Islanders Essential Q's III: Summer moves begin now

[Note: As we wait for the Islanders to resume post-All-Star break play, we're taking stock in where the club is and what needs to be done this month, at the draft, and in free agency. This is part III of a four-part series. Part I, on the trade deadline, is here. Part II, on the fate of Scott Gordon's "overspeed" system, is here. And here is Part IV, on the Lighthouse Project.]

With the Islanders likely losing $15 million of payroll through the departure of four high-priced unrestricted free agents either at the trade deadline or this summer, Garth Snow will be looking at a hefty void to fill, both for depth and cap minimum purposes.

UFAs include captain and leading goal scorer Bill Guerin ($4.5M), plus centers Doug Weight ($4.3M inc. potential bonuses), Mike Comrie ($4.0M) and Mike Sillinger ($2.2M cap hit).

In one sense, it's wildly premature to be thinking of the Islanders' offseason moves: We won't know what they'll need to do until we know what Snow has shed and/or added at the trade deadline.

But in another sense, looking toward the summer helps us think about Garth Snow's deadline decisions, in terms of who to re-sign and who to dump. Remember that last season's deadline was when Comrie was inked for one more year. And keep in mind that if Brendan Witt is a deadline casualty (he's signed through 2010-11), that's one more salary to replace. (The cap floor this year was $40.7 million, and presumably it won't increase by much if at all for next season.)

Below is a rough roster matrix to toy with, assuming two of those four Islanders forwards are either re-signed or replaced with similar salaries. This actually includes 25 players instead of an active NHL roster of 23. With all the injuries and roster uncertainties, this exercise demands wiggle room in many directions.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Bergenheim
0.925
Weight/FA
[4.5]
Guerin/FA
[4.0]
Sim
1.0
Bailey
1.75
Okposo
1.67
Tambellini
0.625
Nielsen
0.53
Hunter
2.0
Jackman
0.7
draft pick
[1.75]
Park
0.8
T. Smith
0.8
Comeau
0.735
3.25 9.33 9.205
Forward total: 21.785
Goalie Defense Defense
Dipietro
4.5
Witt
3.0
Streit
4.1
MacDonald/FA
[2.5]
Campoli
0.675
Martinek
1.4
Danis/FA
[0.5]
Sutton
3.5
Gervais
0.8
Meyer
0.6
Hillen
0.9
7.5 7.775 7.2
Def/Goal total: 22.475
Total payroll:

44.26

Players in red are UFAs who need to be re-signed or replaced (Guerin's salary slot has been nudged down; Weight's nudged up, but together they're rougly a wash). Comrie and Sillinger, for this exercise, are gone, but Comrie could just as easily fill one of the Weight/Guerin slots.) Players in green are RFAs likely to be re-signed with modest raises. The players in blue are, of course, already signed through next season. All figures (or base figures I nudged up for RFA raises) are from nhlnumbers.com.

I also included $1.75M for a top-four "draft pick" at forward who presumably would make Josh Bailey money and be with the team for next season. (Hey, if the Isles deemed Bailey ready, we can only assume Tava-- ... never mind.) And of course Nate Thompson and Joe Callahan (neither listed) are also RFAs; Andy Hilbert (not listed) is a UFA who could draw a sizable raise over his $700k either from the Islanders or another club. Whether those guys are re-signed or replaced, their minimal salaries will figure into this equation, too.

For the big UFAs, possible replacements run the gamut from Mike Komisarek (we hope) to Jay Bouwmeester (we dream -- but just imagine a 1-2 of Jay-Bo and Streit to build on...); Tim Connolly (a return?) to Marian Hossa (silly dream). Whether from the list linked above or a strange scenario of re-signing all the Isles' current UFAs, Snow has to make up that salary somehow to reach the cap floor. One area could be a sizable raise for UFA Joey MacDonald -- or else a considerable salary slot put toward his replacement, given Rick DiPietro's uncertain health.

Please let me know if you see any math/roster errors or any assumptions you disagree with. The point of this is just to be a thought-starter and source for mulling over what Snow faces both at the deadline and in the summer.

Add feedback in the comments -- or better yet, if you have an elaborate theory for what Snow should do, create your own FanPost on the right margin. (After all, the purpose of this site and SBN tools in general is not to be one fan's pulpit - but rather a pulpit for any Islanders fan obsessed enough to wonder about this stuff. I don't shower much.) On that note, if you haven't taken the DiPietro deal v. Yashin deal poll in the right margin, weigh in. Yashin was initially the clear "winner," but DP has started to catch up.

Burning Questions:

  • Who can Snow re-sign or lure to Long Island for a real commitment (like Streit) to meet the floor without having to overpay mid-level free agents (like Comrie) again?
  • What proven goaltender can Snow attract who would carry the load if DiPietro isn't ready but who could also handle the politics of playing time should DiPietro return and feel entitled to the job?
  • For continuity, veteran leadership, and a head-start on the cap floor, which UFA veteran(s) should Snow try to re-sign by the deadline?

Thoughts? Let 'em rip.

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