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Re-signing Doug Weight: What's the alternative?

The question of whether to re-sign Doug Weight involves three factors: Meeting the cap floor, assessing center-versus-blueline depth, and gauging what willing free agent alternatives might be out there. I've nudged in favor of keeping him all season long because Weight is a devil that you know. Rather see him back than some other uncertain free agent forward looking to revive his career.

Either way, the Islanders will have to add salary this summer, so let's take another hallucinogenic look at our roster/payroll matrix, updated since last time to reflect new realities and guesses about next year.

I've removed Jon Sim's $1 million because I assume that if he's in Bridgeport now, he'll be bought out over the summer. His buyout (not accounted for) would be some fraction of $1 million against the cap. Similarly, I don't have any reason to think the Islanders will sign a $4-million free agent winger as is listed below, but putting that money there gives us a rough idea if they add one big-ticket vet or two smaller ones. I've let Andy Hilbert walk again, but he could be back for something just shy of $1 million.

Figures in [brackets] are unknown salaries/salary slots. Reds are UFAs. Light blues are RFAs, with a wild guess at where their next salary might be. You can swap guys like Trevor Smith and Mike Iggulden out for guys like Jesse Joensuu or an enforcer -- either way the total cap figure is slightly inflated because not all of these guys can be on the NHL roster at the same time. Obviously this is just a loose projection, as capology is like predicting who makes the playoffs:

Left Wing Center Right Wing
#1 pick?
T. Smith
$3.585 $11.38 $9.17
Forward total: $24.135
Goalie Defense Defense
$6.25 $7.775 $7.2
Def/Goal total: $21.225
Total payroll:

$45.36 M

Meeting the cap floor is a real concern, particularly after $8.5 million in salary has been shed with the departures of Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie. Add Weight to that equation and your lost cap hit is around $12.5 million. Chris Campoli's departure takes it over $13 million. True, the Islanders do not have to replace all of that -- and some of it can be (marginally) consumed by raises for Blake Comeau, Nate Thompson, Jack Hillen and, dare we say? -- Yann Danis. But somewhere, they've got to add (or re-sign) a pricey body.

Chris Botta guesses Danis will cost about $700k, but I think it will be higher than that. The presence of both Danis and Joey MacDonald used to be leverage for the Islanders, but Scott Gordon certainly sounds a lot more impressed with Danis lately, for good reason. A promising backup goaltender costs at least $750k or more, particularly if you may very well need him to be your starter, which is a mindset the Islanders have to take given Rick DiPietro's status.

The rough payroll figure above assumes two forwards totaling $8.5 million again, plus a Tavares or Hedman-type rookie on a max contract (which, with bonuses could approach a $4-million cap hit), plus some raises for Danis and others, as well as another backup goalie contract for MacDonald or a free agent.

Where Does Weight Figure In?

Regardless, the Islanders will have to bring in some kind of veteran who makes some kind of millions. The question is: Do they want to risk that salary on a new veteran who's only here because he's down on his luck (how both Comrie and Weight got here), or should they put it toward a vet they know, who's already here and happy, and who's already had a positive influence on the youngsters the Islanders are developing? As I asked before: Who do you want influencing your 21-year-old future cornerstones -- a Doug Weight or a Mike Comrie?

Despite all the "disgruntled vets" aura this season, here is Weight -- just last week -- on the prospect of staying:

“This is not a case of seeing if the grass is greener on July 1. I know what we have here with the Islanders and I’m very excited about it. With a lot more health and whatever changes management makes, this team can go from the bottom of the league to the playoffs next season. I truly believe that."

From the same Botta link, here is Josh Bailey -- oh, is his development important? -- on the effect Weight has had:

“Dougie’s been amazing for me,” Bailey said [Feb. 28]. “Every day I learn something from him. At practices, on the bench during games, he always has some positive input that will stay with me for my whole career.”


Alternatives (Defense?) and Injuries

The summer 2009 UFA market is rather uninspiring at forward. You have your package Sedins who will demand way too much for two parts that do not survive without one another. You have your Mike Cammalleri looking to score. And then you have your riff-raff and your Weight-ish vets like Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Morrison. The Islanders are still in the position only to attract a vet looking to prove himself, like Mark Streit, Weight, Guerin, Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko and Josef Vasicek before them -- and unlike Ryan Smyth, who had his choice and flew to a different lottery land. Robert Lang is an interesting case coming off of injury, but I bet guys like him draw offers elsewhere.

The Islanders can take the chance of finding someone else at forward down on his luck to take up payroll this summer. Or, they could look to the blueline -- Mike Komisarek is salivated over by fans, for one; if they committed to the blue line like that and IF they selected John Tavares, you could argue that in Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and #91 they would have plenty at the pivot, albeit very young and unmentored.

You could even anticipate that Weight would become unhappy if forced to the wing or deprived of ice time because of those young lads. Further, you could look at Weight's three injury spells this year (one groin, one shot-blocking foot, one MCL sprain) and see age written all over that wall.

But unless the Islanders can bring in some top-draw defensemen -- I'd love to see it, but I don't think they can and I don't want this year's Wade Redden -- then I'd rather see them put their uncertain but must-spend cap money toward a guy like Weight, a veteran they know and a veteran who's happy to be here.

Anyone else on the market you'd rather have? Anyone you think the Islanders can convince to sign?