Jun 26, 2011

News: Isles Qualify Six; Not Jack Hillen

According to Katie Strang of Newsday, the Islanders have sent qualifying offers to Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Micheal Haley, Ty Wishart, Jesse Joensuu, and Dylan Reese. They have not sent one to Jack Hillen, who will not become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Qualifying offers are either 5% or 10% raises on the player's current salary, depending on service time. The player can choose to accept the qualifying offer or negotiate a new contract with the team (so Comeau could still get a multi-year contract). From the team's perspective, the qualifying offer is a means to retain the players' rights as they hit unrestricted free agency.

Josh Bailey

CH: This was an obvious one. Whatever the Islanders want to do with Bailey, be it trading him or re-signing him to his QO or for a multi-year deal, retaining his rights was a necessity. The Islanders made a huge investment in Bailey for better or worse, so losing him for nothing at this point is unacceptable. We'll see how this situation plays out as it's one to watch over the course of the summer.

AT: A one year stopgap is fine with me. Especially with Strome coming into the mix, you have to think Snow realizes this is the last year for Bailey to prove himself worthy or he'll most likely be traded/let go of. He's a 9th overall pick, the Islanders may have screwed up his development by rushing him into the NHL, but he's worth hanging on to for a year or so just to see if he can blossom into the player we know he can be.

Blake Comeau

CH: Again, this one is a no-brainer. Comeau is coming off a 24-goal, breakout season and deserves a raise. This was more of a formality than anything else, as I'm pretty sure the Isles want to negotiate a multi-year deal with Comeau. However, there is speculation he could be on the market as well. Either way, the Isles had no choice but to retain his rights for the time being.

AT: A raise like this would only have him making $880,000. Most 24 goal scorers are making far more than that. He will receive a multiyear deal and a raise as he should be. Comeau could blossom into a 30 goal scorer this year. 

Micheal Haley

CH: We knew this was happening since Chris Botta broke the story on the fourth-liners a few weeks back. There's little doubt Haley will take his qualifying offer, which will be a 10% raise and play on a one-year contract next year. Expect that to be done fairly quickly.

AT: Mich-eal Hal-ey! -clap clap clap clap clap-. Obviously, I'm very excited to have him back as I'd mentioned so many times previously. Makes me all the more excited for rivalry games next year.

Jesse Joensuu

CH: Somewhat surprising, but I really like this. I mentioned before that I want to keep Joensuu around, as he is a solid call-up from the AHL level. He can play both wings and can slide in on any line, so retaining his rights was a smart choice. That said, the decision is now in Jesse's court. He does not have a spot in the NHL lineup, unless it is as a 4th line player (my guess is the Isles want an upgrade). It's going to come down to if he wants to stay in North America and play in the AHL with the possibility of the NHL or go home to play in Europe. Either way, the Isles did the right thing from an organizational standpoint with him. Like Haley, if he decides to stay, he'll take his qualifying offer.

AT: No problem with this. Wasn't a fan of his play but he's still growing and will spend most of his time in the AHL anyways. I could see him slotting into the 4th line with Haley, Hunter, Martin, etc when one of them goes down (most likely Hunter). 

Dylan Reese

CH: A very surprising move, in my opinion. The Isles acquired Reese in 2010 for Greg Moore, in what was supposed to be an AHL for AHL trade. Reese has already given them more than that, but was very ineffective at the NHL level last season. If this is to gain a veteran presence on the AHL backline, I am quite alright with this, as chances are he will be operating as the #9 or even #10 defenseman. But any extended time in the NHL would not be a good thing, so let's hope it doesn't come to that. He'll accept his qualifying offer without any problems.

AT: Was never a fan of Reese, had several of his bonehead moves on ice lead to goals while playing in the NHL. I've never seen him play in the AHL but obviously he performed at a decent level down there in order to get a QO, so I guess I'm okay with it.

Ty Wishart

CH: Not surprising at all. They gave up Dwayne Roloson for him, so they weren't just going to let him go immediately. Wishart has good size and showed signs of being a solid defenseman so keeping him at the NHL level this year as a #7 guy will be good for his development. Given the Isles injury problems over the past few years, he should be plenty of playing time. From there, the Isles will have a much better idea of where Wishart is headed. He'll accept his qualifying offer.

AT: Wishart has time to grow, but needs to work on his physical play. In the games he played while called up I liked what I saw and see a lot of potential in this kid. He may never be a top 4 D-man but he could be a nice role player in the future for a bottom pairing. Glad to see him return.

Jack Hillen

CH: The qualifying offer deadline is tomorrow, so this may not be a done deal yet - but it sure seems like it. So assuming they don't offer him a QO: This was a surprise to me. I thought they would extend him an offer as Hillen played very effective at times between 2009-2011. He is a very good depth guy as a #7-8 and could help a lot of teams out there. To me, this hopefully is a sign the Islanders are going to try and improve in the free agent market. Assuming Wishart accepts his qualifying offer, the Islanders will have 7 defensemen under contract (Streit, MacDonald, Hamonic, Eaton, Jurcina, Mottau, Wishart). They need to upgrade from that list and get a minute eating guy to play with Streit as the team transitions from lottery team to playoff contender. If that player has to come at the expense of Jack Hillen, that's okay. But if the team doesn't replace Hillen with someone better, then this is a failure. We should find out over the next few weeks. Best of luck to Jack.

AT: I liked Hillen, great guy, decent play on ice, nice puck rushing role, but to me this screamed "improvement" from Garth. Hillen's good, but with such a young core coming up and 7 D-man under contract, there was not much room for him. Hopefully this signals that Garth will go out and get a top 2 D-man (Scott Hannan is my hope) which will push everyone down a slot on the depth chart and place Hamonic with MacDonald on the 2nd pair and Eaton with Jurcina on the third pair. Katic does what Hillen does and IMO does it even better, so Hillen leaving is no big loss with someone like Katic in the system.

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