I’m not sure if that is because there is genuine interest there, or if it is just because he is from Smithtown. I’ll go with the later though, as I don’t think he is the type of player the Islanders will look to sign to a contract seeing as he has had a multitude of problems and doesn’t provide much if he doesn’t score anymore. If he is still out there in August, a training camp invite might be more reasonable.
-Eric Nystrom is another name that has been tossed around, this one for obvious reasons. However, he actually would be a useful player as he brings some size and aggressiveness to the lineup. There would obviously be a pride factor here as well. That’s not to say he doesn’t bust his butt no matter where he’s playing, but playing in his home town for the team he grew up watching and loving might have that effect on him. Regardless, he would be a good player to replace the Jon Sim/Tim Jackman void.
-Vinny Prospal rejuvenated his career with the Rangers this past season after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He and Snow are friends from their Flyers days, and Prospal proved that he can still be useful with skilled players around him. Tavares, Okposo and Moulson will benefit from his playmaking skills. The Islanders have had interest in Prospal in years past, too.
-Paul Kariya is a mystery thus far. Injuries seem to have finally caught up to him, but still had a respectable season for the St. Louis Blues last year with 18 goals and 25 assists. He could come over on a low risk, high reward deal and play the left side on one of the top two lines. It wouldn’t be the first time the Islanders tried something like that. However, something tells me Kariya stays in the Western Conference.
-Arron Asham’s name popped up in Strang’s Wednesday afternoon chat and Chris Botta followed that with quotes from Asham, saying he would love to return of the Islanders gave him a call. He said he’d love to stick up for the young players on the team and be a veteran leader since he himself is now older. He’s 32, and can still contribute in an agitator role. He did well with that the last few years for the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back, but I think that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will try and petition the front office to keep him.
Goaltending will be interesting to see, because I think the Islanders plan on going with Nathan Lawson at this point in time. I personally would rather them base it on which kind of defensemen they sign as you have to be careful with a guy like Dwayne Roloson at his current age. I wouldn’t mind if the Islanders went after guys who were sitting out for a while, similar to what they did with Marty Biron last season. There are only so many goalie spots in the NHL, so one or a couple of Chris Mason, Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Dan Ellis and Antero Nittymaki could be sitting around for some time. If they are still out there in a week or two or 5, it doesn’t hurt to call them up. But goaltending is not a priority at this time.
This list isn’t necessarily the players that I would target, but more so the players that I think the Islanders could go after based upon hearsay and what they are looking for. Snow maintains that he has no restrictions on spending money, but prefers to spend it wisely on player they identify as good deals as they did with Streit 2 years ago and Roloson and Moulson last season. In general, Snow has done a good job in free agency. With the team trying to make it back to the playoffs as the next step in the rebuild, they have to go after some of the player on this list at the very least, as well as cast some lines in the trade waters as there are going to be plenty of solid players on the block with not much required in return due to contract issues.
It should be a fun next few days/months, not only from an Islanders standpoint but for hockey fans in general!


No comments: