The New York Islanders no longer bear any resemblance to the team that surprised everyone in 2006-07. Tonight, after the first day of free agency, the Islanders retain four of their top ten scorers in 07.
Jason Blake signed a 5-year, $20M contract in Toronto.
Ryan Smyth signed a 5-year, $31M contract in Colorado.
Victor Kozlov signed a 2-year, $5M contract in Washington.
Tom Poti signed a 4-year, $14M contract also in Washington.
That's a loss of 232 points from last season. Add in the Yashin buy-out and Robiataille's decision to play in Russia, and that number jumps to 322 points that the Islanders currently have zero replacement for.
That should pretty much speak for itself.
After all that, how could there be any reason to keep the faith?
Rather than spending an exorbitant amount on the other free agents this afternoon, the Islanders held the line. As much as this non-action may have contributed to Smyth's decision to leave, this also leaves the team with one of the biggest cap spaces in the league. And not for lack of choices, either; some major players are still available.
Look at the Rangers. Today, they picked up both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. Two big-name free agents, for sure. But take another look. The Rags gave up $7.3M a year in cap space to Gomez for the next seven years, and $7.05M a year in cap space to Drury for the next five. If either of these players doesn't work out, or becomes injured, the Rangers just committed salary cap suicide. Not to mention the fact that an all-star at every position doesn't equate a winning team. Look at the Yankees. What place are they in?
That aside, the average age of the Islanders just fell a considerable amount as well. Though a lot of fans doubt the Isles minor-league status, the truth is that there are a lot of determined young skaters out there waiting to fill the Ted Nolan mold.
Unfortunately, the biggest blow the Islanders suffered today was not on ice, but rather off ice. There's no doubting the organization is nearly undefendable in the eyes of the rest of the league. Attendance... well, that will probably end up being the biggest joke next season.
So in this pit that the Islanders have gone so gracefully headlong into, there is nowhere to go but up. It will be very interesting to watch Snow and Wang pull the team out of this tailspin.
But don't give up yet, Islanders fans. It's still only July 1st, and while the team has a long way to go before September, try to have a little faith in the team. It will be a hard sell to the remaining free agents and any other potential players out there (especially without Smyth sticking around), but rest assured, the Islanders will be there in the fall, and they will show up to play. Wether it takes the signing of a few fresh free agents (at inflated prices, of course), or a complete team restart with a roster of unknown faces and possible suprise talents, the Islanders aren't out of the picture, not in the slightest.
Let's see what tomorrow brings. And let's leave it at that for now.
Thanks for reading.