January 13, 2013

Isles Sign Radek Martinek; Waiting on Lubo; Public Viewing at Camp; New Podcast

The NHL and NHLPA finally signed their Memorandum of Understanding late Saturday night, officially ending the lockout. For those keeping score at home, the entire thing lasted for 119 days. Now we're on to bigger and better things - for at least the next eight years.

With the legal stuff out of the way, teams were able to make transactions once again shortly after midnight. The Islanders got into the fray as well.

Aside from the typical house keeping items of officially filing paper work to bring guys like Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart and some members of the Sound Tigers up to camp, the Islanders announced that they brought back an old friend. The team signed defenseman Radek Martinek to a 1-year contract.

Radek Martinek in 2011. Photo by C. Hessel
The deal will pay Martinek $600K and another $150K in a games played bonus should he hit that magic number. The best thing about new contracts under the CBA? Bonus money no longer can count against a teams cap number, so the cap hit is $600K.

For the Islanders, bringing in another veteran defenseman seemed quite obvious. But in reading reactions, Isles country is pretty split on the signing. Even Sean and I disagreed on the move during Sunday morning's show.

After a summer in which they acquired Lubomir Visnovsky and signed Matt Carkner, there were rumblings that the team was still looking for a 3rd defenseman, a veteran depth guy who they could find on the cheap. That would be a perfect role for Martinek to fill at this stage of his career.

Many fear that Martinek coming in means that he's the replacement for Visnovsky if he's a no-show. Personally, I think Martinek would have been here regardless. He's been skating here on Long Island, where he maintains his residence, since early in the summer.

Going into the season many had a prospect penciled in for the last spot on defense, with the favorites being Reinhart, Aaron Ness and Matt Donovan. But Donovan has looked raw in Bridgeport at times this season, and his absence on the training camp roster tells you the Islanders feel so too. Ness will be in camp, and could very well earn a 6/7 defensive spot to start off as well (update: hard to do that when he is NOT in camp. Stick tap to Jesse for pointing this out in the comments), but he too would probably benefit from more regular shifts in the AHL. Reinhart still has a lot of growing to do of his own in the WHL, and both Garth Snow and Jack Capuano have acknowledged as much, leaving many to believe he'll get his look in camp and be sent back.

The ideal options for this open 'kid' spot are Jon Landry and Ty Wishart, both who aren't really considered prospects at this juncture. However, it should be noted that Wishart has been leading the Sound Tigers defense this year more often than not (especially after Travis Hamonic went down in early December due to injury) and that Bridgeport Head Coach Scott Pellerin speaks very highly of the tall blueliner. So as a spare part it doesn't seem practical either. At 29, Landry seems like a logical fit to start up as the spare defenseman.

Having Visnovsky or a comparable defenseman in the top 4, and Martinek as the 5/6 would go a long way into making this team a playoff threat. The Islanders have some work to do on the blue line if they are to be taken seriously, and with health always a concern and even more so in a short year, you want to prolong having to turn to inexperienced guys.

Naturally, the injury bug is a concern with Martinek. After playing 61 games with the Islanders in 2010-11, Martinek fell back into his bad luck last season in Columbus, only suiting up for the teams first seven games. If he's playing 23+ minutes a night this season, the Islanders may be in trouble sooner rather than later. One can't help but wonder how long he would hold up given the history and age.

Which brings us to our next topic...

Visnovsky has until 10 AM: Bob McKenzie reported that Visnovsky has until 10 AM Monday morning to report to camp for the Islanders, or be suspended by the team for failing to report and breaching his contract.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who spoke at various points the past week about his wish to stay in the KHL this season, finally admitted he would be coming back on Tuesday. The Devils are OK with this and do not plan to punish him. Pavel Datsyuk, who could join the KHL in two seasons when his deal with the Detroit Red Wings expires, hopped on a plane back to the States tonight.

KHL president Alexander Medvedev, despite the statements from Vladimir Putin last week claiming Russia would assist in retaining those who wished to remain, says that all players and KHL teams have been told they should honor the transfer agreement. After all, they want complete cooperation when it comes to NHL players participating in the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014. This could be why Datsyuk and Kovalchuk are returning.

If Visnovsky refuses to show up to Long Island, then it's quite simple. The KHL will suspend him from playing for Slovan, and the Islanders will suspend him until he reports and will likely toll his contract to next season as they did with Evgeni Nabokov two years ago. In a strange twist, Nabokov came to camp and by the end of the season earned himself the #1 goalie spot and a contract extension.

And if Visnovsky is serious about the family aspect and wanting to remain at home? He can do so, but not play hockey. He could announce his retirement, and must remain out of action for one calendar year, meaning he would cost himself half of next year in the KHL, too.

So his choice is simple: show up and play 48 games in the NHL and be free to do whatever he wishes come July, or be done playing hockey for the foreseeable future and forfeit all money owed to him.

Islanders Announce Open Camp Dates, Free Blue and White Scrimmage: Leave it to me to be wrong.

On the radio show today, I mentioned that it was disappointing with all these teams announcing practices open to the public after an extended lockout that the Islanders appeared set to do no such thing.

Well, they proved me wrong and I'm glad they did.

Fans who wish to now have the ability to attend training camp on either Tuesday at 11 AM or Thursday at 10 AM, both at the Nassau Coliseum.

On Wednesday night, the Islanders will play the Blue and White scrimmage on Coliseum ice at 7 PM. And get this: it's completely free. Even the parking.

It's a nice gesture by a team who desperately needs to maintain some support from a fan base who has been beaten down in more ways than one a few times over the past two decades. Not to mention, some longtime supporters still feel bitter about the move to Brooklyn. The Islanders needed to do this not only for fan reparations but to garner the support they need for this season, as they try and harness some momentum for the big move.

Kudos to them for doing this right.

NYI FYI Podcast: It was a long time coming, but as mentioned earlier Sean and myself finally were able to get back on the air to discuss more important matters. It was a breath of fresh air if I've ever had one.

With excitement still in the air, regardless of who reports and doesn't report, we had a fun show this morning and plenty of participation. It was great to get back at it.

We discussed a little bit about the end of the lockout, what's gone on around the league in the opening day of camp and touched on some Isles news.

You can go to our NYI FYI on-demand page, directly to the NYI FYI PodBean site or wait for the show to be posted on iTunes.




jesse said...

Nice post. Just one thing though- Ness isn't at camp, he's down in Bridgeport still. He won't be making the team as of now it seems either, maybe an injury callup later in the season perhaps.

Chris Hessel said...


Thanks for the comment, you are correct. Must have been thinking of someone else there. Oops!