Monday, June 30, 2008

Re-Signed: Petteri Nokelainen

The Boston Bruins have locked up the services of center Petteri Nokelainen for the next 2 years as the two sides agreed to a contract that will pay him a combined $1.7 million over the next couple of seasons. Originally drafted in the 1st Round, 16th overall of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Nokelainen finished his first full season in the NHL with the Bruins scoring 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists) on 57 games. Nokelainen has an impressive 17.5 scoring percentage. Nokelainen could prove to be a solid young forward for Boston seeing as he just turned 22 in January.

On Waivers: Alexei Zhitnik

Despite prior rumors that the Atlanta Thrashers would keep Alexei Zhitnik and the final $3.5 million year on his contract, the fact that the 15 year veteran defenseman cleared waivers on Monday speaks quite to the contrary. Zhit had the worst full offensive season of his career notching 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on 65 games. The 8 points were a 30 point dropoff from the prior season when he split time between the Isles, Flyers and Thrashers. Now a UFA, the NHL future of this once elite d-man is surely in question.

Originially drafted in the 4th Round, 81st overall of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, Zhitnik morphed into one of the league's elite defensemen in the mid-1990s as he rose to prominence with the Buffalo Sabres. Zhitnik has played in 1,085 games notching 96 goals and 385 assists for 471 points. As stated, he has played for the Kings, Sabres, Isles, Flyers and Thrashers.

With the Free Agency market opening tomorrow, we will keep a close watch on where Zhitnik ends up in the coming days.

Friday, June 27, 2008

On Waivers: Todd Bertuzzi

The Anaheim Ducks are parting ways with winger Todd Bertuzzi after only 1 year of a 2 year, $8 million contract signed last season. Bertuzzi had a return to form of sorts notching 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) on 68 games with the Ducks but it seemed he never fully gelled with his teammates in Anaheim. Bert failed to meet expectation notching only 2 assists on 6 playoff games as the defending Cup champs were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. It can be presumed that the Ducks will buyout the remainder of his contract since no team will pick up the exorbinant $4 million remaining on the deal.

Bertuzzi, originally drafted in the 1st Round, 23rd overall of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, has played for the Isles, Vancouver and Anaheim with brief stays in Florida and Detroit. He has played in 793 NHL games recording 240 goals and 340 assists for 580 points. He will probably be forever remembered for his year long suspension following a sucker punch/face plant to Colorado forward Steve Moore which broke a neck vertebra, prematurely ending Moore's career.

Bertuzzi will invariably find work somewhere in the league (FIW would make a guess that Columbus could use his services), but at a severe discount from the ridiculous amount Anaheim had signed him to. As always, we wish Bert the best as he looks for a new employer.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On the Move: Wade Dubielewicz

Word has is that Isles backup goaltender Wade Dubielewicz has signed a 2 year deal with Ak Bars Kazan of the new Russian League (KHL). Financial terms of the deal has yet to be disclosed. The official team website ( has made the deal known. Speculation has it that Dubie is using the signing as a heads up to interested NHL teams that he is available but confusion surrounding rules concerning contract reneging with the new league makes it all but guaranteed that he will indeed play in Russia the next couple of seasons. In a side note, comments from Kazan fans on the team's website have been fairly critical if not scathing questioning Dubie's ability as a professional goalie and going as far as to demean his skills as sub-Robert Esche, the former NHL goalie he will be replacing as the new number 1.

Dubie played in 37 games over parts of 4 seasons with the Isles. The 2007-08 campaign was his first and only as a full-time backup for Rick DiPietro. He holds a 16-13-1 record with the Isles with a 2.55 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He will forever remain a local hero after his 4 consecutive wins to close out the 2006-07 season vaulted the Isles in to the playoffs following a near heartbreaking, but eventually rejoiceful SO winner in the final game of the season against the New Jersey Devils sealed the #8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Owing to an injury to DiPietro, Dubie started the first and only playoff game of his career, eventually losing 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres.

