NY ISLANDERS FREE AGENCY: Reality Bites, Or Does It?

Fans seemed to think somehow Garth & Isles went into freefall yesterday. Not quite.

 

The warning signs were there even before Ehrhoff’s rights were traded to the Islanders. Then the Capitals re-signed Brooks Laich for a whopping 6-year, $27 million deal. Buffalo got Ehrhoff later for 10 years. 10 years, folks.

Then others resigned before free agency even started. Despite words of being aggressive, many of the those who would have been a top 6 forward or a top 3 defenseman were gone within a mere two to three hour window into free agency. It was then that the Isles seemed to change gears.

Marty Reasoner, a target for their 4th line since the start, ended up their only signing. Though Isles fans have been upset that the Isles are parting ways with Konopka, Reasoner is considered by many who have followed him when he played for the Panthers, Oilers and Thrashers to be a clear upgrade. One or the issues cited with Konopka was a lack of well-roundedness in the two way game. Offensively and defensively, he just did not bring as much to the table as he did with a fist or two, or with faceoffs. Despite being called a leader in the lockerroom, something more glorified in the press and blogs than by the Isles themselves, Reasoner was brought in to improve that as well.

Reasoner is known for being a quintessential team player. Reasoner won Thrashers Players’ Player Award in 2009 – voted by teammate as “best exemplifies what being a team player is all about”. In 2010, Panthers Assistant GM Mike Santos, had this to say when trading for Reasoner in 2010 `We’re looking to put character players around our good young players. Reasoner is a guy with a lot of character .. is a very useful player. He can help our kids grow.”

A little fun fact: Reasoner was traded by St. Louis 10 years ago, on July 1, 2001, to Oilers as part of the package to get their captain Doug Weight.

 

Some fans and bloggers opinions on twitter to me as Reasoner went to Isles:

@ou812jay8: Reasoner was a fan favorite in ATL. Always hustles, never takes a shift off. Great on the PK. Good teammate. Good signing.

@randomhero79: we loved him on the Oil

@elfo1 (Thrashers blogger Chris Telford) I loved Reasoner, definitely an upgrade for Isles

@LitterBoxCats (SB Nation Panthers blogger Donny Rivette) Great guy; you won’t be disappointed.

 

So, more than just a scrap from the scrapheap, but a target to be a vet leader, team player, PK guy and 2-way force on the 4th line. Isles made a clear choice here for a character guy. The process to find that is just more than Garth looking at a list of players, but a group process to find the right guy that includes NHL player scout Ken Morrow, the internal staff and even players.

 

The biggest issue is fan expectations, which were fanned by Garth announcing that he would be as aggressive as last season. Big mistake, Garth. Guess this is what happens when trying to give fans and agents who read it some idea that they are willing to spend the $$$. And they have been.

For a while, he was aggressive, but when only a couple hours in those players landed quickly and at large contracts/years, that was over quick. The Islanders are a young team, and will need to keep the cap clear to hold onto those players as they develop. With a new CBA fight coming around the corner, many feel that there will be a cap size rollback. Those teams smashed to the cap or rapidly inflating it this UFA period with huge multi-year deals will be in a bad place when the cap size reduces.

Garth wanted to be aggressive, not stupid. And despite the majority of fans who are besides them self for the Isles not reeling in big fish, there are some applauding some pause and clear-headedness in what might turn into the worst UFA hangover in recent memory. These deals have been just nuts.

 

Michael Russo of Minnesota’s Star Tribune said it best:

“Christian Ehrhoff makes $1.3 million more than Sidney Crosby next year. These next labor talks should be a doozy”

 

TSN’s list (not including Brad Richards 9 year deal, making him the biggest fish)

