How much do the New York Islanders value the traditional "enforcer" role?
That's a question whose answer got another new wrinkle after the club announced today that they've signed Bridgeport Sound Tiger winger Brett Gallant to an NHL contract.
On the surface, it's a curious move: Gallant was doing fine in his role in the AHL, and the Isles have some roster moves looming with the return of Josh Bailey and resurrection of Lubomir Visnovsky. So it makes one wonder if Eric Boulton, signed in the offseason but predictably appearing in only four games at under four minutes each, is the next man off the Island.
Gallant is 24 and in his fourth pro season, so his deal is under the NHL's Entry Level Contract rules, but at his age it's only a one-year deal. The Connecticut Post's Sound Tigers beat writer Michael Fornabaio's immediate reaction: "Well-deserved."
In essence, this gives the Isles the option of calling him up should they want an enforcer and Boulton is either unavailable or deemed less worthy of minutes than Gallant.
(It doesn't mean Gallant is recalled right now, though the timing makes you think that they want to have that option in the bag.)
Boulton cleared waivers twice last year with New Jersey and had his final year bought out by the team, so if the Isles waived him he'd be unlikely to be claimed. But Gallant theoretically gives them more flexibility if they go a' roster shufflin'.
Gallant has zero points and 174 PIM in the AHL this season, but he's certainly popular with teammates and is a terror when fighting. Hockeyfights.com has him at 22 fights already this season, and you can watch most of them there.
Listed at just 6'0", he's not huge in stature, so he takes many heavier opponents by surprise.
Here's a recent one against Providence's Bobby Robins: