THE ROSTER SO FAR, PART II: FORWARDSCan Snow find his forward version of Wisniewski?

 

More than a few readers got a chuckle (at the writer’s expense) when I gave my Islanders’ free agency forecast on June 29 the sub-head:

 

“Taking his time, Cool Hand Snow will get his men”

 

I ended my piece with…

 

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.

 

On the second-to-last day in July, Snow found an ideal man for his beleaguered defense corps in James Wisniewski, the former Duck and Blackhawk who hits, blocks shots, can produce 30-40 points on offense and will play like he cares.

 

On the last year of his contract, Wisniewski – and this should not be viewed as an insult – clearly believes he is a better player than Chicago and Anaheim thought he was. This is a very good thing; Wisniewski may well be right, and he came to the right place. Just as the Islanders provided Mark Streit with a chance to showcase his talents, Wisniewski is going to get every opportunity to prove he’s a $4 million defenseman as he enters his prime.

 

Everybody wins. By having Wisniewski for this season (and maybe many more), Snow also buys time to evaluate his prospect defensemen and allow them to develop properly.

 

Will James Wisniewski be the next great thing in Islanders Country? Probably not. No matter the circumstances, good hockey people like Bob Murray do not get in the habit of giving away brilliant players for third round picks. Wisniewski was not only offered to the Islanders. The Ducks were clearly not alone in believing he was not worth $3.2 million-plus. But was he the perfect get for the Islanders in their current climate? You better believe it.

 

Bravo, Mr. Snow. Bravo.

 

The general manager has acquired his difference-making defenseman in Wisniewski, who upgrades the current blueline lineup from poor to average. The question now is, can Snow complete a similar deal for a forward who can make the Islanders a legitimate contender for one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff spots?

 

Time to review the forwards.

 

*

 

As of August 2, with the signings of free agent Zenon Konopka and P. A. Parenteau, the Islanders appear to have the following eleven forwards set for the opening of the 2010-11 season:

 

1. John Tavares

2. Kyle Okposo

3. Matt Moulson

4. Josh Bailey

5. Frans Nielsen

6. Blake Comeau

7. Trent Hunter

8. Rob Schremp

9. Doug Weight

10. P. A. Parenteau

11. Zenon Konopka

 

Tavares, Okposo and Bailey are still on their Entry level contracts. Weight’s signing has yet to be finalized, but Snow is on record from late June saying the captain would be back. After agreeing to a one-year deal before an arbitration hearing, Moulson is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next July 1. Parenteau and Konopka are on one-way contracts.

 

The Islanders have one heavyweight forward on a one-year, two-way contract for the upcoming season:

 

Trevor Gillies

 

Gillies should be with the big club for parts, if not the entirety, of the season. Snow is on record as saying he sees Gillies playing on the fourth line with Konopka.

 

The roster has a handful of prospects fighting for an NHL roster spot:

 

Matt Martin

Jesse Joensuu

David Ullstrom

 

With eleven players fairly locked in, it will be a battle for the youngsters. While Martin will play in the NHL at some point this season, whether he makes the team out of camp will be a stiff challenge he’ll have to prove he’s ready for.

 

Most intriguing of all, the Islanders have a trio of high-end talents who could make a push in training camp:

 

Kirill Petrov

Nino Niederreiter

Kirill Kabanov

 

At age 20, Petrov is the most ready. Scott Gordon’s glowing comments at prospect camp opened the door for Petrov starting the season with the Islanders (he needs to be signed to his ELC). If Niederreiter and Kabanov are not rushed into the NHL, they have to play junior hockey this season – Niederreiter in Portland (WHL) and Kabanov in Moncton (QMJHL). A return to junior is the smartest course of action for both, although you better believe the Islanders will give Niederreiter a long look. They put Josh Bailey directly into the NHL, and Niederreiter is a bigger boy.

 

The team also has some capable young forwards with varying roles who did not sparkle last year in Bridgeport, but should improve with more experience in the AHL and provide depth for the Islanders this season:

 

Justin DiBenedetto

Robin Figren

Tomas Marcinko

Rhett Rakhshani

Micheal Haley

 

Of course, we must give a category of his own to…

Jeremy Yablonski

 

Gone from the 26th-place Islanders of last season are Sean Bergenheim, Jeff Tambellini (signed with Vancouver), Richard Park and Jon Sim.

 

In that June 29 free agency preview on Point Blank, I wrote the following:

 

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

 

  • One potential top-six forward

 

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

    Not unexpectedly, the Islanders so far have only gone the “potential” route with that top-six forward. Pierre-Alexander Parenteau is 27 years old. In 29 career NHL games, he has three goals and six assists (3-5-8 in 22 games with the Rangers last season. He has hands, excels in the shootout and is a dynamo in the AHL. The Islanders hope he becomes their latest Moulson, not Tambellini. Parenteau got a one-year, one-way, $600,000 deal from Snow.

     

    The bottom-six forward slot was filled by Konopka, who fights more often and slightly better than Nate Thompson, is better than him at faceoffs, is not as efficient a forechecker and scores about as often (they each had two goals in 70-plus games last season). Konopka comes from Tampa Bay, where Thompson was re-signed by Steve Yzerman.

     

    It’s fun to note that the Islanders, who a year ago insisted they didn’t need players who primarily fought a lot, this summer signed Gillies, who averaged 3:24 of ice with the NYI last season, Jablonski, with one career NHL game at age 30, and Konopka, who averaged only eight minutes a game with the Lightning. All that said, there is no question Konopka will be a fan favorite this season.