DATE NAME POS FROM TO Total Years Avg/Yr
Jun 20 Lidstrom, Nicklas D Detroit Detroit $6.2M 1 $6.2M
Jun 23 Markov, Andrei D Montreal Montreal $17.25M 3 $5.75M
Jun 23 Bryzgalov, Ilya G Philadelphia Philadelphia $51M 9 $5.666666M
Jul 1 Wisniewski, James D Columbus Columbus $33M 6 $5.5M
Jun 27 Bieksa, Kevin D Vancouver Vancouver $23M 5 $4.6M
Jul 1 Fleischmann, Tomas LW Colorado Florida $18M 4 $4.5M
Jul 1 Leino, Ville LW Philadelphia Buffalo $27M 6 $4.5M
Jul 1 Cole, Erik RW Carolina Montreal $18M 4 $4.5M
Jun 28 Pitkanen, Joni D Carolina Carolina $13.5M 3 $4.5M
Jun 28 Laich, Brooks LW Washington Washington $27M 6 $4.5M
Jul 1 Jovanovski, Ed D Phoenix Florida $16.5M 4 $4.125M
Jun 30 Ehrhoff, Christian D Buffalo Buffalo $40M 10 $4M
Jun 24 Brewer, Eric D Tampa Bay Tampa Bay $15.4M 4 $3.85M
Jul 1 Ryder, Michael RW Boston Dallas $7M 2 $3.5M
Jul 1 Hamrlik, Roman D Montreal Washington $7M 2 $3.5M
Jul 1 Upshall, Scottie RW Columbus Florida $14M 4 $3.5M
Jun 25 Tanguay, Alex LW Calgary Calgary $17.5M 5 $3.5M
Jul 1 Jagr, Jaromir RW Philadelphia $3.3M 1 $3.3M
Jul 1 Hejda, Jan D Columbus Colorado $13M 4 $3.25M
Jun 30 Ericsson, Jonathan D Detroit Detroit $9.75M 3 $3.25M
Jul 1 Ward, Joel RW Nashville Washington $12M 4 $3M

 

Indeed.

So you might ask… Well why didn’t Garth sign someone anyway? Well who on the top 6 of forwards or top 3 dmen were of the character, team player, yet also could displace those already slated on the top 2 lines? Who has any track record more than just one season or some consistency?

 

Don’t agree? Garth somehow booted it? That they must do something to get to floor.

 

To those concerned about cap floor, I have said this on twitter several times now…

 

The Islanders are at 37 mill now, their RFA  signings to come and inevitable bottom 6 signing (Marty Reasoner) or two (trade?), you are there. Too much has been made without anyone bothering to count it out. Same thing happened last summer, where they were closer than many MSM, bloggers and fans said.

For the fans beating up themselves or Garth for not overpaying for what some consider “middling stiffs” here are two points to think on

1. What will those teams do if when next CBA most assuredly has a cap rollback?

2. Name a team who has done better at under the radar pickups like Streit, Moulson, Grabner and Paranteau in last 3 seasons?

 

So is it such a situation to sit there and panic? The issue is that unless they can get a top guy THEY TARGETED, they will not sit a kid or halt development to the top 3 lines. Comeau…upgradeable. So is Parenteau, who can easily shift to a 3rd line.

But what player was still there is to the Isles template and also willing to play for the Isles (non-contender). For those who shout about Florida and how they can get people to sign, they are apple to oranges. Why? The players who sign to Florida have a year round facility for training/skating year round in South Florida. They also overpaid for what many consider “middling stiffs”. Don’t compare, because I am unconvinced Florida got much better.

If you slate Nino for the 3rd line with Bailey and Comeau (or Hunter), the lines are this…

 

Moulson – Tavares – Parenteau

Okposo – Nielsen – Grabner

Comeau – Bailey – Niederreiter

Matt Martin – Reasoner – Hunter

Haley – Gillies

 

To those who bring up Petrov’s situation and the KHL, due to his contract and family situation, he is slated to be here in the 2012-2013 season. 2012-2013 might be the season de Haan sees fulltime and Strome comes up for a look. Kabanov, who signed his entry level will is not ready and requires more junior time (and size). 2012-2013 for him? Possible.

 

If there is a trade, as Garth implied in an exclusive… to the ISLANDERS own PR staff. Unbelievable, folks. Pretty soon, at this rate, they will write their own blogs or Garth can just do interviews into a mirror*

Anyway… per Garth: They will look to make a trade. As for when… don’t hold your breath. They will wait. After all, their top chip, Nabakov, needs to show stuff during camp.

 

BD

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* stole the mirror line from twitter from the excellent Kevin Schultz, of BarryMelroseRocks.com, who tweeted it to me

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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. 1 Timer says:

    When you said “Garth wanted to be aggressive, not stupid” you could of ended this article there. This FA class was good for the NHPA not the NHL. Wiz getting 5.5 to turnover the puck 3x a night? Varlamov worth a 1st rounder and 2 nd. Ehrhoff , Richards (who is not better than JT just has a resume) getting insane deals for there previous production. Garth work the phones get Yandle for fair market value no more.

