Jul 4, 2011

Speculation: The FA Route - Where Should Snow Go?

As the July 4 weekend winds down, the Islanders are left in the same situation in which they entered it. They've filled one of the three holes that we targeted for them (fourth line center), but their work has not been completed yet. Chris Botta recently tweeted that Islanders GM Garth Snow is still talking to agents about adding one forward and one defenseman (however, that's more likely to be done through trade). So, with that said, here are 12 free agents (some obvious, some not) still out there that the Islanders may consider adding.

1. Tomas Kaberle - D - Boston Bruins
Kaberle showed signs of breaking down during the playoffs, but he still could be considered a top 4 defenseman, and if the Islanders show him the money, could make his way to Long Island. A Mark Streit/Tomas Kaberle first PP unit would be lethal.

2. Sergei Samsonov - F - Florida Panthers
The Panthers loaded up on FA during the off-season, but have opted not to keep the skilled Samsonov. After having a great end of the season, possibly playing with John Tavares could continue his revival.

3. Antti Miettenen - F - Minnesota Wild
More likely the Isles sign him and look to trade a guy like Blake Comeau for a top-4 defenseman. Miettenen is still a very useful player, but is probably best suited for third line (and spot second line) duty.

4. Jason Arnott - F - Washington Capitals
The aging Arnott would provide leadership and stability to the Isles C core along with John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, and Marty Reasoner. Could be a great mentor for Nino Niederreiter as he will most likely start his NHL career this season.

5. Bryan McCabe - D - New York Rangers
As we mentioned before, McCabe loves Long Island and would take an offer from the Isles in a heartbeat. Maybe the Isles go this route if they trade a defenseman like Eaton or Mottau as a salary dump (much like the Lebda deal with Toronto). Otherwise, those guys have no value and McCabe should have no value to the Islanders.

6. Vinny Prospal - F - New York Rangers
Prospal is versatile and can play anywhere in the top-6. As of now, with the Rangers signing Brad Richards, it doesn't seem like they will be retaining Prospal. After in injury-ridden season, will the Isles take a chance on him?

7. J.P. Dumont - F - Nashville Predators
The wheels really fell off for Dumont after many productive NHL seasons. With only 19 points last season, does he have enough left in the tank to be productive? The former Islander #1 pick could head home on a cheap contract if Snow feels that he can. Look for this as a definite possibility at least through training camp.

8. Radek Martinek - D - New York Islanders
Like Chris Botta said, don't close the door on Martinek. The Islanders haven't and shouldn't, because at the very least you know what you'll get out of Martinek on a 1-year deal. The only question is his health, however.

9. Steve Bernier - F - Florida Panthers
We'll call him the Matt Moulson special. Only 26 years old, but hasn't quite reached the level of play everyone thought he would. The Islanders have been the land of opportunity, which may be exactly what a player like Bernier needs. His potential is obvious, but if he can't put it together soon it may never happen.

10. Sami Lepisto - D - Columbus Blue Jackets
Like Bernier, Lepisto is only 26 but hasn't totally put it all together yet. After a decent season last year, the Islanders may bring him in, but is he that much of an upgrade over Mike Mottau?

11. Scott Hannan - D - Washington Capitals
The only other player aside from Tomas Kaberle who still could fill a top-4 role for the Islanders. A shutdown D-man through and through, Hannan fills an immediate need for the Islanders. However, the fact that he is still available may raise a few eyebrows. At this point, no way the Capitals bring him back. Definitely someone the Isles should be looking at.

12. Shane O'Brien - D- Nashville Predators
A shutdown guy just trying to find his way at age 27. The Isles may take a chance on his upside and hope that he can bring it over an 82-game season. But more than anything else, they need a proven guy like Hannan back there over an O'Brien.

CH: Do I expect the Islanders to sign any of these guys? Maybe one of the forwards, but I do think they'll head for a trade for a defenseman. As far as the forwards go, it's possible that Vinny Prospal makes the most sense on a 2 year contract. He can slot in anywhere, the Islanders have enough depth if he were to get hurt, and the upside for his production to return is pretty high. Plus, the fact that he just played for the Rangers will mean he won't have to go very far. In a way, it is a typical Islander signing, but at the same time, Prospal is a player that has the ability to be a very productive asset.

Other than that, maybe they take a shot at Antti Miettenen, who is a great defensive forward and PKer. He'd fit right into a third line role and still can provide 15-20 goals from there. His biggest issue was that he was miscast in Minnesota, but that would not be the case here. He'd be a solid signing and would allow the Isles some flexibility on forwards to trade for a top-4 defenseman, which we will look at tomorrow.

AT: Of the forwards, Prospal or Samsonov seem most likely. Prospal came back pretty strong from injury last year and we know Samsonov has the potential to be a 60+ point scorer. Garth knows that PA Parenteau on the first line is not going to cut it if we want to exceed to the next level. Prospal playing on the first line with Tavares and Moulson is very intriguing. He was very capably able to feed a 40 goal scorer in Marian Gaborik 2 years ago, you have to wonder what he would be able to do next to a 30 goal scorer and a budding superstar.

As for the defense, Scott Hannan is still someone who I would be perfectly okay with. Consistently healthy, Hannan is known for his ability to completely shut down a forward and throw big hits. Having a Streit-Hamonic and MacDonald-Hannan top 4 would be very, very good. We'll see. I do like Hannan, but if a better D-man is available through trade, you go for it and don't look back. Keith Yandle, please.

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