March 30, 2013

Visnovsky Returns with Two Year Pact

All we were saying was give us a chance.

Lubomir Visnovsky finally did that in the middle of February, reporting to the Isles after a 10 game absence due to either his son's illness or his reluctance to play for the team, whichever you prefer to believe.

Visnovsky will return for 2 more years. Photo by C. Hessel
But none of that even matters anymore as Visnovsky has signed a new deal with the team, a two-year pact worth a total of $9.5 million. The Islanders will have $4.75 million count against the cap in each of the next two seasons.

The real kicker: the contract has a no movement clause. After all the drama this season, Visnovsky's agent Neil Sheehy took to Twitter after the deal was signed to reiterate what he had been saying all along. "Lubo never had issue with NYI as media continually and falsely reports and signed 'No-Move' contract," he says, making us start to think more and more about the motivations of Visnovsky earlier this season, but the alleged motivations behind Visnovsky's antics were no secret around the league. So for him to want a NMC in his contract speaks volumes and should open some eyes around the league.

I think a little of both played into his early season decision, but just like Evgeni Nabokov he came here and enjoyed playing with this team so much, and seeing guys like John Tavares who's work ethic is among the best in the league made him want to help more. When you see Tavares as an outsider, listen to his quotes and see how methodical he is in practice among other things, you realize that this is a guy you want to see do good things. It makes a statement to others, the kind where they say "I need to help him reach his goal."

But as I said, all bad vibes are now in the past.

Was this a bit of an overpayment for this player? Perhaps a little bit, but you can't argue with the results, and clearly Visnovsky's arrival and subsequent strong play has helped ease many concerns on Mark Streit shouldering the load too much, particularly on the powerplay. Over the last month or so, there has been an improvement in Streit's play and some of this can be attributed to there being another very capable offensive defenseman on the blueline. The Islanders have missed a shot from the blueline like Visnovsky's for many years and quite frankly, needed a contract like this to keep what they had. There aren't going to be many options on the open market as far as replacing these guys, so to re-sign them makes all the sense in the world.

The defense of course is not what you'd hope for from a defenseman, but that's not Visnovsky's game. He's pure offense and that what you're paying for. There's been multiple times where you've seen him control a puck in a tight spot or elude forechecking forwards, something that not many other players on the roster are able to do. That is very valuable to a team playing the style the Isles have this season.

This team could really use a solid banger on the blueline right now. There might be some guys available out there who can provide this if they so choose.

What's unclear right now is if Visnovsky will replace Streit, or if the Isles will bring him back too. Streit and the Isles have been talking about an extension for quite some time, and there is mutual interest there. Streit wants no part of being moved at the deadline. If the Islanders stick where they are though, they'll be hard pressed to deal him extension or no extension.

The next few games could seal the fate of the other pending UFA players, but given the recent play by rival clubs the Islanders have a chance to perhaps do something special over these next few days. They'll take this good news into Saturday afternoon's tilt with the Penguins, currently on a 14-game winning streak.

- Chris

New NYI FYI Saturday: Due to Sunday being a holiday, Sean and I will be on the air this morning at 12 noon at our usual uStream home. Be sure to tune in live before the Isles game as we discuss the last couple of games, and news as we head up to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.

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