Grading the Division Rivals: The New York IslandersFlyers, News, NHL Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
There have been several weeks between my offseason grades for the division rivals of the Flyers. This has largely been because the New Jersey Devils still need to shed significant salary to fit under the salary cap after the Ilya Kovalchuk signing and the New York Islanders have significant salary space to still acquire quality players for dirt cheap due to the number of teams that are still over the salary cap. Over the last few weeks, the Islanders haven’t made any particularly flashy signings, and that’s true for their offseason in general.
The Islanders forwards of 2010-2011 are pretty much the same Islanders from 2009-2010. The organization re-signed Matt Moulson, Doug Weight, Rob Schremp, Jon Sim, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Zenon Konopka, and Trevor Gillies. Moulson should be exciting to watch, as he came out of nowhere with 30 goals last season, but aside from that, there isn’t much to write home about. Many of these players are great character guys, but are not marquis players like young Islanders John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Speaking of Okposo, he is sidelined with a preseason shoulder injury, which only makes this team worse. The team ranked 20th in the league last season in goals per game, and even the addition of 2010 NHL draft pick Nino Niederreiter won’t do much to improve this team for the upcoming season.
The defense is another story. The Islanders signed former Pittsburgh Penguin Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, neither of which is particular flashy but are solid additions. Former New Jersey Devil Mike Mottau was signed the other day to compensate for the loss of top defenseman Mark Streit, who was injured during preseason practice after colliding with Moulson into the boards. Losing Streit for the Islanders would be like losing Flyer defenseman Kimmo Timonen; the effect on the defense would be immediately noticeable. The biggest offseason defensive move was the trade of a third round pick for Anaheim Ducks defensemen James Wisniewski, which I wrote about earlier this summer on this site. Wisniewski is a dangerous, bruising, scoring defenseman that will help solidify an otherwise adequate defense.
Dwayne Roloson is back between the pipes this year, and if his play tonight against the Flyers is any indication, he will be more than ready to back this team if need be. “If need be” is the key phrase here, as long-injured goaltender Rick Dipietro may finally be ready to take back the starting goaltender position. Dipeitro was selected first overall by the Islanders in the 2000 entry draft and signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract in 2006. Beginning in 2007, Dipietro has been in and out of the line-up with concussions and knee issues. If he can return to form, this goaltending tandem should be formidable.
The unfortunate reality is that until the Islanders’ ownership issues are resolved and the lighthouse project (a political albatross at this point) either gets off the ground or the team is moved, the team’s contract spending will be limited to the salary cap floor. Unlike the Flyers, who are more than ready to throw money around, the Islanders have a budget to stick to and will continue to stock the roster with cheap bodies. This team should not be underestimated, but will likely miss the playoffs for another season.
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