On Jan. 1, 2012 I posted a Fan Post with a "2012 To Do List" for Garth Snow and the Islanders. I thought I'd do an update now that the year is half over to see where the Islanders stand. I wanted to do this before the July 1 free agency frenzy and the Rookie Camp which is going to be held next week instead of mid-July as it has been in the past. I had listed eight topics from Islander UFA; the trade deadline; ELC contracts; Islander RFA; the Draft; UFA; the Rookie Camp and Training Camp.
The one topic I excluded was the start of the season and the games in Oct through Dec. 2012. I think many of the questions I listed in the Training Camp section may still be unanswered come opening night and the roster on opening night may not be the same one as the roster on Jan 1, 2013. I could see a number of players starting the year in Bridgeport and then playing a significant role come the new year. I also left out the new CBA talks, since this is not in the Islanders hands, but should be the big story after the Free Agency period is over.
So how has Garth done so far?
1) Islander UFAs: Snow signed Frans Nielsen to a new 4 year 2.75 per contract. I think we may argue about term or annual salary here, but locking up Frans was a great move. The other UFA that was signed that I didn't mention was Nabokov. I think this was even a better move. Getting Nabokov signed to a one year deal answered a lot of questions about next year's goalie situation. It, along with Montoya's poor play down the stretch answered the UFA question about Montoya. It appears unlikely that he will return. I also mentioned Jurcina and Reese. Jurcina did not have a good year and does not appear to be coming back. However, there are indications that Snow is looking to bring back Reese for depth on defense. The main unknown here is still Parenteau. It seems he will be testing the free agent market come July 1 and I would think the likelhood of him coming back right now is less than 50/50. This would be a huge lose and his production will be difficult for the Isles to replace in the short term. Snow's Grade: B.
He got Frans sign which in the end I didn't think would be that difficult. I think Frans got more from Garth than he would have on the open market and don't think he be a #2 center on many other teams. Nabokov was the big deal here. That move will give Poulin and Nilsson more time to develop properly.
2) Trade deadline: I had mentioned Nabokov as a possible trade canidate here. I didn't think Nabokov would be interested in staying. This was great news. Garth didn't make any significant moves here, but just being able to get anything for Rolston and Mattau was great. He didn't trade Parenteau which I still believe, even if they lose him in UFA in the coming weeks was the right move. There's still a chance he resigns. I'd give Garth a B here too. Even though the Isles didn't get anything back that will help in the future, he didn't make a bad trade and sometimes the best trade is the one your didn't make.
3) ELC: Snow did get Brock Nelson signed which seemed likely. Nelson saw some limited action in Bridgeport at the end of the year and looks like he will get lots of ice time next season with the Sound Tigers. Snow did not get Lee to leave school and is now in jeopardy of losing the college stand out this time next year. Snow also did not convinence Petrov to leave mother Russia for the new world. I still think this was more of a family thing, than not wanted to come to North America or the Islanders. I have not given up hope that in two years that we could still see Petrov coming over. I mentioned Kichton and still think he'll be signed and in Bridgeport next year. Snow did sign Halmo, who may even see time with the big club on the 4th line. Snow's grade: C- (no Lee or Petrov).
4) RFA Islanders: The news here so far has not been good. The Isles have lost Rakhshani, Katic and DiBenedetto to Eurpoe. This may be more about smart agents getting their boaderline clients set up with nice European contracts before a possible lock out due to the CBA negotiations. The Isles did not lose any significant top line players here, but they do lose some of their depth. I thought Rakhshani and DiBo would be fighting it out for the last spot on the 4th line; and Katic may be that 7th D-man if they needed to use Reese in the starting six. It also could be an indication that the rebuild is working and lower ranked players can be replaced with players with a higher ceiling. It could also be an indication that Snow plans to give Strome, Niederrieter, de Haan and Donovan every opportunity to make the team this year.
The one RFA that hasn't been signed yet but probable will be in the next few weeks is Matt Martin. I would think this is more a matter of term. How many years should he be signed for? I don't think this will be a problem and don't see Martin going to Europe. One RFA is back and that is Joensuu. I like many thought we saw the last of Jesse. He had a good World Championship and it should be interesting to see him back in the NHL. He has a higher prospect ceiling than Rakhshani or DiBo and should be a nice fit on the third or 4th line. Snow's grade: B- (needs to get Martin under contract)
5) The Draft: I was on target with where I thought the Isles would pick, in the 4 to 7 range. I did think they would go with a Defenseman but didn't mention Reinhart. He moved up the draft list in the second half of the year and played well in the Junior playoffs. There were a number of Mock drafts at the end that did have the Isles taking him. I was surprised that the Isles didn't jump on Forsberg when he was still on the board and was really surprised that he fell all the way to #11. I think Washington got the steal of the draft here. Picking all defenseman was a real shock and rather strange, considering defenseman take much longer to develop; and several of the picks appear to be long term projects. I did like the picks of Pokka and Pelech but, time will tell. The main question here is how good will Reinhart be. Is he the next Shea Weber or Ty Wishart? Will he be ready to fight for a starting job this year or is he a year or two away? Snow's Grade: B.
Unless he was able to trade up and take Yakapov or Murray I don't think he could have done much better. The draft looked pretty weak once you got past pick 25 or so.
6) Rookie Camp: Wait this is out of order. Rookie camp will be held next week and not in mid to the end of July. Why? I have not idea. The white/blue game will be held at the Syosett Ice Works and not the NMVC. Why? I don't know. This seems rushed and I'm not sure if players just drafted this weekend will be attending but I assume they will. This will certainly make the summer feel longer. With the rookie camp in mid July there was that much less time between the rookie camp and training camp. Its going to be a long summer.
7) UFA: I think I should mention the trade for Visnovsky here. This was the perfect move. A top four (well at least former top 4 defenseman) and cap mule ($5.6 million cap hit and $3M salary). This may turn out to be the big move all summer and there are already rumors (see Islanders Point blank) that he may consider staying in Europe due to the CBA issues. Sounds like the Nabokov issue from last year. More of an opportunity for the Canadian and national US media to take shots at the Islanders and that players just don't want to come to LI. I don't think much will happen here. Maybe Snow can make a run at a veteran forward to help the bottom six or another experienced Defenseman but, I'm keeping my expectations very low.
8) Training Camp: Hopefully there will be one. Hopefully the CBA issues are resolved and we can be talking about whether Reinhart and Strome should be sent back to juniors and whether Neiderrieter needs a year in the AHL and if Donovan, deHaan or Ness should start the year in the NHL. We'll see.