January 28, 2011

Moulson, Isles Agree to Three-Year Extension

As many of you know by now, I was one of the few who braved the elements on Wednesday night to sit in the press box at the Coliseum. The effort wasn't great, but we'll get to that later.

Moulson, left, and Isles fans got their wish. Photo by C. Hessel
While getting reactions from certain players in the locker room after, I was thinking of what I would try and write about during the all-star break. The item at the top of my list was Matt Moulson.

When people talk about leaders on the team, I'm not sure too many think about Moulson. I'll admit I was never one to consider him when it came to that.

In general, the media always gravitates towards Matt. I would normally take the time to speak with other players for more of a unique angle. But for this game, I went with the crowd over to Moulson's stall.

When asked about the effort, Moulson looked up from the ground, his long hair dripping from under his backwards hat: "It sucked."

Later on, he was asked about his future on Long Island, where he reiterated his stance on wanting to be an Islander beyond this year. Once we moved over to speak with Rick DiPietro, Moulson stayed seated at his stall, head in hands at times and glancing into space during others. I've seen every player take these losses personally. It comes as no surprise to me that Moulson was like that, but as I said this was the first time I took notice of him after a game.

I wondered what he was thinking about. You could tell things were going on in his head about the loss, his future and the team.

Now, Moulson and the fans have to wonder no more. Moulson got his new deal to remain with the Islanders as he and the team agreed to a three-year, $9.4 million extension.

I always maintained my stance during the show and in this space that Moulson and the Isles would agree to a two- or three-year pact. But as losses mounted and rumors got louder, I could see the writing on the wall: changes were going to be made (some already had been). Moulson could see that writing too. If no extension was agreed to soon, then he would be shopped an moved in February.

The Islanders got very good value for a guy who is well on his way to what will be his 2nd consecutive 30 goal season. Over the three years, Moulson's cap hit will be at $3.13 million. He and John Tavares have had some good chemistry throughout their time together, and the Isles can't afford to break that up. They are also best friends, and Moulson even told Katie Strang of Newsday that Tavares "wouldn't have to shed a tear now."

As me and many fans have said, depending on how they played out the Moulson negotiations could go a long way in proving that the team is willing to shell out some money to keep some of their own and give hope that maybe they can reel in a good player or two during the summer. We'll see what happens now, as history has a funny way of repeating itself, but this is certainly encouraging.

One more point: Moulson is represented by Don Meehan, the agent for Evgeni Nabokov. I had some folks ask questions on whether that situation would screw up negotiations with Moulson. I didn't think so at any point in time. We can clearly see from this deal that was not the case.

The agent's job is to work for the player. If Meehan was going to let that affect future dealings with the Isles, then he would have lost credibility as an agent since each player is supposed to be dealt with on an individual basis. Meehan obviously had conversations with Nabokov before he went public with the claim that his client would report to any team that claimed him in order to get his deal for next year. It's not his fault that Nabokov lied to him. So this was never going to be an issue in dealing with Moulson, Josh Bailey or any other Meehan clients.

Isles/Canes Thoughts: On a night like Wednesday, one can't help but wonder if the weather dictated the play of the team.

The Canes took it to the Isles all night. Photo by C. Hessel
The Islanders came out really flat to start the game as the Hurricanes dominated the first couple of minutes. I made the comment on Twitter that they could not allow the Canes that much time. As up and down as they have been this season, they are very skilled.

Those skilled players stole the show and helped in part to defeat the Isles.

The other part was that the effort was not there again. Perhaps that was due to many factors such as the weather which affected the crowd (4,900 and change) but that can't be an excuse. Less people showed up in December after Christmas to see them knock off a pretty good Montreal team.

In the post game, the interview that I found the most compelling was coach Jack Capuano. He mentioned that he felt some players were being "selfish." Those of us who were in the room looked around at each other.

The first guy who popped into my head was Rob Schremp. After going on a good stretch, he hasn't been playing as well and I notice him doing some things that would define selfish.

Lately, he has been pulling the "Jason Blake special." He'll get the puck on his stick, enter the zone, and then circle back to the blue line. Both defencemen will have their sticks raised waiting for a pass that never comes as Schremp will throw it towards the net himself.

Coincidentally, this has been going on since Schremp has gone on his cold streak, one that also cost him a game as a healthy scratch. Quite simply it could be a case of a young player trying to do too much amid loses and a personal cold streak which can easily be translated into selfish play.

Aside from Schremp I'm having a hard time figuring out who else could be included under that umbrella.

The coach said that when the team returns from the break, they will get right down to business. He hinted that if some recent trends don't go away, then changes will be made. Everything would be fair game - replacing with players inside the organization, outside the organization or line changes. He went as far as to mention he would have to sit down with Charles Wang and Garth Snow to determine changes if it go that far.

Clearly, the coach is unimpressed with certain players.

Who do you guys think he was targeting with these comments?


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