5:00 pm: Garth Snow said his team has the resources to spend and would be interested if a top player became available to the Islanders in a salary cap-relief trade prior to or during the regular season. Just as importantly, Islanders owner Charles Wang did not back down when the issue was brought up during Media Day at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon.
“We have never said we wouldn’t,” said Wang, asked if he was in position to financially support the acquisition of an impact player. “We’ll do everything we can to put the best product on the ice.”
Since several teams are desperate for cap relief prior to the start of the season, I asked Snow if he was looking at another deal in the next two weeks that would be similar to his low-cost trade for James Wisniewski. The Islanders could use a top-six forward.
“I’m always looking,” said Snow. “We’re always looking to add to our lineup.” The general manager added that he’s never received anything but unqualified support from Wang when he’s gone to the owner with a potential trade for an expensive player.
The Islanders are approximately $15 million under the league’s salary cap of $59.4 million. Teams above the cap or ones that could be in need of relief include the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.
As teams finalize their rosters as the NHL’s opening day approaches, even more could be interested in moving contracts of quality players to low-salaried teams like the Islanders, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues. The cost for the acquiring team would not result in an equal-value trade. A potential deal would be similar to Snow’s theft of Wisniewski (making $3 million) from Anaheim for a conditional third round draft pick, or Tampa Bay acquiring Simon Gagne ($5 million) from Philadelphia for Matt Walker and a fourth-rounder.
Wang “Not Going Dark” on Lighthouse Issue: At the Media Day press conference, Charles Wang reported “no progress” on his efforts to keep the Islanders in Nassau County.
“We have a (Coliseum) lease until 2015,” said Wang, “and we’re going to be here until 2015.”
Since Wang has absorbed tens of millions of dollars in losses since buying the franchise ten years ago, I asked him if there was anything he can say to Islander fans concerned about how much longer he can fund the hockey team without an arena development. Never known for being comfortable discussing economics in a public setting, the owner said, “We’re committed to Long Island. I want to keep this professional sports team on Long Island. This is where they belong.” In his own way, Wang tried to send the message that the team would be okay.
He also neatly side-stepped my question about whether his recently revised lease with Nassau County – in which the Islanders generate revenue from parking and from other Coliseum events like major concerts – has softened the crushing financial losses.
Wang would not get specific about alternatives for an arena outside Nassau County. “We’ll look at other options, but right now our focus is on the hockey season.” However, Wang is no longer “going dark” on the subject of the arena issue, hinting that – after a year of mostly silence – he would communicate with fans and media if there is any news. That in itself is good news.
On the hockey team, Wang has “high expectations” for the upcoming season. “We embarked on this rebuilding program many years ago. We’re getting closer and closer.”
Notes: Wisniewski (groin) was out for today’s workout, while Mark Eaton (back) made his training camp debut. Zenon Konopka (back) remains out, but could practice with the team on Wednesday. Doug Weight, who took a scheduled day off today, said the plan is to have the occasional rest day. The captain is returning from shoulder surgery.
Snow on whether the aging Coliseum hurt his pitches this summer while he pursued free agents like Paul Martin, who signed up with the Penguins and their new arena. “If you can stay at the Ritz-Carlton or a motor lodge, what do you expect”?
Islanders Media Day: The Islanders hosted a Media Day today (with lunch!) and drew a large crowd. As someone who’s been in that spot before – especially with the Jets, Giants and Yankees all the rage this week – I can tell you that it’s no small feat. Congrats to new PR chief Kimber Auerbach and his staff on a first-class event.
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