Stefan Ridderwall may have one less suitor

As has been mentioned a few times around here, numerous reports have 2006 pick (6th round, 173) Stefan Ridderwall negotiating with the Islanders. It'd be fun to be a fly on the wall for these negotiations, as there are several variables in play -- one of which has apparently changed in the last few days.

Ridderwall is a free agent in Sweden coming off a strong year, so in theory he has leverage to demand more money or more consideration (extra soft bath robes, perhaps) to hop the ocean -- if indeed they'd want him to come over instead of continue playing in Europe on loan. There is also the (unconfirmed) specter of the Islanders losing exclusive rights to Ridderwall if he doesn't sign by June 15 (or is it June 1? Or not at all?). (NOTE: I've not yet confirmed that, and I've seen conflicting statements about it, as the NHL has not bothered to been good about communicating the recent transfer agreements' implications to fans. See this post at Copper & Blue as it relates to 2008 draft picks, who could re-enter the draft this summer.)

Regardless, the Islanders have decent "futures" depth at the pro level with Mikko Koskinen in the fold, Kevin Poulin ready to jump from juniors, and even Anders Nilsson incubating on Ridderwall's side of the pond: It'd be great to get Ridderwall over here, but it's not essential. A crowded goalie pipeline is a nice problem to have, but not if it forces an import to think he'd rather be back in Europe. Signing him and allowing him to continue in Europe might be ideal.

Yet as each week passes Ridderwall risks reducing his pool of native bidders. Swedish club Timrå coveted Ridderwall for the past month, but yesterday it was reported they've pulled out because they "can't wait any longer" and their "patience is running low." [That article is Swedish, but have fun with Google Translate] Of course, that statement itself could be a negotiating tactic from Timrå.

Meanwhile, another possible bit of leverage for Ridderwall is the club he had a good year with, Djurgården, could still re-sign him. That was originally thought unlikely, but some recent reports in Sweden suggest it's still possible, and the goalie who started ahead of him with Djurgården, Gustav Wesslau, has fled for NHL Columbus.

European clubs get their house in order well before the NHL free agency period, which is one reason the recent Sweden and Finland transfer agreements with the NHL are a big deal: They want to know who's heading to the New World so they can plan accordingly. With a transfer deadline now codified for recent NHL picks, that helps them solidify their rosters, which means the clock is ticking for Ridderwall, too.

Managing the Goalie Shuffle

As we saw last season when Bridgeport began the season with three goalies, finding slots for pro goaltenders and developing them at the same time is a tricky task -- and unpredictable at that: Martin Biron's late summer availability for cheap allowed the Islanders to bump Scott Munroe (now a UFA) down a notch on the chart, and it was only Koskinen's hip injury two starts into the season that prevented a year-long Bridgeport three-way with Munroe and Nathan Lawson (also a UFA according to CapGeek). Hell, one reason to draft European goalies is so you have another natural pro spot where they can develop.

So the wild card on the Islanders side is: What does Garth Snow see for 2010-11? His public statements carry the usual "we expect Rick DiPietro to be healthy" talking points. If you took that at face value, then the Islanders have Dwayne Roloson and DP in the NHL, with Mikko and a goalie to be named in Bridgeport. But do any fans or goalie prospects take that at face value? it's hard to believe Snow is betting too much on DP's health, so he'll either sign another NHL-capable free agent or consider Mikko the first-callup backup plan -- a risk in itself, considering Mikko spent most of the year recovering from hip surgery.

Lots of tactical strategy in play here, so it will be fun to see how it plays out. If you follow the Euro leagues or you're one of our Swedish lurkers, do toss in your own two cents.

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