In a solid move before the extremely important vote on Monday, the Islanders made a somewhat large move in acquiring Brian Rolston from New Jersey for the oft-injured Trent Hunter. Rolston carries a $5m cap hit for the final year of his contract.
AT: Can't really hate this deal. Most fans including myself were simply hoping for the end of Hunter's deal, and very soon. One of the slowest Islanders and one who is consistently injured, Hunter had a sharp decline from his Calder nominee run in 2003-2004. Since then, he has only had 1 20 goal season, and generally did not fit into the system anymore. Rolston, while also on the decline, is a veteran presence and slots into the 3rd line a little better than Hunter would have.
It's just very curious that after Rolston was on waivers last season, the Islanders decided to trade for him now. He is still a solid player no doubt, but I think his $5m cap hit would be better spent elsewhere, specifically in the defense sector. However, that leads me to my next point, in that signing Rolston could mean that Comeau or Bailey are on their way out as part of a trade for a D-man. In that case, I have absolutely no problem with this deal, but obviously we have to wait and see.
This trade is not going to rattle the NHL like the Havlat-Heatley trade earlier in the offseason, but Rolston is a nice acquisition. Just not the acquisition we really need right now. Regardless, welcome to the Island, Mr. Rolston.
CH: I have very mixed feelings on this trade. If you look at it under a microscope, the Islanders got the better of this trade. Hunter is a 40 year old player playing in a 30 year old body. His injuries have severely hampered his career to the point where he is not a viable NHL option unless he is on the 4th line. On the other hand, although he was waived last season Rolston can still play in this league, mostly due to his blistering slap shot and skating ability. He can slot anywhere in the top 9, and should be able to produce in the 40 point range if he stays healthy.
However, you can't just look at this under the hypothetical microscope. There are two main results from this trade that I take some issue with. First, the Islanders help the Devils in their quest to sign Zach Parise. Yes, they would have worked out a deal anyway but Garth Snow gave the Devils an extra three million to play with. This is a division rival. Why would you help them? Especially with someone as talented as Parise.
But even if you want to disregard that, and some will, there is the cap floor situation. The Islanders are now in clear striking distance of the floor and do not have to acquire anyone else to get there. Is Brian Rolston the guy you expect to make a difference here? It is about clear the Isles want be about .99 cents above the floor if they could pull that off. I don't believe Rolston is the ideal option. This also does not get them a top 4 defenseman, which they are still in dire need of.
I also do not think this will affect the Alexei Yashin situation. Like I've been saying the whole time, if Wang wants Yashin, he will sign Yashin. Which leads me to the question of if this is the end of Blake Comeau. I surely hope not, unless the team gets a legtimate top 4 defenseman for him. After years of developing Comeau, why not let him play the next stage of his career here? Granted I am fine letting him go, but only for the right player. With the top 9 having 10 forwards if you include Niederreiter, someone will have to move.
While my guess is that Comeau moves, its possible they send Nino down for one more season while Rolston is used as a placeholder. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the summer plays out.
Finally, all the best to Trent Hunter, who was a proud Islander for nine seasons. He wore the jersey proud and even signed a 5 year extension when he certainly could have gotten more money on the market. I hope he is able to revive his career for the Devils. Best of luck, Trent.