Yashin Deal Crippling Long Island

I really am not quite sure what to make of the Islanders. Afterall they are being run by the wildest GM in the league Mike Milbury. They had star players like Ziggy Palffy, Pierre Turgeon and others. Then they gutted them and decided to build through the draft which netted them the likes of Luongo, Bertuzzi and Chara. Instead of letting their draftees grow together, they decided to take a win now approach and brought in veterans like Yashin, Peca and Hamrlik.

At first glance it appears the Isles could remake themselves again with just 4 players under contract:

Forwards: Mike Peca, Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake

Defence: Janne Niinimaa

The problem is that they are already committed to roughly $15 million to these 4 players with another 20 players or so to get under contract. And that already includes the rollback in salaries.

But real problem of course is the Alexei Yashin deal. Signing him to the 10 year $90 million dollar contract was probably one of the worst deals ever in hockey. Even without the cap, the Isles have been crippled the last few season trying to find cheap options to play with Yashin due to the fact they have few resources to bring in another high priced talent. Now with restrictions on spending, it will make that problem even worse for Long Island. With so many roster spots to fill, the Isles are probably unable to afford to bring a top scorer as the team has big ticket items like Yashin and Mike Peca already.

Don’t get me wrong, Yashin is a good player and a talented player. He does average near a point per game. But he does not deserve to be paid among the best players in the league. He has done nothing in the playoffs and really doesnt do anything extrordinary to warrant top billing. But now that he is paid that way, it will mean a tough adjustment for Milbury and the Isles management to work around their payroll problems.

Guestimating that the salary cap will be at around $36-$40 million, it doesnt leave the Islanders much to work with, especially since they had holes in their lineup to begin with.

First thing the Isles will need to do is get a contract for Rick Dipietro who is a restricted free agent. After trading Luongo and passing up Heatley and Gaborik, Dipietro is the cornerstone of the franchise. He must succeed or the Isles will look like bigger fools than they do right now for passing up those top players. They could also use a backup with Garth Snow unrestricted and likely taking himself and his big fat pads elsewhere. Because of their cap problems they will probably go cheap and let Wade Dubielewicz be the team’s backup.

The Islanders defence needs the biggest makeover. With only Niinimaa signed, the Isles are going to definitely need an upgrade. Kenny Jonsson has already decided to stay in Sweden for next season. That leave a huge hole on defence since Jonsson was probably their steadiest defensive defenceman. Roman Hamrlik will also probably not be brought back considering he will be an unrestricted free agent and pretty much taking his services elsewhere. If the age limit for free agency drops, Adrien Aucoin will also be free to depart the Island. This will be a huge blow for their blueline with their top 3 defenceman gone. The Isles already had little depth beyond their big 4 and will certainly have much work to do to get things in order. They already lost Eric Cairns to the Panthers, Radek Martinek may go back to Europe, and youngsters like Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais and Ryan Caldwell may not be ready to shoulder a huge load. Will New York be able to compete in getting one of top blueliners out there? They have plenty to choose from like Gonchar, Zubov, Leetch, Neidermayer, Pronger, Foote. But in all likelihood the Isles will look to players like Ozolinsh or Malakhov or Zhitnik who will come a bit cheaper than the top end guys. A trade shouldnt be out of the question either considering Mad Mike loves to make deals. Funny that we are talking about how thin the Isles blueline is when they had player like Chara, Redden, Mccabe, Brewer in their organization at some point.

Yashin is their top centre by default. However he will need linemates. Players like Trent Hunter, Oleg Kvasha, Mark Parrish are RFAs that will need to be resigned. they are basically the best offensive wingers the team has. None of them have had very good chemistry playing with Yashin and have been more effective on the 2nd and 3rd lines. They have played pretty decent with the other support players including Peca and Blake. Adding restricted free agents Dave Scatchard, Shawn Bates, Aaron Asham to the list of role players and the Isles should have the makeup of a solid checking team. But with the game opening up, playing a clutch and grab style with tight defence and little scoring will not get you far outside the penalty box.

Perhaps youngster like Sean Bergenheim, Justin Papineau and Justin Mapletoft will be integrated into the lineup on a fulltime basis but to expect big contributions would be extreme.

With almost a full roster to get under contract, how will it be possible for Long Island to acquire any big name free agents? This list is long but players such as Kovalev and Palffy have been rumoured to come back to New York State. Though their price tags will be reduced, can they sign a big name or two and still compete? Their roster could be filled with a few top end guys and many low end lower paid players.

The cap is going to be a problem for New York and unless they buyout Yashin it will be a difficult summer for Mad Mike.


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