Bless you, CC. - Joel Auerbach
Just as the Islanders turn up the heat in the standings, we enter the stretch where contracts for unrestricted free agents and college draft picks are on the radar.
So it wasn't nearly as smooth as hoped, but the Islanders pulled off a Florida sweep last night. And despite the spiritual blow of the blown 3-0 lead, there was something cool about having the checkers bust their tails to get that game winner.
Two points from Eric Hornick's Skinny:
- This was their first back-to-back regulation wins in Florida since opening the 2001-02 season with back-to-back wins in Peter Laviolette's first two games as Islander coach.
- The Isles move over NHL .500 in the second-half of an NHL season for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign when they were 23-22-8.
Agree with this sentiment from Newday's Arthur Staple:
Small tidbit from
#Isles room postgame: No music, serious faces. They know this wasn't one to celebrate over. Sign of maturity.
- Ken Reiter blanked Herhsey for 67 minutes last night. Then the Sound Tigers lost 1-0 in OT. Reiter has a .934 save percentage in four starts since being recalled from the ECHL, but no goal support. The Sound Tigers are six points out of the playoffs.
- Staple with a notebook on Kevin Poulin handling the backup role, and Colin McDonald getting his first one-way contract.
- McDonald on his extension at the official site: "I just think this is the right situation for me," McDonald said. "From everything the organization told me last summer as far as the opportunity I would get and what they expected from me, they’ve followed through with everything."
Contract Talks for UFAs ... then Collegians?
Check Newsday for Staple's Islanders Insider: He teased a few choice morsels on Twitter Saturday before the Panthers game, including plans for talks with pending unrestricted free agents Lubomir Visnovsky, Evgeni Nabokov, Brad Boyes and (as he reported last month) Mark Streit. Basically, if you're looking for a selloff, the Isles' first priority is to explore talks (or continue, in Streit's case) with all four. Interesting that Streit's talks are proceeding "slowly," though in all of these cases, the agent is going to go for what the agent wants. The team is going to go for what it feels comfortable doing.
There is, as expected with the NCAA season winding down, hopes to sign Notre Dame overager Anders Lee and Scott Mayfield after two years at Denver University. Lee's Fighting Irish are still alive, having won their best-of-three series with Bowling Green this weekend by winning the first two by one goal each.
Brenden Kichton: Drifting Away?
But the bombshell -- in relative prospect-hoarding terms -- was that Staple has heard Brenden Kichton rejected Isles contract offers and intends to re-enter the draft in June, feeling he can be higher than a fifth-round pick this time.
That's an interesting move if he follows through: On one hand, it opens up valuation from other teams. On the other, it really doesn't improve his contract position much, as his rights would still be held by one team -- and it's not like the NHL has salary slots for draft picks the way other sports do. (Ed.: There are other sports?)
He will be 21 for this June's draft, which means his ELC will still be a three-year deal when he signs, having been exposed in the draft three times.
Kichton, who leads WHL defensemen in scoring again and captains his team, was passed over in the draft the first time (2010) but drew an invite to Red Wings prospect camp. Then the Isles selected him in the fifth round in 2011. He really wanted an NHL contract last summer, but the Isles didn't sign him -- whether in anticipation of a lockout-fueled crowd of bodies in Bridgeport, or concerns about his defense, or simply preferring to slot his ELC clock one year later ... all are plausible concerns.
Also plausible: That this leak is another leverage attempt to get the Isles to up their offer. Kichton is on Twitter (in a photo from Isles prospect camp).
The history of players who re-enter the draft is not exactly impressive and doesn't tend to result in moving up much, for whatever that's worth. But it's occasionally done well, and there are examples like Mike Van Ryn who followed it up with good NHL careers. (Van Ryn's career ended early due to injuries, not a lack of talent.) Kichton has a record of gaudy numbers in his corner.
If he flees, it's not a huge loss, but it is more significant than players like Jason Gregoire and Blake Kessel taking their services elsewhere. And it would be the second Spokane defenseman the Isles let get away, joining Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. We'll see where it goes from here.