New York Islanders and Unrestricted Free Agents

New York Islander Fan Central | 10/12/2007 09:36:00 AM |
I find it very interesting last summer was the year basically the hockey media in North America decided the New York Islanders are not an attractive place for UFA to play in.

Garth Snow and even Mike Sillinger talked about the condition of the Nassau Coliseum inside the building from locker room to ice surface as being a major factor.

At this point I have to mention the Nassau Coliseum is not as old as Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh (is that's what it's called this year?) or Msg in New York City. No one is going to convince me the Meadowlands was a distinct selling point over the years for free agents or even Newark Arena for Brent Sutter?

Snow made it clear back in July that it is a factor when all things are even in negotiations and the media took it from there to an entirely different level which made Snow's comments a mistake to bring it up at all or poor excuses for not getting his first choices.

Most important the last two summer's were the first time the New York Islanders decided to lean heavily on unrestricted free agency to supplement their talent pool.

What they did do was give fair market contracts or walked away from their own free agents by choice. Ryan Smyth wanted to play out west but if the Islanders decided to give him an absurd contract around seven million he likely would have signed but by all indications that would have been a Yashin-like mistake.

What I find interesting that no one talked about is the Islanders the last two summers had their best UFA signing period in their history. Many of their signings have been to finals, won the cup or played for championships, not star players but people you can build a winning core around because they have been a part of it.

This is not like resigning Czerkawski as an unrestricted free agent, by comparison Islanders did very well based on the past.

Brendan Witt
Mike Sillinger
Bill Guerin
Mike Comrie
Andy Sutton
Ruslan Fedotenko
Tom Poti
Sean Hill

Before the new CBA dropped unrestricted free agency to below age thirty one Mike Milbury never tried for top level free agents or did not have the resources because Yashin and Peca were getting huge money and took up the bulk of the budget. Before Wang came in they had no money to retain their own players for close to a decade much less sign franchise talent.

What should be noted is all their restricted free agents did stay here for a long time.

Under Bill Torrey I cannot recall a major free agent signing unless were talking about David Volek's defection to North America. Most of Torrey's work was through the draft or trades and it was very tough for a player to become a free agent back then.

The bottom line is the last two years the New York Islanders did not overspend to land franchise players but did add more talent from UFA then ever before. They did not front-load contracts and pay someone a ten million dollars bonus for this season after what happened with Alexei Yashin or Michael Peca and this is not a corporate ownership that can write off losses to overspend on hockey players. If they did my guess is they would have gotten someone regardless of what the locker room looked like or the tunnel leading to the Coliseum ice.

As with most things money talks and if you offer a lot more than someone else you usually get what you want.