With all the focus on the New York Islanders needing to address their long-underperforming goaltending (check, finally), it's easy to overlook something else: Their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport was awful in 2013-14.
The team commenced addressing that with a few signings on July 1 that, if not of much help to the NHL club, do provide depth and get AHL watchers excited.
- Forward Kael Mouillierat returns to the organization, this time on an NHL deal (still two-way though) of one year. He broke out a bit last season at age 26 with 20 goals and 33 assists with St. John’s, Winnipeg's AHL affiliate.
- Of greater note is the addition of Jack Skille, the 2005 7th-overall pick (Chicago) who has not managed to stick in the NHL but can be counted on for major offensive production in the AHL. He had 24 points in 22 AHL games last season, along with four goals in 16 appearances for NHL Columbus.
- More established than either of the above is Cory Conacher, who is signed to a one-year NHL deal. An undersized Canisius College product who can play either wing, Conacher has 126 NHL games and was claimed off waivers by Buffalo last season. He's neither as good as he looked in his debut with the Lightning -- where Raw Charge fans still fondly recall him -- nor as overmatched as he looked during his time with the Senators.
- As Michael Fornabaio notes, the organization also added two-way deals for Harry Zolnierczyk (on a rare $300,000 deal) and David Leggio, who becomes the organizations #3/4 goalie.
Ultimately, Conacher should add some Keith Aucoin-like skill to the Isles bottom six, if they use him that way and protect for his size. Mouillierat and Skille will add offense to Bridgeport with the outside hope of NHL callups.
No, not headline-making nor exciting. But yes, still organizationally necessary part of doing business.
Meanwhile, about Next Season's Payroll...
According to CapGeek, the Islanders are still something like $6 million short of next season's salary minimum, which means more activity is forthcoming somewhere this summer.
According to Arthur Staple of Newsday and other hockey media around North America, the Isles made bids that would have consumed some of that payroll commitment with better-than-they-signed offers to players like Dan Boyle and Thomas Vanek.
But as has too often and frustratingly been the case, the Isles swung, and players went elsewhere. Several free agent depth players the Isles might have targeted went for big dollars they either wouldn't consider or never tried. Benoit Pouliot went to Edmonton for excessive term and money. Mathieu Perreault went to Winnipeg on a very reasonable deal.
It's only been half a day of free agency, but this could put the Isles in a situation they've quite evidently tried to avoid: Spending too much on a player they don't quite believe in.