Today is March 4th, and the New York Islanders currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. With a record of 31-29-7 for a total of 69 points, the Islanders are only five points of the final playoff spot. We also sit six points behind the New York Rangers, who have a record that is good enough for sixth in the Eastern Conference. With two games coming up this week versus our cross-town rivals, it would definitely be a great start to our playoff push to capture two wins and move within two points. However, this blog is not intended to discuss the New York Islanders making the playoffs this year, it is more geared to discussing July 1st and what I believe could be a crucial Free Agency for the entire organization on a business level and a playing level. In this blog I intend to express my opinions on what gaps the Islanders need to fill and with which players I believe they should fill them.
First and foremost, we desperately need a first-line center. Regardless of Ted Nolan and Garth Snow continuing to stand behind Mike Comrie, everyone with a brain can tell you that he is not a first line center at this point in his career. I am saying “at this point in his career,” because at 27 years of age, he still has room for even more development, and could very well mature into a top center. His numbers are phenomenal for a team that is just abysmal in the offensive zone and for a player who is truly a second-line center. In today’s NHL, a second-line center is expected to put up 60-70 points, 20-30 of those being goals. Mike Comrie is on pace for these numbers and this is why I think he needs to be placed as the second line center. As for the first line center, there are very few options in this upcoming free-agency period. I believe the best option for the New York Islanders would be to pursue Patrick Marleau through a trade. If there was ever a player in the NHL who needed a change of scenery, it is Patrick. I do realize his contract comes at a steep price, but it is only two years in length and the Islanders can easily absorb it into their cap space. I believe that he is capable of putting up 90 points a year as a first line center with first line minutes and power-play time. I believe he has fallen into the shadow of Joe Thornton and must be moved to a place where he can become the star he really is, otherwise continue to dwindle in mediocrity in San Jose. I also believe he would not come at too steep of a price, considering San Jose would love to remove him from their cap space so that they can re-sign Campbell this offseason for a high priced, long-term contract. The going price may be something in the field of Colliton, Gervais, and a 2nd Rd Pick 09, but then again that is just a prediction. I do feel Marleau would be a great fit with the Isles and might consider the trade if given the option. If we fail to land Marleau through a trade, Garth Snow can always explore other options, which include: Vaclav Prospal (I think he would give us two second-line centers as I do not believe he is first-line caliber), Brendan Morrison (again, I feel we would have two second-line centers who are extremely small in size), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (another small second-line center), Sergei Fedorov and Bobby Holik (both of whom are great players, but I think are too old and the Isles should focus on youth), and Daymond Langkow, who I believe could also be a tremendous asset if he were to move to wing. As you can see, our options are very limited and I personally feel acquiring Marleau through a trade would be an excellent idea. I feel here on Long Island, as the number one center and one of the top players on our roster, he could flourish tremendously.
Our second biggest need is a true scoring winger for the first line. We need someone who is going to be a clutch performer, someone who can really put up 40-50 goals per season and instill fear into other teams. I feel that Guerin is aging and has lost his touch, and that Fedotenko and Satan should both depart via free agency as they have just lacked an impact what-so-ever on the Island. Marian Hossa, perhaps the best free agent on the market this summer, would be a TREMENDOUS addition to the Islanders lineup. I know how hard it is to get free-agents to sign here on the Island, which is why I think we will need to over-pay for his services. He is coming into his prime and to come to the Island would probably command around $8 million per year for about 6 years. Once again, it is farfetched, but over-paying for a player of his caliber could help us in the long-run, especially with the development of our younger players. Plus, imagine the speed and scoring touch of a line that could be Hossa – Marleau – Tambellini. Tambellini could truly develop at a tremendous pace with these two on his line, and we could really see the development of him as a true scoring winger. Other options in this area include Kristian Huselius, who is struggling a little bit in Calgary but could be a nice addition to our second-line scoring, we could also gamble on Michael Ryder or Sergei Samsonov, hoping they regain their form as second-line scorers, and Pavol Demitra or Brian Rolston. There aren’t too many top-line winger options, mostly second line in this year’s free agency pool in my opinion. As I said before, I would love to see the New York Islanders pursue Daymond Langkow not as a center, but as a winger. With less defensive responsibilities as a winger, he could be lethal. Langkow could also fill in as a center if our top-line center (Marleau in my wishes) were to ever go down with an injury. These are just some basic options that Garth might be presented with when it comes to wingers this off-season.
Lastly, I believe we are in need of an offensive-defenseman as our power play quarterback. I do not believe that Bryan Berard will be back next year, as his defensive play has been sub-par and his offensive numbers simply do not make up for those defensive lapses. As much critique I am bound to take for this next opinion, I believe this player will help the Islanders. Bringing back Bryan McCabe would be a great idea for the New York Islanders. I believe that by leaving Toronto, Bryan would feel tremendously relieved of the pressure he faces day in and day out in the limelight that is Toronto. I feel that we could obtain McCabe for very little, considering the Maple Leafs would love to remove him from their salary. We might also get lucky enough where McCabe could be bought out and we could see the Isles in a position to sign him to a contract for a relatively decent price for a few years. I believe that he could put up around 20-22 minutes of ice time each game, especially power play time, and about 50 points each season. He is the type of offensive-defenseman we need.
To clarify once more, this is all just personal speculation. In a more realistic note, these are all dreams. I know the odds of the Islanders pulling off even one of these acquisitions is very slim, however, it is just how I feel the Islanders would benefit the most. We have a few great, young players from the AHL that would develop well with the addition of a few great players and role models. I envision seeing the team look something like this next year:
Line 1: Tambellini – Marleau – Hossa (Langkow)
Line 2: Okposo – Comrie – Guerin
Line 3: Comeau – Sillinger – Hunter
Line 4: Sim – Park – Bergenheim
Defense 1: Witt – Martinek
Defense 2: Campoli – McCabe
Defense 3: Sutton – Meyer
***Davison could be the extra man, and considering how often our defense is injured, he would see substantial playing time.
Dubielewicz (I believe he will be resigned as he can be counted on to come off the bench)
As always, please leave any comments or questions! I really do appreciate them and I love hearing what other people have to say. Were All Islanders!