  2. NYISLES22 says:

    BD,

    While I respect your opinion, I could not disagree more. Here is why.

    1- Snow HAS to get a REAL veteran presence to play with Tavares. Yea Parenteau is nice player, but he is NOT a 1st line player. Snow should have targeted either Cole or Simon Gagne to take SOME of the pressure off Tavares.

    2-Why MUST the Islanders hover around the cap floor? Of all the teams in the NHL…the Isles can afford to give out at least one contract to a player that although overpaid…will make them better.

    3-The whole Ehroff trade was a smoke screen. Snow had to know that he would not accept a BACK loaded deal. If he didn’t…well he is not doing his job as GM.

    4-Snow says he wants to make a trade to improve the team. Look at his trade history. Most of his deals have had no long term impact on the team. At least in a positive way. He traded for Wisniewski last year (Which was a good deal IMO), but instead of trying to resign him, he dumped him a month before the trade deadline. He got a decent goalie in Montoya last year for a song, but he is no more than a backup goalie on a good team. Excuse me for having little to no faith in Snow trading for an impact player. The day he makes a trade for an impact player is not an UFA or about to become one…my opinion will change.

    5-So he wants to wait until training camp to deal Nabokov? (Who wants NO part of this team). Why? By training camp most teams will already have their starting goalie. Unless a goalie gets hurt….holding onto Nabokov makes no sense. Unless of course he wants to start the season with him as our #1 goalie…which he has no intention of doing.

    6-Why should we rush Nino? We made that mistake with Bailey already.

    I do agree with you bout Florda…the money they threw at 2nd and 3rd tier players was insane. They should have just kept Vokun if they were going to spend that kind of dough.

    Bottom line…the Islanders did not improve themselves yet. Resigning key FA’s is nice…however that is just going to give you the status quo…which is a lottery pick. not a good way to take the next step.

    If Snow wants to impress me…let him make a deal for a guy like Semin…maybe then people will not view this team as a punchline in every NHL joke book.

    • James Craft says:

      NYISLES22,
      1 more year, we need to remain patient for 1 more year. As a fellow Islanders fan, I understand your frustration and I know you don’t want to hear it but this year’s Free Agent class is just not worth it. Erhoff was one of the few exceptions, he would have been a nice compliment to the defense but that contract he signed was ridiculous. Remember the CBA expires after next season and I would be willing to bet the ranch that these front/back loaded contracts are going to be abolished.
      I could be wrong, but, in my opinion I don’t think the Islanders are going to make any big dollar signings or trades for a big ticket player for one reason and one reason only, John Tavares. This is JT’s team, as it should be, and he will be the highest paid player on the team. As far as a playmate for JT goes let’s see what we got in Nino first. PA Parenteau is certainly not the answer. Parenteau is an AHL caliber player. Simon Gagne and/or Eric Cole wouldn’t be a good fit for the Islanders either, especially Eric Cole 4.5 million a year???? for 4 years!!!! Think the Oilers wished that they could have a do over when they traded Pitkanen for Cole?

      To answer your question about why the Islanders need to remain hovering around the Cap Floor I’ll give you 2 reasons:
      1. Wang needs to minimize payroll until the new arena comes into being.
      2. More importantly, the Islanders have a stable full of young thoroughbreds that eventually will need to be paid. Snow is doing a great job managing the payroll to this point. The last thing we want is to start purging the lineup due to bad contracts. Based on some of the signings over the last 2 days could you imagine what Blake Comeau could ask for if he doesn’t take a team first approach similar to Grabner ans Okposo.

      Be patient, let the next few weeks play out. Hopefully we get a YES vote on August 1st and hey you never know maybe we’ll find either Scott Hannon or Tomas Kaberle still sitting there unsigned. In regard to Nabokov, whether he plays or wants to play is irrelevant he’s still an asset.
      Finally, forget about Semin and his 6.2 million dollar contract.

  3. Steve says:

    Good read. Would still like to see an offer sheet to Doughty. He is 21 and already established as a franchise d-man. Adding him to this core would be unbelievable. I just don’t know why you are so down on Comeau. Not many teams have 3rd line wings that can score 25 goals. He is still young, coming in to his own and has a great shot.