June 28, 2011

Islanders Acquire Rights to Christian Ehrhoff

For the longest time, fans have been hoping that this summer was the one where Garth Snow would begin to make significant moves to improve his hockey club. A funny thing happened on the way to that idea.

On a day when many of the top UFA targets were retained by their old teams, the Islanders made a statement and acquired the rights to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 4th round pick.

The move is a bold, low risk move and a perfect chance for the Islanders to try and take the next step that they need.

Does this become a familiar scene on the Island? Photo by C. Hessel
The Islanders were expected to scourer the free agent market for a forward, but over the last few weeks gave subtle hints that they were less than thrilled with their defense, which finished 27th in the NHL this past season in goals against. Bruno Gervais was traded to Tampa, while Jack Hillen and Radek Martinek have been cut loose and are free to sign wherever they like beginning Friday.

The Islanders now have the exclusive ability to negotiate with Ehrhoff over the next 72 hours and try to sell him on the idea of playing for the Islanders.

The sell is going to be a very tough one - make no mistake about it. This is a team that is banking on a 'Yes' vote on August 1st, which Ehrhoff will undoubtedly hear about from Snow, Charles Wang, Doug Weight, John Tavares, Michael Grabner and maybe even Mike Bossy. Make no mistake that those currently associated with the Islanders will come out in full force to bring Ehrhoff here.

Ehrhoff was offered a deal similar to the one Kevin Bieksa signed with the Canucks, which was a five year, $23 million front loaded deal worth $4.6 million per season. Both Bieksa and Ehrhoff reportedly were willing to take hometown discounts in order to stay with the Stanley Cup Finalists, but Ehrhoff decided he would take his chance at 27 to go for the gold in his prime.

Many feel that by leaving a contender to go for the money, he is not necessarily about winning immediately. If that's the case, then there is absolutely no reason to think the Islanders can't get him signed, sealed and delivered by July 1st. Then with Ehrhoff in the fold, this team automatically catapults itself into the conversation for the bottom part of the Eastern conference playoff race but not as a cup contending team just yet.

If it unravels and Ehrhoff decides this isn't for him, then it's nothing lost. The Islanders won't simply whimper and say "we tried." This move says anything but. If Ehrhoff doesn't come, then the Islanders will move right on to their next target.

Snow says he'll have a better indication Wednesday morning of where things are at with Ehrhoff, which indicates to me if something is to be consummated here, he wants it ASAP so they can hold their heads high going into Friday and point to Ehrhoff as an example of them being serious no matter what the future holds. If not, then like I said it's on to the next target be that via trade or free agency.

At the end of the day, this is a right move for a team that is in need of some excitement and buzz from around the league, and on the Island where they are trying to get their arena. The fun has just begun on this ride folks. Buckle your seat belts.



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