January 6, 2011

Jurcina Extended for 1 Year

The Islanders announced Wednesday evening that they have signed defenseman Milan Jurcina to a one-year contract extension.

Jurcina, originally signed for just this season at $1 million, will get a $600K raise next season.

Jurcina has proved to be an excellent signing for what he provides. When brought in, everyone said that as a bottom pairing, 18 minute guy he can be good and that has been the case.

The feeling from many Isles fans is a good one. They realize the need for some size on the blue-line and apparently, the team does as well. Some feared that the addition of Ty Wishart to the organization meant that they were going to move Jurcina, but now we see that isn't the case.

Naturally, as is the case with anything in sports there will always be some detractors. I had a spirited discussion on our Facebook page with a fan about the move. He brings up Jurcina's lack of speed, lack of an offensive game and the fact that he doesn't use his big body. All are fair points, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Just prior to getting injured, I featured Jurcina in this space. Jurcina missed a lot of time, but is still tied for the team lead in hits among defensemen (58). Jurcina has used that big body to his advantage this season, and at 27 appears to have finally hit his stride and found his niche.

Jurcina is a mainstay on the PK, which is essentially what he has been his entire career. It has always been said that he has a big shot he rarely uses, and anyone who has watched the games this season will agree with that. We have seen glimpses of the shot, and we can count on one hand how many times it has been accurate. But that isn't why he was brought in. The Islanders wanted a big, youngish defenseman and that is why Jurcina is here. The salary he will get is on par with other solid defensemen who throw hits and play a lot on the PK.

The Islanders now have six defensemen under contract for next season. Radek Martinek is in his final season before UFA, while Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais are going to be RFA's. The latter to have been underwhelming this season, more so for Gervais. After showing glimpses two seasons ago that he can be a solid defenseman, he has really fallen off. It's very hard to find anyone out there who thinks he will be back. He will most likely be here all year however, seeing as he has no trade value.

Hillen is a guy I'm on the fence on when it comes to thinking about if he will return or not. I originally thought he would not, but now it seems unclear. He's still 24 and might have some untapped potential, but it is most likely not much more than what we see now. For a small, offensive guy he does block a lot of shots. That may be something the Isles will value, and the offense from the back end is something that is a glaring need.

We don't know what we have yet in Wishart, but I think it's a safe bet to assume the Isles would qualify him after the season for a longer look. They did trade the only stable goalie they had for him at this point in time, after all.

It's possible we might see the Isles try and ship someone under contract out, like Mark Eaton. His name has come up here and there in rumors. Who knows.

In the meantime, I'm happy with this deal for only the one year. They always say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and Jurcina has been the least of the Isles problems, and they played better with him than without him. We both were in the same camp as the majority of the fans asking to re-sign him, as we mentioned on the show this past week.

All in all, a good deal and I'm happy the Isles realize the need to retain the size they have on the blue-line.



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