There was the Ilya Kovalchuk saga…correction…there IS the Ilya Kovalchuk saga which has only been magnified by his ridiculous contract with the New Jersey Devils and the player’s appeal to have it accepted. Isles fans should be happy that Garth Snow didn’t take this route. Could you imagine the criticism after DP’s 15-year deal if Snow was trying to sign a superstar who hasn’t won anything in the NHL to a 17-year contract? Yikes…
Alexander Frolov, who was on my Isles wish-list, has signed with the New York Rangers. Wonderful.
The defenceman I was looking at were taken early on in free agency. The Isles signed Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina instead. If you look at my blog over at The Checking Line, I take a look at the Islanders roster and where they stand as is. This doesn’t appear as a team pushing for the playoffs just yet.
That’s why I am hoping that Garth Snow still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The Isles GM added Zenon Konopka and Jeremy Yoblonski (AHL-call up) for toughness and P.A. Parenteau for young hope. Although they are good signings, not one of these players are going to push the Islanders into the playoff region on the NHL-standings page. A top-six forward is needed, and not much are left for the taking.
James Mirtle, a savvy and very intelligent hockey blogger, posted a piece yesterday at The Globe and Mail that updated who was left on the market, which is where I decided to base whom I hope the Isles have given a phone call.
They could take a chance in signing someone like Maxim Afinogenov, a speedy sniper who rejuvenated his play while in Atlanta, scoring 24 goals, 37 assists for 61 points in 82 games. With his set of legs, he could probably fit into Scott Gordon’s over-speed system quickly. He could also be a Russian mentor for Kirill Petrov if he were to make the team this year. He only made $800,000 last year, which means he probably would look for a raise, as he deserves one. It probably wouldn’t cost too much and the Isles have the cap room to make it happen.
If Max isn’t their guy, they could take a look at Lee Stempniak. The 27-year old forward posted career highs with 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points in 80 games after finishing the year with the Phoenix Coyotes. He played for $2.5 million last year and probably could be signed close to that mark. Stempniak may fit in smoothly with young guys like Bailey, Schremp, Tavares and Okposo. At his age he would have a valuable veteran presence while being young enough to continue to grow into his own as well.
The only other player that I could see the Islanders targeting would be Paul Kariya. There’s no reason to explain why a guy like Kariya could be a valuable asset to a young team; he’s made his way to the Stanley Cup, he knows how to score big goals and win crucial games and he’s been around the league for several years at the age of 35. But his production has dropped as his age increases. Last year he only found the back of the net 18 times while adding 25 helpers for 43 points in 75 games played. He also made $6 million dollars last year. That’s a lot of money for a guy who can’t rack up 50 points. It would be more than likely that he would have to sign for a cheaper price tag.
After Afinogenov, Stempniak and Kariya, the drop off is huge. The next in line would be Bill Guerin, whom I doubt the Isles would turn back too since they intend on moving forward instead of backward, and Brendan Morrison, who only put in 12 goals and 42 points with the Washington Capitals last year at the age of 34. If I had to choose one of these two, I’d go with Morrison, but the Isles are pretty tight at center.
If Snow can’t lure one of these forwards, or doesn’t have an interest, he can possibly explore the trade route. But that remains to be seen.
All I know is that Snow has to make a few more changes if he expects this team to finish in the top-8 and his options are decreasing with each day that passes.