After Losing Big Names, Snow Signs Replacements
The free agent frenzy began on July 1 and the Rangers made headlines by signing two big names. The Islanders? Well, they made some news with two big names involved, too. But it was because the players were leaving town, not arriving.
Coming to Broadway were Chris Drury of the Buffalo Sabres and Scott Gomez from the New Jersey Devils. Rangers' general manager Glen Sather obtained two impact players that were signed away from conference rivals. The Islanders saw Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Richard Zednik, Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov all sign elsewhere.
Isles general manager Garth Snow had to regroup and get to work. He was quoted as saying the team would have a difficult time attracting big names to Long Island due to the outdated Nassau Coliseum. But he did find a few players willing to wait out the possibility of a new arena.
Bill Guerin, the 36 year-old right wing, was inked to a two-year, $9 million deal and given the Captain's 'C' on his new sweater. The four-time All-Star scored 36 goals last season, splitting time between St. Louis and San Jose.
"My family and I are so happy to be coming to Long Island," he said in a statement. "Ownership's commitment to winning at almost every cost and Garth [Snow] making it clear to how determined he is to build a winner is why I'm an Islander today."
Signed the same day was center Mike Comrie, who played in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Ottawa Senators, and had a productive season with 20 goals and 25 assists. He is known for his scrappiness and competitiveness as much as his offense.
Snow also picked up Jonathan Sim and Ruslan Fedotenko, formerly of Atlanta and Tampa Bay, respectively. Both can put the puck in the net and will be counted on by head coach Ted Nolan to pick up the slack from the loss of Smyth and Blake.
During the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2004, Fedotenko scored 12 goals in the postseason. In 2006-07, he had a down year and scored that same amount during the entire regular season.
"I can score 25, 30 goals," Fodotenko said to reporters. "I know I can bring a lot to the team and hopefully get all my potential and reveal everything I can bring."
Sim had a career-high 17 goals and 12 assists last season with the Thrashers. The Islanders, with the departure of their two top scorers, will need all of this production.
Blake scored a team-high 40 goals and 69 points, leaving for a five-year, $20 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smyth was offered more by Snow but signed for five years and $31.25 million to go to Colorado, bringing his 36 goals and 68 points with him.
The loss of Smyth was a big blow to the Islanders after "Captain Canada" was acquired at last season's trade deadline from Edmonton for two former first-round picks and this year's number one selection.
"It was obviously not what we wanted to hear, but I appreciated the call," Snow said to reporters regarding a conversation with Smyth's agent, Don Meehan. "Don said we were right in it for Ryan's services until the very end and it was one of the hardest decisions he'd ever been a part of."
Retaining Smyth would have been a major move, but at Snow has kept up with the rest of the teams in the East by turning over his roster. If this translates into wins and another playoff berth remains to be seen.