A supposed disagreement between Isles' GM Garth Snow and coach Ted Nolan about Dubie's conditioning and fitness paired with what was believed by Dubie and his agent to be a lowball offer from the team created an irreparable fissure between the goalie and the franchise. Following the breakdown of contract talks in early June, it became apparent that Dubie would be looking for work elsewhere. We wish Dubie the best in Russia and will update if any news changes on his professional relocation.

Rumors: Martin Straka

It has been rumored that winger Martin Straka has signed on with HC Lasselsberger Plzen in his home nation of the Czech Republic to be a player and the team's sports director. Straka, who will become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) in July, is thought to be a highly sought after veteran and is this year's #1 FI UFA according to this fair website. Straka's agent Ritch Winter (good name? bad name? not sure) refuted the claim made by Plzen club president Tomas Kral on the Czech squad's website. Winter has made it clear that Straka wants to weigh all his offers and options following the open season for free agency starting July 1. We will see how this pans out and if Straka really did make a commitment to this foreign corps. We at FIW find it hard to believe that the perfectly able, albeit soon it be 36 year old, would leave the NHL at this point in his career.

Straka has played in 954 NHL games registering 717 points on 257 goals and 460 assists. He has suited up for Pittsburgh, Ottawa, the Isles, Florida, Los Angeles and the Rangers over his 16 professional seasons. Straka was originally selected in the 1st Round, 19th overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft.

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Waivers: Jeff Hamilton

Word has it that the Carolina Hurricanes have placed winger Jeff Hamilton on waivers after a disappointing season. Once he clears waivers, Hamilton will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and will be paid a fraction of the $800 thousand he was slated to make in the last year of the 2 year deal he signed last summer with the 'Canes. Hamilton managed only 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) on 58 injury/scratch-shortened games with Carolina. He was signed after a breakout 2006-07 season with the Chicago Blackhawks caught attention around the league. We will follow the bouncing Hamilton once Free Agency season begins July 1.

On the Move: Olli Jokinen

After years of rumors, Olli Jokinen was finally traded by the Florida Panthers on Friday night during the 1st Round of the NHL Entry Draft to the Phoenix Coyotes. The best active offensive Former Islander, Jokinen came at a cost as the Panthers picked up defensemen Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and a 2nd Round pick on Saturday with which Florida picked another d-man, Colby Robak (Brandon, WHL). O-Jok is in the last 2 seasons of a long term deal in which he will earn a total of $10.75 million in base salary.

Despite having a slightly off season (34 goals, 37 assists for 71 points on 82 games), Jokinen leaves the Panthers as the franchise's all-time leader in goals (188), assists (231) and points (419). Jokinen returns to the Western Conference, more specifically the Pacific Division, since last playing for the Los Angeles Kings during the 1998-99 season. He was originally drafted 3rd overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by LA. As always, we wish the very talented Jokinen the best with his new team.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Top 10 Former Islander Free Agents

Former Islander Watch takes a look at the Top 10 FI Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs). Islanders who are on the current roster but not signed to a contract (i.e. Dubie, Satan, Vasicek) were not considered for this list. Therefore the list consists of extant FIs. With that said, this list is rather paltry as the availability of high-quality FIs has taken a nosedive in recent due to a wave of long-term contract signings. Here are the Top 10 starting with number 1:

* No. 1 - Martin Straka (LW) - Despite being hampered by injuries this last season, Straka was an offensive force for much of the season for the New York Rangers. Straka really turned it on in the playoffs as the Rangers again stalled in the 2nd Round. During the regular season Straka played in 65 games recording 41 points on 14 goals and 27 assists. In the playoffs, Straka had 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) on 10 games. If he has completed recovered from his injuries Straka will be a hot commodity around the league. When he is on Straka provides nearly a point per game in offensive contribution and is especially good at setting up powerplay goals.

