June 28, 2011

Free Agent News: Isles Not Qualifying Hillen

Monday was the deadline for NHL teams to extend qualifying offers to their RFA's or risk losing them on the open market when it opens on Friday.

While there were a number of surprises that were not extended offers around the league, Isles fans had one that surprised them in Jack Hillen.
Hillen will look for new work. Photo by C. Hessel
Starting out the year as the odd man out, Hillen had a nice finish to the season, ending up with four goals and 22 points with 137 blocked shots. The last couple of months seemed to be the first time he had gotten the confidence back that he had prior to taking the shot in the face from Alex Ovechkin a couple of seasons ago.

It appears that a lot of fans are upset about the news of Hillen testing the market, and that is understandable. Some are going with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage, but for the Islanders case it is broken. Very broken. They finished in the bottom five in goals against.

Hillen is a quick, solid puck moving defenseman who can get knocked off the puck at times, leading to a loss in possession and a gain in momentum for the other team. The Islanders seem to realize they need to add some more size to the blueline and the exits of Hillen along with Bruno Gervais allow them to try and go down that path. Hillen likely isn't in line to take a 2-way deal as a depth defenseman now for the Isles and will try his luck on the open market and look for a one way.

A contending team may not be willing to give him an NHL spot, but if those teams came calling Hillen would definitely jump for a NHL/AHL deal for a team like that. On this team, it was evident that he was going to be depth once again. The Islanders already have Ty Wishart, who they did qualify, as the go to guy as the 7th man, and Dylan Reese is being kept for his AHL experience and some leadership in Bridgeport.

It remains to be seen if the Isles agree with the consensus in that they need to add one solid top-four guy this offseason, but this move adds some fuel to that argument.

OTHER RFA NEWS: After failing to offer a qualifier to Tomas Marcinko, the Isles agreed to a one year, 2-way deal with the big center. Marcinko doesn't look like he'll become much of an NHL player, but has been a solid defensive forward down in Bridgeport and will continue to provide that this season.

Defenseman Dustin Kohn, a 2nd round pick in 2004 has likely seen his last days in the organization. Kohn was not offered a qualifier and will try to latch on with a team starting on Friday.

Gervais signed a new deal with the Lightning, getting a one way deal at $550K. That's a bit of a pay cut for him, but it's worth it on the one-way deal to try and re-establish himself and get his confidence back up. Good luck to him.

Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Micheal Haley and Jesse Joensuu also received offers from the team.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE CONFUSED: A qualifying offer is extended to a player so a team cannot lose their rights. A player doesn't have to accept it until later in the summer, but it gives teams the ability to match any offer sheets that come the players way.

Often times players will not be given QO's and come to terms with their teams anyway (like the Isles did with Marcinko and the Penguins will likely do with Tyler Kennedy).

A QO gives a player a 10% raise if they made less than $660K in the previous season or 5% if they made up to $1 million.

More can be found here.

If you missed our live show Sunday, you can find the recording here or download the podcast of it or previous shows here.



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