It was pretty obvious heading into free agency that the Islanders needed a center to replace (and, ideally, improve on) Zenon Konopka, and the Christian Ehrhoff move betrayed their desire for a "top four" type of defenseman as well.
While July 1 featured league-wide insanity -- seems all those pre-July 1 lock-ups squeezed supply even further, bumping up the money for an ever-weaker market -- the Islanders actually came off well by landing Marty Reasoner, who is a legitimate upgrade over Konopka. (God love Konopka and all he gave to the franchise, but unless you really value frequent fighting, sandpaper and goal songs, it's very difficult to argue the team isn't better with Reasoner.)
The whole "top four" thing was not taken care of, and perhaps the reason Garth Snow tried to jump on Ehrhoff early is because he knew how slim the pickings were beyond the German, who himself isn't really worth what he was commanding. James Wisniewski (been there) signed for an absurd sum and term in Columbus. Ed Jovanovski is no longer a "top four" by my definition, and in any case the Panthers signed the 35-year-old to a likewise crazy sum.
I'm hoping neither of those options were even on the Islanders' radar this time. Regardless, late yesterday Snow made clear the most likely route to address further defense improvements is through trade:
Here's what he said of the defense through the Islanders official Twitter account:
"We do have a young group with a few veteran leaders on the blue line. We’ll look to add another defenseman...I don’t think it’s going to be through free agency, but we’ll see where that takes us.
We did it last summer with a trade for (James) Wisniewski and we’ll look along those lines."
Always, there is the question of depth if no such trade presents itself. But by letting both Radek Martinek and Jack Hillen walk, it seems like the Islanders are ready to go with what they have unless something much better than those two presents itself. The way summer goes, you never know when that kind of fruit might shake loose.
Here's what he told Newsday's Katie Strang:
Snow said he doesn't envision this weekend to be very busy, not particularly moved by this FA class. Also won't give out offer sheet. ...
Biggest priority for #Isles, Snow said, is top-4 defenseman. Said team has 10 forwards "pretty much set" heading into training camp.
I know so many fans get disappointed when July 1 passes by fairly quietly for their team, but frankly I can't put myself in that group. The biggest free agent "prize" did not even sign yesterday -- and the number of bidders virtually guarantees Brad Richards will sign a very long, very expensive contract that his new team will soon regret.
The numbers flying around Richards are just one of several crazy stories from Friday, though. I can count only a handful of useful players I'd want who went for prices I could stomach (Belanger, Handzus, Goc at $1.7 million per).
Tallon: Shakespeare Monkey?
Almost everyone else seems to be drunk, including Philadelphia which after clearing its cap congestion has decided to again buy now, ask questions later, and Buffalo, which while improving seems to be burning through its cap in nearly Rangers-like near-sightedness. (Ville Leino has a long way to go to earn that contract.) That also includes much of what Florida did (in addition to Jovo, there was Fleischmann for $18 million over four years; Sean Bergenheim at $2.75 million per for four years) -- behaved as if the cap will go infinitely upward under the next CBA. Maybe they know something I don't.
(As Derek Zona at Copper & Blue said: Dale Tallon must be the Shakespeare monkey. Put enough monkeys in a room making random trades and free agent signings, and one of them will eventually stumble into a Stanley Cup.)
Tallon certainly improved his team on the ice, but as with the Blackhawks it seemed to be without the use of a calculator. That's fine when you've already lucked into Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews...
You can tell GMs are understanding that goalies are mostly pretty close and mostly unpredictable when you see so many of them shuffle around the way they did yesterday. Then there's Colorado's Greg Sherman, who decided his lottery team's first-round pick next summer was worth gambling away for the oft-hurt, oft-average Semyon Varlamov. That trade nearly made me sick to my stomach, and it didn't even involve anyone or team I care about.
I would comment on more of yesterday's signings, but the sheer volume was overwhelming. Has such a weak class ever been attacked with such vigor? Here's the full list of free agent signings at nhl.com, though you'll have to dig deeper or head to CapGeek to get the details on each. You might also enjoy the "top 10 deals" at ESPN.com or the usual "winners" and "losers" post at Puck Daddy.
Meanwhile, we had our fun gawking at the financial bloodletting in the free agency open thread, while also saying goodbye to Jesse Joensuu, hello to Marty Reasoner, and looking forward to seeing you to Kirill Kabanov.
If you're spending this holiday weekend away, have a fun and safe one. We'll always leave the light* on for you.
*No way was I going to get all cheese-pun with you and say "the lighthouse."