* No. 2 - Michael Peca (C) - For all the criticism about inconsistency, Peca had a strong showing playing nearly a full season for the first time since 2005-06. More of a defensive offenseman (2 time Selke Award winner), Peca pitched in with 34 points (8 goals, 26 assists) on 65 games. Peca had a strong showing on the lowest scoring team in the NHL managing a -1 rating and 11 powerplay helpers. Peca should pique the interest of a handful of teams looking for a solid 2nd or 3rd line center with plenty of leadership experience.

* No. 3 - Alexei Yashin (C) - Despite the fact that Yashin will be cashing paychecks from the Isles for years he will not undersell himself to anybody. With that understood, there are NHL teams (ahem... Minnesota) who would be interested in procuring the help of Yashin if the price is right. Yashin had a good season in Russia (Yaroslavl) notching 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) on 56 games, winning the MVP award of the Russian League. (How do you win MVP with less than a point per game, huh? Really people!) Anyway, Yashin could slither his way back to the NHL. Then again, maybe not.

* No. 4 - Stephen Valiquette (G) - The list gets kind of dodgy from here on out. Prior to this season the 30 year old professional AHLer had never played a full season. He impressed with his work as the backup for New York Rangers goalie Henrik "the Bum" Lundqvist. Vali played in 13 games compiling a 5-3-3 record with a slim 2.19 goals against average, a healthy .916 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Nothing is for sure about his future but Valiquette could attract interest from teams looking for a solid, yet unproven 2nd stringer. Oh, and the price should be very affordable.

* No. 5 - Randy Robitaille (C/LW) - As part of the goodbye Yashin party following last season, Robitaille jumped ship and joined him in Yaroslavl. Robby did not stay long (14 games) before procurring a position with the at-the-time mighty Ottawa Senators. Robitaille had a spotty season with the Sens bouncing from first line to second line owing to a number of injuries. At times he was flashy and others trashy. On 68 games he recorded 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points, unspectacular considering he had recorded 40 points only the season before. But Robitaille has always been a touch-and-go kind of forward and should find work on a second or third line with some team, we think.

* No. 6 - Bryan Smolinski (C) - Yes, Smolinski wants to keep playing. Yes, he has expressed interest in staying with the Montreal Canadiens. We will see how that works out. Simply put, Smoke was unspectacular last season for the Habs notching only 25 points (8 goals, 17 assists) on 64 games, a 19 point drop from the prior season. Add to that his completely absence following the first three games of the playoffs (3 points from 1 goal and 2 assists on 12 games) and Smolinski is a potential liability wherever he ends up. Smoke still wants to play, we will see if anybody wants to give this seasoned professional that opportunity.

* No. 7 - Jim Dowd (C) - Late this season Jim Dowd got a lot of press: the old man on the resurgent Philadelphia Flyers playing only hours away from his home town in Brick, New Jersey blah blah blah. Whatever. The truth of the matter is that Dowd is a 10-point-per-season grinder who will eat about 13 minutes a game for any team. He had 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) on 73 games last season for the Fly a whopping 2 point improvement over his previous season's output. Dowd is definitely aging (he will be 40 in December), but he can be a scrappy and solid 4th line center for a team looking for experience from an obscure Stanley Cup winner (1994-95 New Jersey Devils).

* No. 8 - Dick Tarnstrom (D) - There was a time when Swede Dick Tarnstrom had turned his back on the NHL, then opportunity struck again with the Edmonton Oilers. By the midway point of the season the 2nd honeymoon with the Oil was over and Tarnstrom landed in the barren wasteland that is Columbus. However, Tarnstrom did show some flashes of offensive ability and may have secured himself a payday come July 1. Tarnstrom struggled managing only 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) on 29 games with Edmonton before notching 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) on only 19 games with the Blue Jackets. A one-time 52 point scorer, we here at FIW are sure that Tarnstrom will secure NHL employment next season, we are just not that excited about this rapidly aging Scandinavian.

* No. 9 - Eric Godard (RW) - Godard scored a goal last year! Yay! Not know for any offensive ability, toughman Godard is free to go where his muscle will take him after a season and a fraction with the Calgary Flames. Godard played 74 games last season after an injury-shortened 2006-07 campaign. He recorded 1 goal and 1 assist for 2 points while racking up 171 penalty minutes. His kind of toughness is always a commodity and a few teams will come knocking at his door. However, the salary might not be so hearty.

