New York Islanders GM Garth Snow knew he'd have his work cut out for him this summer.
Between his actions at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and the signings he made at the start of free agency, I'd say that Snow's accepted the challenge.
From the moment they acquired Lubomir Visnovsky (in exchange for a second-round pick in 2013), it became increasingly clear that the Isles are hell-bent on turning things around this season.
The fans might point to Visnovsky's cap hit, but let's get real here. There's more to it than that. Visnovsky and Mark Streit are two of the better puck-moving defensemen in the league and now they'll be orchestrating what should be an excellent power play on Long Island.
In what was unfortunately no surprise, P.A. Parenteau bolted for the Rocky Mountains, signing on with the Colorado Avalanche for four years and $16 million.
My thoughts on Parenteau's departure are of pure disgust. The way I see it, P.A. Parenteau was a borderline NHLer who seemed destined to play in the minors for the rest of his career.
That is, until Garth Snow and the New York Islanders gave Parenteau an opportunity that, let's face it, no other team was going to offer him. He ultimately thrived on the ice and proved his worth as a legitimate top-six forward.
Parenteau was reportedly offered a three-year deal by the Isles, but he opted to test the free-agent waters instead. He should have been loyal to the team that took a chance on him when everyone else dismissed him as a mediocre-at-best hockey player and re-signed. His decision to walk away from New York's offer told me everything I needed to know.
Another thing to consider here is that Matt Moulson, who has scored 97 goals and racked up 170 points over the last three seasons, will be entering the second of a three-year contract extension he signed last January. He's making $3.15 million per year on that deal.
Does Parenteau deserve more cash than Moulson?
And while we're on that topic, if you're Moulson and Parenteau waltzes into that locker room next season with a $16 million check, how does that make you feel? The last thing this organization needs is for their best pure goal-scorer to potentially be at odds with management.
P.A. Parenteau is a good hockey player, but there's no way he's worth the money he'll be making in Denver. As Matt Duchene will soon find out, Parenteau's talent might help him get to 40 points, but it'll take some extra weight-pulling to push the French Canadian to the 50-65 point plateau.
I think we'll find out just how comparable Duchene and John Tavares really are, based on how Parenteau performs on a line with the former (should that be the case).
Not only is Parenteau being overpaid, but he's replaceable, too. Whether it's Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Brad Boyes (I'll get to him in a minute) or, dare I say it, Nino Niederreiter, someone will be able to step into that role and put up 50-60 points playing with Tavares. It's no coincidence that JT's line-mates tend to produce offensively.
As far as who I think will be the one to step forward, I have a hunch it will be Okposo. He's often been criticized during his young (and still promising) career, but Kyle Okposo has a ton of untapped potential and though he hasn't necessarily been spectacular, his stats suggest the best is yet to come.
Okposo amassed 52 points during his rookie year, 20 in just 38 games the next (he missed much of 2010-11 due to injury) and 45 last season, playing with Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey. Give Kyle a full-time gig with Tavares and he'll rack up 50-60 points.
Remember, we don't know that Parenteau's going to consistently be a 65-point guy, and in fact, the 50-60 range is far more realistic for him. The bottom line is, he's replaceable and there's no reason for the Islanders to pay a non-elite hockey player more than he's worth.
People like to give Garth Snow and team owner Charles Wang a lot of slack for not overpaying free agents. Yet we've all seen how many of those contracts end up becoming a huge burden (see: Ville Leino, Wade Redden, James Wisniewski, Ilya Bryzgalov...must I really keep going?).
So when Snow goes out and signs a guy like Brad Boyes who, by the way, has scored 115 goals over the last five seasons, at one-year and $1 million, he's bashed for making an "ineffective" move. Let's get real here, because that's an excellent low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
When Snow signs Matt Carkner, who's 6'4" and 240 pounds, to give the defensive corps a much-needed boost in the size and snarl departments, everyone else is too busy whining about the fact that Micheal Haley's moving across the East River (Haley signed with the New York Rangers).
It's also important to remember that it's a long summer. The Islanders are still $10 million below the salary cap floor and they'll have to reach it (which, by the way, requires Charles Wang to spend money, even though he supposedly "refuses" to).
At this point, the better options exist in the trade market, not within free agency.
Yesterday, Arthur Staple of Newsday reported that the Isles were out of the running for Bryce Salvador. While Salvador is a serviceable defenseman, this team can do better and can do so without vastly overpaying an unrestricted free agent.
The amount of criticism that's constantly directed at this organization and its GM really bothers me.
Not just because it's unwarranted, but because, for a change, the media and those around the hockey world have been praising the excellent job Garth Snow has done at the draft and in free agency thus far.
Islander fans are always complaining (and rightfully so) about the fact that our team is constantly ridiculed by the hockey world, but the one time everyone else is commending us, we have to bash our own team instead.
Garth Snow is not to be blamed for the fact that free agents don't want to come play here. The amount of uncertainty regarding the arena situation is what drives them away; not Snow, Wang or anyone else.
Also, if you think that the Isles actually offered all of their draft picks for the second pick overall, you're delusional. I think that there was certainly a trade offer, but it's been misconstrued on a gigantic scale.
If that was in fact the proposal then I say there's no chance it came from Garth Snow. In that case, I'd say it came from Wang. It might have been a terrible offer but, if anything, it demonstrates that Wang cares about this team's on-ice performance and wants to win. That requires spending money, which he's willing to do.
Player agents often say that Snow's a good general manager who get's a bad reputation for no reason. If only the fans felt the same way.
It's time we give the Isles' GM some credit for a change. He's done a better job with this team than people give him credit for and his efforts will pay off soon enough.
Patience, my friends. The future is bright.
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