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All (Some) of the NHL Free Agent Forwards the Islanders Won't (Probably) Sign


It's NHL silly season! It starts Sunday, July 1, at noon Eastern, or thereabouts, depending on a respective GM and agent's tampering clairvoyant negotiating skills.

There are some big fish out there. The New York Islanders will want some big fish. They will call about big fish, probably get rejected (most teams are, but the Islanders consistently are), and try again with some smaller fish.

The true key is to find bigger fish at a better price per ounce. That requires identifying such rare, underpriced but delicious fish or fish with scales to grind. This silly fish metaphor is over.

Here are some forwards from different tiers, both unrestricted and restricted free agents, that the Islanders should look at:

Top Dogs

Zach Parise, LW, Devils

I mean ... you've gotta at least call though, right? Michael Russo reports Parise was still talking to the Devils, but man it's getting late. Even Martin Brodeur looks headed to the open market. Guess all those reports of Devils finances affecting their UFA activity were true.

Why you want him: Best free agent forward out there

Why you won't get him: Priciest free agent forward out there. Has his pick. Could even be a Penguin.

Alexander Semin, RW, Capitals

Yes, yes. Semin is enigmatic. Or at least inconsistent. Or at times frustrating. So is Kyle Okposo. If you are a hopeful Islanders fan, you have a dream scenario where the Islanders let P.A. Parenteau walk only because they have some magical two-year, prove-you-can-carry $15 million offer for Semin or something.

Why you want him: That sick, sick wrist shot. You may see "poison" or some such stereotype, I see goals.

Why you won't get him: Also pricey, also will have his (slightly lesser) pick, and will probably get someone to pay more for longer than the Islanders are comfortable doing.

* * *

Old Dogs

Ray Whitney, LW, Coyotes

Whitney is coming off a fantastic season, which is unlike the circumstances which brought Bill Guerin and Doug Weight here at similarly old ages. (That's not totally true; Guerin had a good year for the Blues but a tepid playoff for the Sharks before he took Wang's millions.) At 40, Whitney carries absolutely everything that's scary about an older player ... but those sweet hands are tempting.

Why you want him: I mean, the hands. Not the AARP discount.

Why you won't get him: It's his last deal. He can pick his spots. He just lived through constant franchise rumors ... why sign up for more?

Shane Doan, RW, Coyotes

See Whitney, except a little younger (35) and a little less effective. Seriously, Doan carries lots of captain's mythology and all that with him, but he's declining and if he has to leave Phoenix it certainly won't be for the team that plays in City Of Glendale East.

Jaromir Jagr, RW, Flyers

It's crazy, but now you're talking. Actually, no you're not. Jagr shoots left and avoided a return to Pittsburgh because they already had lefties on the powerplay. The Islanders are losing Parenteau, whom they acquired in part because he's a righty shot.

Why you want him: Because you just want somebody.

Why you won't get him: Because he doesn't want you. Well...he does like New York, but...

Steve Sullivan, RW, Penguins

Unlike Jagr, he shoots right. He's also a little younger (37). He won't be as good as Parenteau, but he'd be an interesting stopgap.

Why you want him: Because you don't mind the stench of Penguin.

Why you won't get him: He took a "contender" contract to join Pittsburgh (though it didn't work out). Suppose he goes that way again.

Ryan Smyth, Tearsman, Oilers

{sniff...sniff} I'm sorry, I {sniff...sniff} I can't go on.

* * *

Useful Dogs

Jiri Hudler, RW, Red Wings

The left-shooting Hudler is the kind of mid-tier forward who you could stomach overpaying a little if it's not for too terribly long. He should be in the prime of his career, but that career has never taken off quite as well as people expected. That said, he's coming off a career-high 25 goals (50 points) which should at least put his "disappointment" and likely asking price in perspective.

Why you want him: Goals! Plus, Czechs are cool!

Why you won't get him: Someone probably goes all Tallon on him first.

Olli Jokinen, C, Flames

Yeah, I know. No really, I know. But in the right role Jokinen could be okay. (Not happening, I know.)

Why you want him: Because the Islanders need a center unless you believe in the rebound of Marty Reasoner and instant readiness of Casey Cizikas.

Why you won't get him: Because he's Olli Jokinen, and you're not.

Kyle Wellwood, C, Jets

Aside from the weight jokes, Wellwood is an okay soft-minutes (huh huh, soft) center. The Jets played him perfectly last season, leveraging his low demand for a cheap, productive year. Now he'll want to get paid. A little more.

Paul Gaustad (Predators), Dominic Moore (Sharks)

Checking-type centers who, like Reasoner last year, seem like the kind of defensive centers the Islanders need, sign, then find lacking.

Why you want them: Because Reasoner didn't do it for ya.

Why you won't get them: Because Reasoner's still here, and prospects are on the way.

Brandon Prust, LW, Smurfs

Prust is an alright bottom-six type who wants to be paid more than the Rangers or any team should give him. He brings the GRITZ.

Why you want him: As we saw with Parenteau, cashing in the bitter ex-Ranger dividend can be very powerful.

Why you won't get him: Because they need to improve their bottom six, but by more than Prust brings to the table.

* * *

Salvage Yard Dogs

Linus Omark, RW, Oilers (Qualified RFA)

He is a nice forward who hasn't found a fit in Edmonton, which is loaded with young forwards it likes more. I don't think this should rule him out. Offer him a $1 million one-way deal and you don't need to give the Oilers compensation, and you have a very Islanders-like low-risk gamble on someone who at the very least brings stupid shootout moves.

Why you want him: Because he could be had for cheap, without compensation. This is a guy desperate for a regular chance, and that's the kind of guy the Islanders should leverage. (Also, you might like circus shootout moves.)

Why you won't get him: Because the Oilers match and trade him?

Guillaume Latendresse, LW, Wild (unqualified RFA)

Latendresse finally started to figure things out a little bit and then he ran into scary concussion issues. He's played just 27 games over the last two seasons, which is why the Wild were wise not to qualify at his existing salary. They apparently want to keep him though, just at a Comeau-ized rate.

Peter Mueller, C/W, Avalanche (unqualified RFA)

One of many Coyotes first-round picks who didn't quite work out, Mueller can score. But Rob Blake started a chain of concussion problems that have hit Mueller hard. A righty shot, Mueller could occupy Parenteau's spot on the powerplay and shoot more often (and harder).

Buyer beware, though: You won't know if he's COZO-ing around out there or just having trouble coming back from his injuries. He says he feels great though.

Wojtek Woski, W, Panthers

You may laugh. I did laugh. But there are arguments that the other half of the Mueller trade has suffered not from enigmatism, but from inconsistent ice time.

Kristian Huselius, W, Blue Jackets

Huselius is the most talented of these salvage yard options, but he's had ridiculous injuries the past two years that put him on the market. He's one of those guys whose effort will be questioned from time to time but will still put up points. Can play both wings, but the Swede is a lefty shot though, so don't picture him replacing Parenteau.

* * *

In all seriousness, the Islanders will need to add a forward and a defenseman. Where they fit on the depth chart depends on who they target and who they can get. Don't hold your breath, but you never know ... sometimes July brings a nice surprise or two.