* No. 10 - Arron Asham (RW) - In New Jersey anonymity is easy to maintain. But when people are asking where you went because you cannot find a scoresheet, that is a different story. Asham's first since with the Devils was full of woe as he suffered two cold streaks (23 games and 19 games) failing to pot points in over half the season with those droughts alone. In the end, Asham managed only 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) on 77 games. Now we know Jersey is offensively starve but those numbers are just anorexic. A 13 point drop from the prior season, the tough Asham could be in real danger of not finding work in the NHL next season. We hope he makes it somewhere, but that might be a tough sell.

Thanks for reading. We will have more UFA news and updates as they happen. The trade window opens July 1 and we will be updating as rapidly as we can as we almost certainly watch a new litter of FIs being born.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Retiring: Trevor Linden

Vancouver Canucks mainstay and FI Trevor Linden is calling it quits on Wednesday after 19 seasons in the NHL. Linden once led the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup (1994) and was known as a workhouse and OT specialist. Later in his career offense took a backseat as Linden became a defensive-forward for Vancouver. Linden also spent time as the President of the NHL Players Association (NHLPA), an inenviable task as his tenure meshed with the lockout.

Linden won a multitude of awards over his career including the King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1997), the Cyclone Taylor Award (1989, 1991, 1995, 1996), the Molson Cup (1989, 1991) and most recently the NHL Foundation Player Award (2008). A 2-time All-Star (1991, 1992), Linden played 1382 regular season games notching 375 goals and 492 assists for 867 points. He also logged 124 career playoff games to the tune of 99 points (34 goals, 65 assists).

For the first 9 and a half seasons Linden played exclusively for Vancouver before a trade brought him to the Islanders from 1997-1999. Following his brief detour with the Isles, spent short stays with the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals before returning to the Canucks early in the 2001-02 season.

Congratulations must go to Trevor Linden for a fabulous career. All the best.

On the Move: Marc-Andre Bergeron

Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron was traded on Tuesday by the Anaheim Ducks to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 3rd Round pick in the upcoming Entry Draft on June 20. Bergeron had 8 powerplay tallies last season (tied for 6th league-wide) in stints with the Islanders and Ducks. Bergeron had 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) last season on 46 games with the Isles and 9 with Anaheim. He never took to the Anaheim roster despite carrying a cannon for a shot. Minnesota will be his 4th team in 3 years having played for Edmonton from 2002-2007, the Isles from 2007-08 and Ducks in 2008. On 267 career games Bergeron has 128 points on 48 goals and 80 assists. We here at FIW wish Bergeron the best with his new team up North.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wednesday June 4

Though it was hardly sweltering in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, it is worth noting that the 2007-08 NHL season came to an end during the first week of June: the beginning of summer! That thought aside, the Detroit Red Wings seized chance 2 to close out the Stanley Cup Final and did so by edging the host Penguins in Game 6. The Wings sealed up their 11th Cup and 4th in the last 11 years. Some are calling Detroit a dynasty. Well 4 by 11 is only 36.3% so let us just call them good. For dynasty you should refer to the 1960s Montreal Canadiens, late 1980s Edmonton Oilers and of course the greatest dynasty of all time - the early 1980s New York Islanders. But I digress, for the second time. Here is a look at the deciding game of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final:

* Henrik Zetterberg "scored" 7:36 in to the 3rd Period to notch the game winner for Detroit. Marian Hossa cut the Wings' lead back to 1 with 87 seconds left in play, then almost tied it up in the waning seconds. Zetterberg, tied for the playoffs goal and points lead (13 goals, 27 points), was "assisted" on the play by Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury who accidentally put the puck in the net.

