The Islanders Needs, Depth Chart at 12:00, July 1, 2010

"Seriously Chuck -- may I call you Chuck? -- stop asking me about Entourage and tell me you're opening the vault for the A-Train."

Garth Snow watchers* know he doesn't need to act fast on July 1 to fill out his roster. After the initial big-spender frenzy dies, there are always bargains. Nobody puts Snowy in a corner.

*Query: Could Snow be a Russian spy? He has been fond of Russians lately, and he did convince a Chinese businessman to pay a Russian hockey player many millions to leave. Just sayin'.

Just because Snow doesn't have to rush doesn't mean we can't play the role of impatient, coffee-mainlining, free agent-hungry fan on this, the most glorious non-hockey playing week on the Gregorian calendar. (Say what you will about the tenets of Roman Catholicism, Dude, but at least it led to a tidy calendar. Not every man has the means to make 10 days disappear -- and as a man I have to admire that Feb. 14 was one of them.)

So without repeating the needs/wants post from yesterday, here is a more graphic look (ooh! tables!) at how the Islanders depth chart stands at this moment on the eve of the silly season. Plus, I just had to add a little more on which targets {cough:Martin} would make perfect round pegs for those round holes on the blueline:

Forwards

Moulson* Tavares Okposo
Bailey*** Comeau
Weight** Nielsen Hunter
Schremp

*Moulson is an RFA, but he'll sign. **Weight is an UFA, but he will, too. ***Yeah, maybe Bailey is a LW. And Comeau. Heck, maybe Tavares is, too. You get the idea: There are still holes at forward.

Candidates for promotion/regular work include: Left wings Matt Martin, Jesse Joensuu and Trevor Gillies. People are going to suggest Nino Niederreiter, too.

Dream candidates for replacements: Manny Malhotra at center for faceoff and defensive ability (Yes, that means the logjam/Bailey shift remains at center). Alexander Frolov (for the gaping hole at left wing, but he's a KHL or big-money risk). Not dreamy exactly, but for size and/or brutality: Raffi Torres. Eric Nystrom. Arron Asham [update: Via Botta, Asham is on the job hunt.]

Candidates if you desire diminishing returns: Alex Tanguay, Paul Kariya. Pavol Demitra, Lee Stempniak, Owen Nolan, Bill Guerin (remember?), John Madden, Christopher Higgins. In other words, run, run far away -- unless you believe they can convert their engines to run on used cooking oil, with the byproduct delivered to Kate Murray's office.

"Wait, Don't Go" Candidates: Richard Park and Jon Sim are UFAs.

Bottom Line: There just isn't a whole lot out there on the market at forward. Have to figure Matt Martin or A Finn Named Jesse initially makes the team, with Gillies as a spot enforcer. The question of whether Nino is rushed earns a spot through sheer Swiss ingenuity is one the Isles simply can't answer in July, so they need to insure against it.

 

Defense

Hillen Streit
MacDonald Martinek
Kohn Gervais
Reese

Caveats: Martinek is a perennial injury risk, Gervais should really be a third-pair guy at best, and Kohn and Reese are not yet (ever?) NHL defensemen. Reese impressed me, but I wouldn't make any decisions based on that small sample; maybe he claims the #7 spot. Brendan Witt still has a year on his contract, though he was demoted to the AHL last year and, to my knowledge, has not located a youth-restoring miracle drug.

Candidates for promotion/regular work include: No one right off the bat. But maybe Dylan Reese or Dustin Kohn or Travis Hamonic or (gasp) Calvin de Haan will buck for promotions in camp. (Obviously I'm hoping the Isles add the kind of NHL bodies that make that impossible.) Mark Katic was doing well in the "A" before injuries last year. Probably don't want to mention Witt here. I could still picture Freddy Meyer getting a call if needed.

Dream candidates for replacements:

Paul Martin 6'1", 201, age 29, shoots left
Anton Volchenkov 6'1", 226, age 28, shoots left
Zbynek Michalek 6'2", 210, age 27, shoots right
Pavel Kubina 6'4", 250, age 33, shoots right
Dan Hamhuis 6'1", 209, age 27, shoots left
Kurtis Foster 6'5", 223, age 28, shoots right

(Not that weight and handedness are the determining factors here, but they help you look at the depth chart.)

Candidates if you desire diminishing returns: Sergei Gonchar, Andy Sutton. Willie Mitchell. Joe Corvo. Nick Boyton. Carlo Calaiacovo. Jay McKee (i.e. Witt: Redux). Derek Morris (If any of you mention Garnet Exelby you will be banned on sight.)

Bottom Line: As I've pleaded ad nauseum the Islanders have the money to wow one of those bigger candidates, and I think they have the need. I'm expecting that kind of move in an "I'm a customer and I demand satisfaction!" kind of way, though I could see Snow having a couple of targets who don't pan out, then waiting to see if any fall to the aftermarket. If the bidding hits $5 million per or 4+ years though, that's when I'll start to get uncomfortable. This is why it's easy to be a fan, and hard (but fun) to be a GM.

I don't want anyone from that second group of D (yes, even Sutton), but the need is there to upgrade, and sometimes you don't get your man and have to settle for Plan C. On the market as a whole, count on at least one guy to get a silly contract ($5.5+ or 5+ years), and count on at least one guy to sign for what looks like a much better price than the rest. Sometimes this happens, and the reasons are beyond anyone's control other than the GM who landed him.

This time of year is always fun, but it could be even more fun this year since so many teams are nudging the cap, and so many teams are considering buyouts or salary dumps. For an overview of the kind of cap space each team has, Birdwatchers Anonymous has a nice list that factors in qualifying offers/minimum salaries to fill a 22-man roster. Keep in mind though that cap space does not equal money to spend. The Islanders and Blues, to take just two examples who regularly toy with my heart on my radar, operate on a budget well below the cap.

 

Goalies

Yeah, there are so many masked headcases out there, we'll just deal with that later in the summer, when Islesblogger texts me on the beach that the Isles have signed this year's Marty Biron.

Sorry if this post is repetitive, but some people were asking about the depth chart, so i thought it worth a look. Share your feedback on this in comments here or in the on-going discussions in the previous free agency overview and potpourri threads. Late morning on Thursday, we'll post a new open-thread -- updated as signings come in -- for free agency banter as the starting gun fires at noon EDT. Stay thirsty, my friends. For defensemen.

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