With all the hype circulating around the draft, many, like myself, almost forgot that free agency was looming just a few days later. The Islanders were heading into July 1st with one real major concern, and that was finding a suitable back-up goaltender for Rick DiPietro. They did just that with Dwayne Roloson.
At first I was unsure of how I felt with the signing. He's 39 years old and will be 40 by October. The deal is for two years with each year splitting a total salary of 5 Million dollars. Not a bad contract by any means. But let's look at this further.
For a guy at "Rolly the Goalie's" age, he still managed to play 68, 43, and 63 games in each of the past three seasons he respectively spent in Edmonton. His numbers aren't bad either, displaying about 2.75 GAA the first and third year of his tenure with Oil Country. Keep in mind he also was one of the main components in Edmonton's cup run a few years ago. His ability to stand on his head and steal games in the most crucial of times is what rewarded him with the three-year deal and solidifies him as a goalie that can handle the pressure.
There won't be too much pressure on him in Long Island, but with Rick's health always in question it is almost safe to say he will get a good chunk of playing time. However, Roloson should play at least 30 games even if Ricky remains healthy for the majority of the year. DP's status is pretty much what will determine the outcome of next season and the future of his playing career. He cannot afford to miss another season. He can't afford to miss half a season. He cannot afford to miss anything more than a few handful of games here and there. This guy has too many new body parts and already a handful of concussions and he's here for another decade and then some.
The fact that the Islanders drafted two goalies last week is an indication that management is aware of how serious this situation has become. Mikko Koskinen at times has been compared to Henrik Lundqvist. He's a goalie with size at 6'5 who caught a lot of attention as the year started winding down. Some say he'll be a solid back-up, while others think setting a ceiling at such a low level is absurd as they believe he has the potential to be a top-name starting NHL goaltender.
So then you go back to the Roloson signing. Koskinen is expected to start playing in the Islanders AHL Bridgeport affiliate this coming year. The 2010-2011 season rolls around and Dwayne is on the last year of his contract. By then we may have seen some significant progress in a kid like Koskinen that may warrant him a position as the back-up goalie to Rick DiPietro. He continues to develop his game as an NHL goaltender, and then the coaching staff can assess what they have. I am not suggesting that Ricky's job is in jeopardy, but his health is going to remain a major concern for the rest of his career and the Islanders need to have a plan set up in case something incredibly unfortunate occurs.
With all that being said, the Islanders were not very active on the market. They picked up a back-up goalie and signed a few AHL'ers to keep the Sound Tigers in shape.
One major vacancy is a scorer/play-maker for Tavares to play with as well as an enforcer. Chris Pronger has been traded to Phili. The Rangers just signed Donald Brashear. Pittsburgh still has Eric Godard. Teams in the Atlantic Division are toughening up, and the Islanders still are small and soft. Tim Jackman isn't afraid to throw his fists, but he is not the first player that comes to mind when you think of a heavyweight.
However, it seems that the Islanders are comfortable with keeping a tough guy in the minors such as Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz on a call-up basis. He is a great fighter and a lot of fun to watch when he drops his mitts, but he is still coming into his own as a player. But I won't get my hopes up. It seems that he will be our enforcer when needed and that Jackman will be the protector of John Tavares. Yet there's still plenty of time for something to happen between now and October, so anything is possible.
As I stated in my last blog, it would've been great to see Komisarek or the Sedin twins on the Island, but it was wishful thinking. Snow probably made them offers but didn't break his back on any ridiculous deal. And I have to say, I commend Snow for not doing that. Look at the Rangers. Their signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez got them nowhere. In fact, they just traded Gomez for Long Island's own Chris Higgins, but only to follow it up with an overpaid contract to Marian Gaborik. There's no denying that Gaborik is an elite NHL talent, but he's a band-aid. That's a long contract and ton of money for a guy who's constantly in the press-box.
The Islanders recent lack of activity is not surprising because it is what Snow said would probably happen. There's still the possibility that the Isles can shore up their defense with another offensive/defensive blue-liner or bring in someone to assist and/or protect Tavares, but bottom line, we shouldn't hold our breath.