Get ready, Islanders fans, because the final season at the Coliseum is coming. This is an important season for your Orange & Blue, whether you like it or not. Don’t expect a Stanley Cup, but if the hockey gods are listening, a post-season appearance with one last go in the old barn would be pretty special.
It hasn’t been a quiet off-season by any means. Rumor after rumor has surfaced about Garth Snow offering contracts to just about every big name free agent on the market. Each of those free agents declined the offers, of course.
But Snow has brought in some depth, and filled some core areas heading into the 2014-2015 campaign.
The top acquisitions of the Isles this off-season:
1. May 22, Isles ink Jaroslav Halak: After acquiring Halak from the Capitals for a fourth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft, they signed the veteran goalie to a four-year deal three weeks later. This solidifies a major hole for the franchise. Evgeni Nabokov was good during his brief stint, but Halak adds a younger and stronger option. His No. 41 Islanders jerseys are already on sale (see photo above).
2. July 2, Isles ink Mikhail Grabovski: Like Halak, Grabovski brings a proven record and he signed a four-year deal. He’s only 30 and has 425 career NHL games under his belt. Last season he scored 35 points in just 58 games with Washington. In 2010-2011, he had 29 goals and 58 points for Toronto.
3. July 2, Isles ink Nikolai Kulemin: This signing is a lot like Grabovski. Kulemin adds depth of a similar proportion. An Olympian for Team Russia, he has played in 421 career NHL games and is a one-time 30-goal scorer for Toronto (2010-2011). He played the last six seasons in Toronto and scored 20 points.
4. July 1, Isles ink T.J. Brennan: They didn’t get an NHL veteran as a defenseman, but they did get a highly touted prospect. T.J. Brennan won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defenseman in the American Hockey League last season, while with Toronto’s affiliate. He scored 25 goals and had 72 assists in the minors. The upside is huge.
5. July 1, Isles ink Cory Conacher: He had 26 points last season with Ottawa and Buffalo. The interesting note about Conacher is that he was the MVP of the AHL in 2011-2012 with Norfolk. Again, this is more of an upside move and not someone who is proven.
6. July 1, Isles ink Chad Johnson: Halak’s backup is very formidable. He was 17-4-3 last season in 27 games with Boston. He ranked sixth in the NHL last year in both goals against average and save percentage.
I know what you’re going to say. Who are these guys? Besides Halak, not many jump off the page at you. It’s depth, but not the star-studded veteran brand you’d like.
I’m beginning to come around to the thought that Snow is doing all he can with what he has. He offers contracts. He went after big names – Vanek, anyone – and was able to sign pieces that could pay off, but we’ll have to wait and see.