The countdown to the 2009 NHL Draft can’t expire fast enough for Islanders fans.
The question that has been asked for what seems like forever will finally be answered:
John Tavares or Victor Hedman?
I think Tavares should be taken by New York purely on the offensive potential that he has shown on every level. John is an extraordinary player and will mold very well with the young offensive talent already budding on the island.
With Tavares presumably joining veteran Doug Weight and 2008 first-round pick Josh Bailey, the Islanders appear to have great potential down the middle.
On the right wing, Trent Hunter will be back. If he can stay healthy, he should set anchor on the first line. If he can’t, Kyle Okposo looked to be the real deal last year and could easily step up to the top line with Weight. Kyle led all Islander forwards with 37 points and grabbed at least a point in 12 of his last 14 games.
New York’s biggest problem lies in the left-wing position.
While Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim both have decent potential and will be coming back next year, Blake Comeau, point leader amongst left wings, will be a restricted free agent but should get consideration for a resign.
The good news for the Islanders is they have a ton of room under the salary cap. It’s about time that GM Garth Snow opens up the pocketbook and signs a game-changing forward.
Luckily for Snow, there is a pool of talented left-wingers to choose from this offseason. And while he has the checkbook handy, adding a young, puck moving defenseman might help out the cause as well.
Convincing these players to come to the Islanders—now that’s an entirely different story.
Mike Sillinger, C (Unrestricted Free Agent)
A pretty serious hip injury and an aging body in general means sayonara for Sillinger after three seasons of service. Mike is hoping to rebound from this major injury late in his career and to find a team willing to take a risk on him. His health will most likely only get him a training camp tryout, but I wish him good luck.
Thomas Pock, D (UFA)
Pock brought nothing to the ice in 2008-09, and thinking that this would change next year would be foolish. His 53 hits in 59 games was just one of the many statistical areas where Thomas failed miserably. Signing him to any type of contract would be a waste of money.
Joey MacDonald, G (UFA)
Although Joey set career-highs in games played, minutes, saves, and wins, he will most likely be fighting for ice time with a different uniform on next season. MacDonald is a decent back up goalie, but Yann Danis is also up for a contract renewal—and there is only room for one.
Nate Thompson, C (Restricted Free Agent)
Four points in 43 games is hardly productive for a center, no matter what line he is on. With the plethora of centers set to lineup for the Islanders in 2009-10, there just isn’t enough room for Nate even if he was playing better.
Jack Hillen, D (RFA)
A free agent signing two years ago after an amazing senior year at Colorado College, Jack failed to show that he belonged in the NHL. Putting up a minus-13 with zero points in his last 16 games, Hillen looked slow and needs much more improvement if he wants to get another chance with a NHL club.
Blake Comeau, LW (RFA)
Blake spent the end of last year on the first line due to the multiple injuries on this squad and because of this led all left-wingers with 25 points. Three goals and eight assists in March showed that if accompanied with the young talent on this team, Comeau will be able to make a splash.
Two or three more years with the Islanders should allow this second-round pick to reach his full potential and help this team out of the cellar and maybe into the playoffs.
Andy Hilbert, C/LW (UFA)
Andy is a great forward to use in order to fill any spots that may open up during training camp or mid season. Hilbert stepped in and played center on the fourth line last year and posted his best points per game in his three seasons with the team. He could be a good energy player who comes with a cheap price tag.
Yann Danis, G (UFA)
When Rick DiPietro went down, both Danis and Macdonald had their chance to make their bid for a resign this offseason. And while MacDonald, got 18 more starts than Yann, Danis' numbers in his 31 starts were much better.
Yann posted a 2.86 GAA, .910 save percentage, and two shutouts, leading his team in all three. These numbers should get him a new contract, but hopefully just to back-up a healthy DiPeitro.
Daniel Sedin, LW (UFA – Van)
This may be a pipe dream but singing a left-winger like Sedin is exactly what the Islanders need. Daniel is a consistent 30-goal scorer and just imagine what he could do on the top line with Weight and Hunter.
New York has enough cap room to offer Sedin a plentiful contract and he or a similar goal-scoring winger is just what this team needs in order to become a playoff contender.
Jay Bouwmeester D (UFA – Fla)
Jay is definitely going to he highly-touted free agent this summer and will require a lot of money in order to sign him—once again, something that the Islanders are lucky to have.
Bouwmeester is already used to playing with a sub-par team, so coming to the Islanders shouldn’t be much of a stretch for him. And maybe, just maybe, he will be persuaded by the amount of potential that is oozing from this team.
It is going to be very fascinating how Garth Snow handles this offseason. With more interest already being shown in the team by fans due to the possible signing of Tavares, this could be the year that they decide to make a conscious effort at making the playoffs.
Nothing brings fans to the rink more than a winning team—and it takes a lot of money to build one of those.
“Dump and Chase” is hopefully going to be a team by team article that lets Jason put on his General Manager hat and tell those big wigs how an out-of-work hockey fan would run their team. I hope they are taking notes.