THE NYI'S PRACTICAL GUIDE TO FREE AGENCYTaking his time, Cool Hand Snow will get his men

CB at FanHouse: news of Volchenkov, Martin

FanHouse: The Top 50 44 Free Agents

Lighthouse Hockey blog: Dominik on NYI Free Agency

 

3:15 pm: As the unrestricted free agent market sets to open on Thursday at noon, the Islanders have an estimated $6-8 million they will eventually have to spend in contracts for 2010-11 just to reach the CBA-mandated salary cap floor.

 

The Islanders’ shopping list is expected to include the following:

 

  • One potential top-four defenseman

 

  • One reliable, experienced, tough third-pair defenseman

 

  • One potential top-six forward

 

  • One reliable, experienced, rugged, penalty-killing, bottom-six foward

 

  • One low-maintenance backup goaltender

 

  • Size. The Islanders’ prospect pool has been filled with some big bodies. The Islanders’ current NHL roster? Not so much.

 

Do not – repeat, do not – expect Garth Snow to have all of his shopping done by the Fourth of July. He may have only one or two of the above signed by the end of the weekend. As he has wisely done in the past, Snow will wait as several good players slip through the cracks and begin to get nervous after the first ten days of July. For the kind of players Snow wants and needs out of this year’s crop, there is no rush.

 

This is not a top-heavy free agent market filled with stars. This actually works out well for the Islanders. While Ilya Kovalchuk might go to LA, Snow and his staff can look at a host of top-9 forwards – many whom would fit in nicely with the slow and steady rebuild. Among the available forwards:

 

Lee Stempniak

Alexander Frolov

Matthew Lombardi

Maxim Afinogenov

Raffi Torres

Dominic Moore

Chris Higgins

Colby Armstrong

 

All of the above are 30 years old (Afinogenov) and younger.

 

While top defensemen like Anton Volchenkov, Dan Hamhuis and injury-prone Willie Mitchell are almost certain to go elsewhere, Snow and his staff will still analyze the market for a large number of quality defensemen. Among those available:

 

Paul Martin

Andy Sutton

Zbynek Michalek

Pavel Kubina

Henrik Tallinder

Randy Jones

Jordan Leopold

Brett Lebda

Derek Morris

Joe Corvo

Kurtis Foster

 

Like last year, when Snow could not pass up the opportunity to sign Martin Biron for $1.4 million, goaltenders will be available to him at great rates – especially if, as is his style, he tells all agents he doesn’t feel the immediate pressure to sign one. There are more UFA goalies than desirous teams in this summer’s market. If the Islanders add a goalie, it probably won’t be for a while.

 

And that’s okay. Snow has higher priorities. Remember, his publicly-stated goal is for his Islanders to make the playoffs next season.

 

About that shopping list above: the key word may have to be “potential,” as in potential top-six-forward and potential top-four defenseman. If Snow cannot get any of the bonafide top veterans to sign, he’ll court younger players that have yet to blossom.

 

Getting a Matt Moulson every summer is an accomplishment you cannot expect of any hockey staff, but the Islanders will try again. From Mark Streit to Dwayne Roloson to Moulson, Snow, deputy Ken Morrow and the rest of hockey ops have done well with quality-value free agent dealings.

 

Even if it’s not many (or any) of the players listed above, the Islanders will get the men they need in this market. My only advice: while some of the perceived best available free agents are coming off the board on July 1 and 2, stay cool. The season does not start for another three months. Whether it’s free agency or salary cap-relief trades, Snow has plenty of avenues to explore.

 

Comments on free agency are welcomed. I’ll be on News 12 Long Island tonight at 8:20, talking about the draft and free agency. I realized this afternoon that, before saying anything on TV, I should get my views across to this blog’s readers. Thanks for stopping by…CB