Review of the Islanders Summer

By Bill Bennett

I think to a small degree fans were led to believe the team had a surplus of revenue to throw at players from the minute the bell rang on July 1st.

Some of it was media hype and some Mike Milbury saying he had room for one more move several times late in the season.

To be fair GM’s are not allowed to talk about any player before July 1st. Mike Milbury could have made it clear after the playoffs that the Islanders would not be active in the market as several other teams did to curb expectations.

This still would have left the gm room for any move if he felt it can improve his club without expectations that were not realistic in this market. And the Islanders could still sign a player as Andrew Cassels made the rumors today in the local press.

With that said anyone who feels the Islanders are not trying to win should understand that this team’s payroll is going to come in close to forty million dollars as it currently stands.

That’s all the fans should expect of anyone who owns this team.

The Moves to date:

Adrian Aucoin:

Signed a two year deal yesterday for 6.3 million dollars. But to clear something up that beat writer Alan Hahn is incorrect about in his article today is that he is not unrestricted when the contract ends in two years.

Aucoin was born 7-3-73, on July 1st 2004 he is thirty years old, the Isles retain his rights as an restricted free agent.

Jason Wiemer for Branislav Mezei:

Most of the print media who cover the Isles do not know much about Mezei and talked about Wiemer and his defensive game when the deal was announced.

Leadership and grit along with hits and confrontations with players that will be the Islanders rivals was the selling point to the fans and sounds nice but does not tell the story.

Fact is unless Jason can produce offense and clutch scoring with this grit he will not help and cannot be used in games the team is trailing. He has not fulfilled his potential and has been on three other teams over seven years. And the Islanders were one of the teams that played the most one goal games last season.

In addition if you do not have any defensive prospects in your system in the top fifty of any draft, you cannot make this deal.

Branislav Mezei was the physical defender the Islanders needed to see in camp. To trace the history of this move: what was McCabe-Bertuzzi, became Trevor Linden, who became the tenth pick, who became Mezei, who is now Wiemer.

It’s a bad risk for the top defender in his draft class, with no depth behind him on the same playing level in the organization. Mezei played thirty minute games and moved well without the puck and has a nasty edge. His offensive game never came around but was a big part of a Sound Tigers team that went to the Calder Cup Finals and cannot be replaced and was young enough to get better.

Kip Miller & Darren Van Impe:

Miller signed a two year deal with his old coach from Grand Rapids who was hired to coach the Caps. His scoring on a team that has lost Peca’s production, and Czerkawski’s will be missed, but the organization does have alternatives on the right side. With cannot be overstated about Miller was by the time the playoffs came he was on the first line powerplay and the teams leading playoff scorer with four goals.

Van Impe was not given a qualifying offer and after showing a very solid game at both ends thru the playoffs this is a bit of a surprise when it seems his replacement is Mattias Timmander, who finished with a minus thirty-four rating and is not a physical or scoring defender.

Jason Krog:

The handwriting was on the wall for Krog as soon as his status was listed as unrestricted. His plus rating and production during the Calder Cup Playoffs got him a two year contract from Anaheim. He never showed the defensive game to play at the NHL level and was minus eight for the season on a team that won the AHL regular season Championship.

Only thing here is the Isles invested a lot of years and money and he never got a full season on some very poor Islander teams. We do not know what we really gave up and he is twenty seven. This is a hit for the Sound Tigers roster and fans because he was very popular.

Ray Giroux:

Not only was Giroux the best defender the Sound Tigers had, but he was an all-star. For some reason the Isles never gave him a look when Radek Martinek went down because they play the same kind of game. He does not seem a fit for the Devils, and will likely become a prime point player in Albany with the Rats next season, but this is another loss for Bridgeport and it’s fan base. If your replacing him with a prospect that’s one thing, but the Islanders do not have one for that role at this time.

Mattias Weinhandl: C-RW

Clearly the Islanders feel Weinhandl is ready and may just be the right player to step in and
contribute now. With the losses in Bridgeport there is a spot for him somewhere and is willing to play in the minors if necessary.

Martin Chabada: LW

Chabada is hardly a prospect, he is coming over to win an NHL job on a team with several left wings and will be twenty five in November. He may just force a trade of another left wing if he shows he is ready for the NHL. He also is willing to go to Bridgeport and was signed to a two-way contact.

Blaine Down: C
When asked about Blaine’s status I was told by a Barrie rep that his contract has him playing for either the Sound Tigers or the teams ECHL program in Trenton, now being coached by Bill Armstrong. The good news is he is not a veteran and is coming off an excellent playoff.

Alan Le Tang: D
Has some limited NHL experience and is a depth signing by the Islanders, but is likely heading to Bridgeport and is older than Ray Giroux, who he likely replaces.

Eric Manlow: C
Has some background with Peter Laviolette and played a few games with the Bruins. But does not seem to have a role with the Islanders. His prime spot should be in Bridgeport and will likely take Jason Krog’s place and is a veteran player.

Other Notables:

The Islanders will only play five exhibition games, so whatever is decided will mostly be done in Lake Placid. For several years the Islanders have been one of the teams to consistently play the least exhibition games. After least year, it may not make a difference.

Kristofer Ottoson-Was offered a contract by the July 15th deadline, but elected to play in Europe next season.

Tomi Pettinen-Was signed to play with the Sound Tigers after coming over for the playoffs last season.

Next up:
The prospect review for the organization. For those who have visited the teams prospect page they will see updated info, rankings and stats.

Bill Barrett