     

    From June 29:

     

    Do not – repeat, do not – expect Garth Snow to have all of his shopping done by the Fourth of July. 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.

     

    Nothing has changed. While few quality scoring forwards remain in the free agent market, some will be available via trade. So far, Snow has passed on or missed out on deals for producers like Kris Versteeg, but there is still plenty of time to acquire his forward version of Wisniewski. The Islanders will be more than $15 million under the salary cap – and still have a little room to play with if they wish to stay close to the CBA-mandated salary cap floor.

     

    Snow said his team’s failure to make the playoffs last season was a “disappointment” and his goal for 2010-11 was to qualify for the postseason. Even with the excellent addition of Wisniewski, the Islanders may still be asking Scott Gordon to be a Jack Adams finalist to get this lineup into the playoffs. The coach is capable, but why not give him a little more ammunition?

     

    The Islanders need a top-six forward. The regular season is still two months away, and Snow continues to prove what he is capable of. The general manager shouldn’t stop now.

     

    We’re inching towards our summer Point Blank hiatus, so let’s all finish strong.

    10 comments
    Daniel Wexler
    Daniel Wexler

    PS not to get off topic but early returns seem to be the top end of the 2014 draft should be pretty damn loaded. Of course it appears pitching heavy (personally BPA all day... though honestly I'm not sure I could pull the trigger on Davidson (HS 1b again, with so much pressure on the bat) but if his bat is truly special maybe I could be convinced. Really like some of those pitchers though.

    Daniel Wexler
    Daniel Wexler

    I'm sure it's just coincidence but it's funny how the 3 relievers were bunched together, then the high upside HS arms and then the "newish to pitching" Cessa/Gsellman duo and now these 2 who have seemingly been matched together by Mets fans. Stuart's speed sounds very, very intriguing. For all the talk of lack of power in the organization... they also don't have a ton of speed. Is Juan Pierre an unfair "best case" for Stuart? Boy could we use a guy like that. BA absolutely loved/loves Wilson's tools. They noted that the Mets believe he has a realistic shot of sticking in CF. Obviously the K's were out of control this year but in terms of pure upside... I'm not sure there is anyone outside of Rosario among the position prospects that match Ivan Wilson.

    Sylvan Migdal
    Sylvan Migdal

    @Daniel Wexler  Juan Pierre has a pretty different profile from Stuart. Bad arm, zero power, but impossible to strike out.


    A better comp for Stuart might be a guy like Anthony Gose. Or Matt den Dekker with more raw speed/arm but less defensive skill.


    I'm not really as high on this pair of guys as Toby is...particularly Stuart, who right now almost resembles a worst-case scenario version of Ivan Wilson where he spends the next two years bouncing around rookie ball, never learning to hit pro pitching or take good outfield routes (yeah, he's got more speed, so what).


    I'd trade Stuart for another Jared King in a second. Get some guys who can hit a baseball, and maybe good things will happen.

    Chris
    Chris

    @Daniel Wexler I thought Toby said in the beginning that he was going with a more clustered/tiered approach this year, especially for the back half of the list where the differences between prospects become so small that ranking them at all is a trick. So I think that the bunching is by design. But maybe that was my misunderstanding.

    Daniel Wexler
    Daniel Wexler

    @Sylvan Migdal @Daniel WexlerBA absolutely loved Wilson's tools (though I will say and I really like Matt Eddy and he's a really nice and knowledgeable guy it sort of "devalued" his comments when in the Mets chat he kept referencing "Mets sources" "Mets scouts", not just on Wilson but in general. I mean they just took these guys of course they are going to be high on them. I'd almost prefer to hear from ANYONE but Mets scouts (not a knock on the Mets at all just tough to really gauge a guy like that). For what it's worth Jeff P. seems to like Stuart a lot too. Remember, underscouted and a bit raw despite his age. I don't have a strong opinion on him but sometimes you need to bet on the tools. Wilson had "everyone" in agreement regarding his upside. Law, BA etc so while he has  MASSIVE bust potential. I like the fact the Mets took a shot on a guy like this and hope they continue to do so. I like King as well for the record. I expect something of a breakout this year (despite the park)

    AV
    AV

    @Chris @Daniel Wexler  Toby did the same thing last year.  I like it better this way.  Outside of the top 10 is very fluid so bunching guys together lets readers focus on the writeup rather than the ranking.

    Sylvan Migdal
    Sylvan Migdal

    @Daniel Wexler I'm certainly not knocking the Mets for picking Wilson and Stuart, they seem like quality early-mid-round picks, and it's good to mix in some lottery tickets here and there. I just happen to like King better. Best chance of the three to be an everyday player, to my mind.

    Mark Kelly
    Mark Kelly

    @Daniel Wexler @Sylvan MigdalBoth of these are the guys the mets should be chancing on, and mixing in with some Jared Kings. 

    Champ's pure athletic tools are so strong, he jumps out immediately to everyone that sees him. Same with  Wilson.... But King is more polished and has a lower ceiling. I really like the mix and match in that draft. 


    Wilson in the 3rd, 

    King in the 5th 

    Champ in the 6th


    It's good to get the guys who can hit and maybe good things happen, as well as the get the really pure athletes and maybe good things happen. In the 3rd+ rounds your never really going to find a Really Great athlete who also can be really polished.