(Authors Note: I wrote this Friday and was just about to publish it when we signed Eaton and the others, then it got pushed back due to the Kovy drama.)
One of the more surprising moves lately is that Brendan Witt was not placed on waivers with the Intention of buying out his contract. During the season it was obvious there was something wrong with Witt. Either father time had caught up with the thirty five year old defender or injuries slowed him down. Witt was playing hurt last year, that much we know now. But there is no way to know how much the injury affected his game These are injuries that have been lingering since 08-09 supposedly.
So now the Islanders have one more camp to see what a (hopefully) healthy Witt can do. It wasn't that long ago that Witt as an Islander posted career highs in Assists and Points. That same year he also had a career high with a +14 on the season. The following year he took a bit of a fall stats wise, but the real story was the beginning of his injury issues. These last two seasons Witt has put up the worst +/- of all Islanders defenseman without even playing the full season. So Snow must see something in him to keep him around.
First off, believe it or not, is his contract. It just doesn't make sense to buy out a 3 million dollar contract when your not worried about being over the cap. If they bought him out, they are still taking a 1.5 million cap hit this year and next. You might as well just pay him 3 million and get something out of him. In the post lockout NHL, much like the NBA, a player with an expiring contract is worth more then his talent. Plenty of teams could possibly grab him at the trade deadline just in case of emergency or to dump a longer contract.
Secondly is as a mentor to the Bridgeport kids. In Dave's interview with Capuano, he mentioned that they are probably going to be one of the youngest teams in the AHL next year. I'm sure Witt and Mark Wotton will have a lot of fun breaking in the rookies and youngsters. Although Witt would still be getting his 3 million (as he doesn't have a two way contract), you can't put a price on how well these guys can prepare players for the NHL. A quick look at the ability of last seasons callups to not look out of place during NHL games shows that veteran players can be a good influence.
Thirdly, if Witt comes back and it was his health and not so much his age, he can push some of the youngsters for a spot with the Islanders. Competition is always good, and if one of the youngsters comes into camp thinking they should automatically be on the Isles, Witt could be one of those players that teaches them a life lesson. Is last season's Witt an upgrade on anyone who could make the team this year? No, but if healthy he can surprise people and you can never measure experience. For example sometimes being in the right position at the right time can be worth more then having the ability or talent to make up for being out of position.
Fourth and finally, if your the Islanders, one thing you should know by now is that you can never have enough defenseman around. If it's not Radek Martinek slipping on a pack of mustard while hitting the concession stands, it's Jack Hillen taking a puck to the face or Andy MacDonald going down just as you've signed him to a new long term deal. Really, there's no such thing as too many defenseman for the Islanders.
Witt is a warrior, and hopefully the last two seasons were just injury influenced. He wants to win just as much as anyone else in the league. This is not only his last chance to win, but probably his last chance to prove he can still play in today's NHL. Thirty Six year old defensemen who have spent the last two years in the AHL do not normally get another chance to play on an NHL team.