The travesty is that Zetterberg was crowned the MVP of the Playoffs which comes with the second most beautiful prize in all of sports: the Conn Smythe Trophy. Why is this a travesty you may ask? Because Detroit goalie and FI Chris Osgood played one of the most brilliant runs by a tender in the history of the NHL playoffs. Ozzie was 14-4 in 18 starts and surrendered only 30 goals in 19 appearances! Osgood did it again in Game 6 stopping 20 of 22 shots. He had an unbelievable 1.55 goals against average and an insanely good .930 save percentage with 3 shutouts. He single handedly stole games for Detroit as they recovered against Nashville, trounced Colorado and survived both Dallas and Pittsburgh comeback attempts. That award was his and the NHL screwed it up big time. But, congratulations still for the first FI Stanley Cup winner since defenseman Vladimir Malakhov (!) won it with the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 Final. (FIW does not recognize ex-coach Peter Laviolette who won it in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes seeing as he was never a player for the Isles, the whole crux of our bloggy existence.)

Congratulations Detroit for making such a strong run to the championships. Congrats also to the young Penguins (average age = 27.5) who will find their pot of gold in the future, that is if the Isles do not knock them out of contention in some more David Volek-like stunning Game 7s.

Keep posted to FIW occasionally throughout the summer as we keep our eyes firmly on NHL news including the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and of course Free Agency season! Thank you for a great 2007-08 season. All the best.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Monday June 2

As hockey entered the month of June there was much at stake as Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final was on tap. The host Detroit Red Wings had a chance to wrap up a series in which they dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins. A win for Detroit a Monday would mean Stanley Cup win number 11 for the franchise. A loss would be Game 6 at the Igloo on Wednesday. Here was the result:

* Detroit goalie Chris Osgood surrendered the highest goal total in a single game during the 2008 playoffs albeit in 100 minutes of play. A Petr Sykora goal midway through the 3rd OT sealed a 4-3 win for the Pens, a shocker considering they had tied the game with only 35 seconds left in regulation on a extra attacker goal by grinder Maxime Talbot, a hunch substitution from Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien. The hunch worked but it seemed as if Detroit would still pull off the win in an extra frame outshooting Pittsburgh 24-14 in the two and a half OT periods. Osgood stopped 28 of 32 shots but was outdueled by Pens' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury who faced a barrage of shots stopping 55 of 58. Ozzie "fell" to 13-4 on the playoffs while his goals against average "bloated" to 1.53 and his save percentage "dropped" to .931. Even despite this bump, if Detroit still wins the series, which they should be able to do, Ozzie still has to be front runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. His numbers are outrageous and his play has been fantastic. He gave up 4 goals over nearly 2 games barely denting his already anorexic stats. This was just a game of attrition and survival and Pittsburgh got the upperhand this time.

Check back soon as FIW waits with baited breath to see what happens in Game 6 on Wednesday night. Thanks for checking in.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saturday May 31

With Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on tap on Saturday night it was a near do-or-die situation for the Pittsburgh Penguins who have been perfect at home (9-0) in the playoffs. A win would mean a tied series, a loss would mean near elimination. Here is a look at the results as the Detroit Red Wings and Pens faced off in the last game of May:

* The Wings edged the host Penguins 2-1 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Detroit can win their 11th Stanley Cup Championship when they return home to the Joe Louis Arena on Monday night. Down 1-0 early in the 1st on a Marian Hossa powerplay tally, the Wings tied in a little over 4 minutes later on a goal by perennial Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and then won it only 2:26 in to the 3rd Period on a goal by forward Jiri Hudler. The second star of the game was FI goalie Chris Osgood who stopped 22 of 23 shots to improve to 13-3 on the playoffs. Ozzie has to be the number 1 choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy right now surrendering only a goal per game (4 goals, 4 games) on the series. He has had an amazing playoff run with a 1.45 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and 3 shutouts. His numbers are even more ridiculous in the Finals with a 1.00 goals against average, a .955 save percentage and 2 goose eggs. Osgood is playing better than he ever has.

Check back soon with FIW. The Stanley Cup Final could wrap up Monday night and we might see our first FI champion in years. Thanks for reading.