Here’s what’s going on:
- Earlier this week, the Islanders plucked Brent Thompson from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ bench, hiring him as assistant coach to Jack Capuano on the Island. Thompson is a welcome addition to the staff, having coached the Tigers to their first division championship in ten years last season. Last I had heard, the Isles were holding interviews for a new head coach for their AHL affiliate this week. Nothing further than that yet.
Well… tomorrow is it. July 1. That day otherwise known as Free Agent Frenzy. One of the biggest splashes made so far has been by a kid who was drafted four years ago. Justin Schultz, a right-shooting defenseman who played for the University of Wisconsin last year, has had teams buzzing about trying to get him after not signing with his draft team, Anaheim. At this point, it looks like there are five teams still in the running for him — and not one of them is the Islanders.
Is that okay? Sure, it is. As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t want to go all out for an as-of-yet unproven young player. After all, he hasn’t even played an NHL game yet, which makes me a little cool to all of the hype surrounding him. Besides, as far as correcting our current defensive woes is concerned, there are still a couple of guys who warrant attention in FA.
First, there’s Bryan Allen, formerly of the Hurricanes. He’s a bit older, but not THAT old at 32 (after all, we signed Mark Eaton at 33). You won’t get a lot of points out of Allen, but you will get some defensive responsibility (he was a -1 all last season, which is already a vast improvement). Plus, he’s BIG (6’5, 226 lbs). I can see him as a good solution for at least this coming season while the kids in Bridgeport continue their development.
There’s also Jason Garrison of the Panthers, who’s a little bit younger at 28 and has only three years’ NHL experience to Allen’s 10. He’s more offensively inclined (16 G, 17 A last year) and he got some playoff experience as well in 2011-12. If the Isles manage to sign him, I can see him manning the second PP unit with A-Mac, which would be nice. BD Gallof of CBS New York/WFAN says the Isles might have to offer him more money thanks to the semi-ridiculous price tags some FAs have already gotten, so there is a very good possibility that either we overpay a bit or we don’t get him at all. Considering we still haven’t hit the cap floor, I don’t think overpaying is that much of an issue just yet.
The Isles also have one of their own young defensemen, Dylan Reese, to consider. Reese is also a UFA, and based on what I saw of him this season, I think his play warrants an extension on the Island. He’s not a huge offensive defenseman, but he’s a smart player, responsible with the puck and he works hard. I think it’s important to lock him up as a depth signing.
There are other things that the Isles need to address in FA (such as the, uh, gaping hole left on the top line wing), which will certainly be a little more difficult to attain. Call me crazy, but I see the Isles trying more to shuffle around the roster in order to try and fill the void (Kyle Okposo is not PA Parenteau, but he did produce on the top line… which leaves a gap on the second-line wing, which doesn’t really alleviate the problem… okay, so there is a flaw in this logic). Brad Boyes and Alexei Ponikarovsky have been mentioned as options for the top line or top two lines. Looking at this list of top FAs, I have to say that could be it, considering everyone else at that position doesn’t seem likely to consider Long Island.
Overall, I think Garth Snow will try hard for a good deal tomorrow… it’s just a matter of who will bite and who will pass. For a better breakdown of potential targets, I do suggest checking out Gallof’s article linked above.
Until next time.