Jun 29, 2011

News: Talks Break Down Between Christian Ehrhoff, Islanders

Katie Strang has reported that contract negotiations between impending free agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and the New York Islanders have broken down this afternoon. 

The Islanders traded for Ehrhoff for a fourth-round pick in 2012 yesterday. 

CH: Lots to take in here. The fact is while this was a long shot, it was still worth a shot. Not enough details have come out to really analyze the situation, but this still has to be seen as a failure for the team in a way. Yes, Snow deserves a ton of credit for going out there and making a bold move for the best free agent defenseman on the market. Yes, Ehrhoff has the right and should test the free agent waters. And yes, the Islanders get shunned again.

Now, the team needs a Plan B, and not just a stopgap bottom-pairing defenseman like when they signed Andy Sutton in 2007. They need a true top-4 guy, whether it is through trade or FA, to make up for the potential they just lost in Ehrhoff. The team showed signs that failure is not acceptable, and now that theoretically they failed, the team isn't any better. Granted, they aren't worse either. But status quo got them 27th place in the NHL last season. We've talked about the improvements they needed to make, and Ehrhoff was the posterboy for that advancement.

There could be a multitude of reasons why Ehrhoff is not signing with the Islanders: money, situation, uncertainty, just wants to test UFA. Doesn't matter. The Isles should keep the offer on the table until July 1. Remember, he is still their property for another day. Things happen very quickly in these situations (I mentioned on Twitter James Wisniewski traded to Columbus would not help). If Ehrhoff feels tomorrow the Islanders will have a deal unmatched, maybe he changes his mind. But the chances of that happening are about 0%. Once noon on Friday hits, both sides should walk away. But the Islanders can't settle for status quo either.

Ehrhoff is a talented player and will certainly get a nice paycheck from a contending team, but I guarantee it won't be as much as the Islanders offered him. That's life as a perennial loser. Hard to judge Ehrhoff for potentially taking less to win, but at the same time being part of the solution makes a player's reputation soar. It's his decision, and we should respect that. Don't boo Ehrhoff because he didn't sign with the 27th place team when he comes to the Coliseum next year. It was an admirable shot in the dark, but that's all it was.

But again, the Isles have made an open attempt to improve the team. It didn't work. There has to be another try. If not, the summer of good feelings becomes excruciatingly underwhelming, which is exactly what the Islanders don't need with the biggest off-ice day in the franchise's history coming up just 32 days from now.

AT: This is a big PR hit. Maybe not as much as some have made it out to be, but it is. While I think most of his has to do with the fact that Ehrhoff did not want to play with a team that's in a 4 year playoff drought, it's going to make the team look poor. Word was that the Isles offered $6m a year to Ehrhoff - about $500k more than he's worth at this point. A decent overpayment to get a player of his caliber to play with the Isles. For him to turn it down hurts, but was also not unexpected at this point. This team has a stigma around it that is not a positive one and it's going to take success to break that. It's great that we have players like Grabner and now assistant coach Doug Weight professing their love for Long Island, but not everyone sees it like that. Hopefully Garth can still land a solid #2 (I'm on a full on Scott Hannan mode right now) in the free agency period and it appears that he will certainly try, but this hurts.

At the same time, we have to look at it from Ehrhoff's point of view. This ISN'T a team with a lot of success and he's coming from a team that came within a win of the Stanley Cup last year. He wants to compete, and that's good. I always feel that that's what separates the NHL from other leagues. It's really not about money for most players. We saw Dan Hamuis take a discount to play with Vancouver in order to win, and the same with Paul Martin signing for less with Pittsburgh. There's no Jayson Werths who sign for whichever team gives them a blank check. At least, it's not very common. I beg Islander fans not to go on an "I Hate Christian Ehrhoff" campaign. If you were in his position, you would probably test the market as well.

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