New York Islanders: Free Agency Preview

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New York Islanders: Free Agency Preview
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

We're now 25 hours (and counting) away from the start of "Free Agent Frenzy."

If their aggressive approach with Christian Ehrhoff (even though they were unsuccessful) is any indication, the New York Islanders fully intend to enter the market as buyers, ready to pounce on the opportunity to make a splash. 

Exciting as that may be, it's not necessarily because Charles Wang wants to flex his wallet muscles for the entire hockey world to see that the Isles are going to actively pursue these players. They're going to do so because they have to, because the NHL's raising the salary cap, which means the team has to spend money to stay above the cap floor. 

Of course, the Isles also know that if they can reel in higher-caliber talent, it could help sway the casual hockey fan towards voting "yes" for the tax bond on August 1. 

Honestly, does it really matter why they're doing it? At the end of the day, adding a couple of quality hockey players can only make the Islanders a better team moving forward. Whether that's the sole reason for making those moves doesn't take away from that fact—something that Isles' GM Garth Snow is well aware of. 

There's no purpose in dwelling over Christian Ehrhoff. I really don't think his decision had as much to do with Long Island and the Coliseum as many speculated. I also find it hard to believe that his choice had nothing to do with money, because he's obviously set on entering the open market on July 1 to see how many dollars he can command. 

If winning was the most important thing on his mind, he would have re-signed with the Canucks, who came within 60 minutes of a Stanley Cup title. 

I suppose it's a wait-and-see for Ehrhoff, but Isles fans shouldn't take this one personally. This isn't remotely the same (or as bad) as what Evgeni Nabokov did to this franchise a few months ago. 

Ehrhoff's a good defenseman, but he's not exactly the reincarnation of Doug Harvey. There are other quality D-men on the market, such as Tomas Kaberle, Scott Hannan and Ed Jovanovski. Perhaps the Isles will bring Roman Hamrlik, also a UFA at noon tomorrow, back to Long Island

The problem is, most of those players are either at the end of their prime or past that point altogether. If Garth Snow truly wants to land a top-flight blueliner who's in his prime, he's going to have to make a trade, which is probably the better route anyway, at least considering the defensemen on the market and how grossly they're likely to be overpaid. 

Young players like John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Nino Niederreiter, among others, should benefit from Doug Weight's presence behind the bench as an assistant coach. Adding a veteran forward (or two) who can provide leadership by example might not be the worst idea either, and the Islanders have a handful to choose from. 

Erik Cole, Andrew Brunette, Simon Gagne and John Madden, to name a few. Snow could also engineer a trade for a marquee forward, if that's the way he wants to go. 

If I had to choose offense or defense, I'd rather the Isles invest in their blueline. To me, that's the bigger gap that needs to be filled. The offense looks fantastic, the defense needs some work, even with Mark Streit coming back this season. 

Islander fans, we're in for an exciting summer. Mark your calendars, the fun begins tomorrow at 12 noon. 

Comments are welcome.

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