UFA Options: New York Islanders

Jonathan Willis
June 25 2009 11:15AM

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UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the New York Islanders .

Watching the mess down on Long Island is a cringe-inducing exercise, in the main. Garth Snow was a much reviled pick as G.M., but he’s clearly not the source of the problem (and just as clearly he’s an improvement on Mike Milbury). Charles Wang, with his wacky contracts, threats to move the team, and constant meddling in the team’s affairs is the very worst sort of owner.

There’s a reason that successful teams generally have a G.M. with autonomy, and as a rule the guy who has spent his life working towards the job has a better notion of what to do with it than a trigger-happy owner.

In any case, the Islanders have eight unrestricted free agents, including a handful of forwards, one defenseman, and both of last season’s ‘yesterday I was a career AHL’er, today I’m the starter for an NHL team’ fill-in goaltenders. If I sound apathetic, it’s because I am: none of the changes will significantly effect the fortunes of the team, and there’s very little chance that brining in free agents will either. It’s been sixteen years since the team advanced past the first round, and it’s going to be at least one more.

Mike Sillinger

“Suitcase” Sillinger (if anyone’s earned the nickname, this veteran of 12 different NHL teams has) played in only seven games last season and just turned 38. He also missed extensive time the year before. A smart player with the ability to play multiple roles, at this point it’s anyone’s guess if Sillinger will get another NHL contract.

Dean McAmmond

Used largely in a depth role, McAmmond had a decent season, and came on offensively once he was traded to New York, with 9 points in 18 games. He still has speed and while the ex-Oiler/ex-Flame isn’t likely to hit the 50-point mark again anytime soon he can still contribute in a bottom-six role. If the price is right (and I were working as a G.M.), McAmmond’s a player I’d be interested in as veteran depth.

Andy Hilbert

Andy Hilbert led the Islanders in shots (167), blocked shots (85) and recorded his best ever offensive season. Unfortunately, Hilbert’s best-ever offensive season only had him on pace for 33 points, so his upside isn’t exactly unlimited. He doesn’t have much of a hitting game and he’s a lousy faceoff guy. With all of that said, he’s a quality positional defender, a guy who saw a lot of time in his own end and a lot of time against the other team’s best players, and on top of that he’s dirt cheap. Garth Snow is expected to re-sign Hilbert this summer.

Mitch Fritz

The 6’7” left-winger has played in the ECHL, AHL and NHL, and he’s never topped the 12 points he put up in 2003-04 for the Columbus Cottonmouths. He set another career-high with the Cottonmouths: 284 PIM in only 45 games in 2001-02. Fritz is just one of the many minor-league goons out there, and this season was his first in the NHL – 20GP, 0 points, 42 PIM.

Thomas Pock

Pock has scored in every league he’s played in – except the NHL. A depth defenseman on the Islanders this season, Pock brings size but not physicality, and while he’s a relatively effective puck-mover he remains unable to translate his shiny AHL statistics into NHL point totals. He doesn’t really block shots, either. He got killed in terms of +/- this year while not shouldering that heavy of a load, but then again the Islanders were a miserable team. He’s a fringe NHL’er at this point.

Yann Danis

A fine example of why backup goaltenders have virtually no value to NHL clubs, the 27-year old journeyman had played in only 6 NHL games prior to this season, and had been up-and-down in the AHL. He started this year strong, going 7 and 3 with a .924 SV%, and continued that in the NHL – playing 31 games with a 2.86 GAA and .910 SV% for the Islanders. He should get another NHL look this coming season.

Joey MacDonald

The 29-year old MacDonald, who spent most of five seasons in the vaunted Detroit development system had played all of 15 NHL games prior to this season. When Rick DiPietro went down with injury early on, he found himself thrust into the starting job, and didn’t do badly, posting a .901 SV% over 49 games. He’s a legitimate backup at this point.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 thashiznit
June 25 2009, 11:18AM
Trash it!
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I vote for McAmmond!!

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#2 yo
June 25 2009, 12:14PM
Trash it!
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Jon : Just one quick question...why did you bother writing this? If the Isles were my sole exposure to hockey I would lose interest in a New York minute. If those dopes had the next 5 #1 overall picks they would still be the picture of a lost cause. Is his name Wang or is that what he is?

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