[Afternoon update: White has signed with San Jose for one year, approximately $1 million.]
I think I know your answer to this before I even bring it up, but it still must be explored for due diligence: Colin White has cleared waivers, paving the way for the Devils to buy him out and make him a UFA.
I know the optics, in the parlance of our times, would look odd if the Islanders picked up yet another blueline castaway from a division rival. Particularly one in his early 30s, like Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau before him. Particularly with a stable of veterans and some prospects knocking on the door.
And I know that White doesn't fit the proverbial "top 4" profile that the Islanders have expressed interest in landing this summer (not that there are any known top 4 options left). Nor does White put up points (though he's been used in strictly defensive situations by the Devils). And he even broke Bruno Gervais' face, which was kind of rude even if he didn't want to do it. But he's likely more effective than you think.
If you were looking for presumably cheap insurance for a still small-ish blueline that is returning not one, not three, but four guys from surgery recovery ... well, you could do worse.
Defensemen are hard to evaluate, their decline hard to predict. (Anyone else notice White is at that Wittian age when a physical D-man's game can go down hill?) I was just about to dig into White's data when I noticed Scott Reynolds at Copper & Blue already did, and blogging is nothing if not a way to let other people do the work first:
Colin White is in fact a pretty good hockey player. In each of the last two seasons, Colin White has taken the most defensive zone draws among Devils' defenders, been among the top four Devils' defenders in all three quality of competition categories, and posted a slightly negative Relative Corsi, which is about what you'd expect given the situation. He also led the Devils in ice time on the penalty kill, and at 6'4'' and 215 lbs., he's got the kind of size the Oilers seem to be looking for (and for those of you who like your defensemen hitting stuff, he was among the top two Devils' defenders in hits).
White offers size and physicality, but for the fight fans out there, remember that he's been advised not to fight -- Bruno challenges aside -- thanks to a facial fracture he received several seasons ago.
Now, about that anticipated decline: For some reason, Lou Lamoriello was intent on shedding White and his $3 million cap hit, even after they signed Zach Parise. Most people view Lou as some kind of immortal bastard wielding some of that Jedi voodoo and what-not, so maybe it was as simple as Lou looking into White's eyes and seeing imminent demise.
I mean, who doesn't think Lou looked into Mottau's soul last year and said, "You. You will take a puck to the face. Followed by a hip injury. I think we can let you go." He probably did the same thing with Bryce Salvador, whose long-term injury made Kovy life under the cap a lot easier.
And sometimes, you look at a player who's peripherals are fine so you wonder why a team that knows him day in and day out is letting him walk -- nay, is paying him to walk. And sometimes that's reason enough to shy away. More so when the Devils have apparently been shopping White since the end of the season. What do they know?
In Lou We Trust was also puzzled:
White is a solid defensive defenseman, his salary has been comparable to his peers (and quite possibly more so after July 1, 2011), and he's got plenty left in the tank at age 33. This all makes White a useful player, not really someone who should have their contract bought out. Especially since he was in the last season of his deal.
So the only argument I'd make is this: At post-buyout discount, rather than the $3 million lifestyle to which he has grown accustomed, White would be cheap. If Mottau has trouble returning, if Eaton's hip is slow to bounce back, if Streit's shoulder is still working things out -- and heaven forbid if Andrew MacDonald's rehab saw some hiccups -- then White as insurance could come in handy. You want Streit on offense, you want Ty Wishart or Calvin De Haan (or both) to grab a role. But you don't always get what you want, and that's when veteran depth can help with the dirty work, while other guys handle the plum offensive assignments.
That thin stretch of an argument aside, I bet a few other teams will think the same. Which means that, like Mottau and Eaton last summer, White might be able to command a two-year deal and be choosy with the Devils still giving him a paycheck. Which probably doesn't fit how the Islanders picture slotting things over the next two seasons.