The Islanders' roster is nearing its finalization, which it needs to be by 5 pm Tuesday. Whether you like the 23-players chosen for the final product is another issue.
The movement started yesterday, after the team reassigned Mathew Barzal back to the WHL, and Kirill Petrov (among others) to Bridgeport. This article from the official site says Thomas Hickey was placed on IR, but the rest of the site doesn't mention it. Either way, the injured Hickey is out of sight for a while.
Today, they placed forward Louis Leblanc on waivers to send him to the Sound Tigers. Leblanc, a free agent signee this Summer, had been injured for most of camp and could not have been reassigned earlier. Should he not be claimed (and really, there's almost no reason that he would), Michael Fornabaio says Leblanc's presence would create a pretty crowded veteran roster, which is something the Sound Tigers aren't used to.
A notes column by Arthur Staple from this morning sheds some light on these moves, as well as raising some other questions for the final list.
Barzal impressed management as much as he impressed us, but was never in the full season plans for a team that's not looking to lean on a rookie learning the ropes.
Petrov, on the other hand, might become an issue. The large stranger in a strange land might not be happy shuttling around New England on a charter bus and his long-awaited transition to North America could be a short one.
Kirill Petrov is a different matter and it's a situation that bears watching. He's 25, has been a pro making serious (tax-free) dough in his hometown of Kazan in Russia for years and his hope in finally coming to North America was to play in the NHL. That may still happen in very short order, of course, but not yet. How long he's willing to ride buses in the AHL, with no language support for a guy who speaks very little English, is unknown. My feeling is if he's there longer than a month, he might not stick around.
Staple feels the Islanders could be looking at who's on waivers today to see if they can find a match, particularly among goaltenders. They've been cagey about Jaroslav Halak's status and the possibility of Thomas Greiss playing the first regular season game at Barclays Center is very real.
Ben Scrivens was put on waivers by the Oilers on Sunday and passed through (as did everyone put on waivers Sunday). Kings prospect Jean-Francois Berube was waived today and could be an option. He led Manchester to a Calder Cup last season but lost the back-up slot to Jhonas Enroth. UPDATE: Dustin Tokarski was waived by the Habs and could be worth a pick up, too.
The Flames have to make a decision between Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Otio, so one of them could shake loose. Both Hiller and Ramo are making big money ($4.5 million and $3.8 million, respectively), so they seem unlikely candidates. The Islanders may have also been scared off by Scrivens' $1.3 million price tag.
Meanwhile, the final question everyone wants answered (but that only Michael Willhoft wants to hear in the affirmative): Is Eric Boulton coming back?
Boulton is still on a PTO, which expires before the season starts. If he's not signed to a contract, it means one more (and let's face it - one more useful) body the Islanders can add to help.
But if Boulton is signed, Staple says the locker room would be thrilled, even if some fans wouldn't be:
For his limits on the ice as a 39-year-old one-time enforcer, Boulton is an important person with his teammates. John Tavares, in particular, leans on Boulton to help take the temperature of the room. That's stuff that no one sees but makes a difference in a roomful of, you know, human beings who like and respect one another.
Personally, I'm hoping the chest hair-plucking, iced-Jacuzzi-jumping goofball retires with a hearty pat on the back and a cushy job that keeps him around the team but off the active roster.
And that, if he does retire, the Islanders reward him with a framed No. 36 jersey that has "GOOD IN THE ROOM" across the nameplate.