Veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky could be on his way overseas.
Per a report from Slovakian news outlet Novy Cas, Visnovsky is entertaining the option of starting the year in Europe — possibly in the Czech or Swiss League — while waiting on a potential NHL offer.
Back in late June, the 38-year-old — who has spent the last three years in New York — said he was “definitely” going to play next season, but Isles GM Garth Snow promptly threw cold water on a potential return to Long Island.
“I don’t anticipate Visnovsky coming back,” he explained. “So there’s potential for one of our young defensemen to earn a spot, whether it’s [Scott] Mayfield, [Ryan] Pulock, [Griffin] Reinhart, we’ll see what happens via the trade route at the draft and then look into free agency.”
Since then, the Isles traded Reinhart to Edmonton and were pretty quiet in free agency, with the only real splash on defense coming in the form of Thomas Hickey’s three-year extension.
If the Isles don’t eventually come calling — and it looks highly unlikely they will — Visnovsky will be hard-pressed to catch on elsewhere. While he had a decent offensive campaign in ’14-15, with 20 points in 53 games, he struggled defensively at times, and often looked a step slow.
Michal Neuvirth is out, and Thomas Greiss is in.
That’s the move Isles GM Garth Snow pulled off to open free agency on Wednesday, signing former Pittsburgh goalie Thomas Greiss to a two-year, $3 million deal (per Newsday).
Griess had a somewhat forgettable stint with the Penguins last season, largely due to Marc-Andre Fleury carrying such a heavy workload. The 29-year-old started just 18 times (9-6-3, 2.59 GAA, .908 save percentage), got the mumps and played just a handful of times down the stretch.
That said, player agent Rey Petkau said Greiss was interested in returning to Pittsburgh.
“We’ve spoken and neither side has closed the door,” he explained in late May. “But we’re not actively negotiating at this time either.”
At $1.5 million per season, Greiss is an affordable and seasoned backup to Jaroslav Halak. He has 89 games of NHL experience under his belt and will look to replicate the success he had as Mike Smith’s backup in Arizona two years ago, when he went 10-8-5 with a .920 save percentage.
In another move today, the Isles also confirmed what we posted yesterday — a new three-year deal for Thomas Hickey. It’s a $6.6 million pact, with an average annual cap hit of $2.2M.
Sounds as though the New York Islanders are close to a deal with pending RFA blueliner Thomas Hickey.
Per Newsday’s sources, the contract extension is believed to be of the three-year variety, with Hickey pulling down “in the range of” $6.5 million total — a cap hit of around $2.16M.
For Hickey, 26, it’s a nice bump from the $675,000 he netted annually on his last deal.
The former Kings first-rounder was claimed off waivers by the Isles prior to the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign and has been a steady lineup presence ever since; he’s appeared in 82 and 81 games in consecutive seasons and both set and matched a career-high in points, with 22 each year.
Getting Hickey locked in was fairly important for the Isles, as they dealt away Griffin Reinhart at the draft and don’t expect to return Lubomir Visnovsky.
That puts Hickey in a top-six defensive group with Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Calvin De Haan and Brian Strait, with youngsters like Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield looking to make the leap.
There’s always next season. It’s a phrase no team or fan likes to hear while there’s still at least a glimmer of hope, but it’s true — or at least it is most of the time. Sure, if the New York Islanders lose in Game 6 on Saturday, they’ll still look like a competitive squad going into 2015-16, but for many it won’t be the same. For the first time since 1972, the Islanders will no longer be playing in Nassau Coliseum and while that’s a decision that comes with benefits, it doesn’t change the fact that they would like to give their longtime home a proper sendoff.
There can only be one finale and a first-round exit doesn’t sound like a particularly good one.
“The effort (in Game 6) is going to be there,” Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey said, per the New York Daily News’ Stephen Lorenzo. “We know that. We know what it means to our fans. That can’t be the last game there. It just can’t be the last game for them.”
Islanders bench boss Jack Capuano agreed that it shouldn’t be hard for the team to stay motivated under these circumstances, according to the Monumental Network.
“If you can’t (get motivated), you’re in the wrong profession or you’re wearing the wrong sweater,” Capuano said. “We got great fans, it’s been a great building all year.”
Of course, the Islanders need to do more than just win on Saturday to ensure that Nassau Coliseum will host another Islanders’ game. Washington took a 3-2 series lead with its commanding 5-1 victory tonight. In order for New York to dig itself out of that hole, it also has to beat the Capitals in Washington on Monday.
Thinking about that would be looking too far ahead for the Islanders though. They have far more immediate problems to worry about and at least one more chance to win in Uniondale.
One day before opening their playoff series against Washington, the Islanders were extremely tight-lipped on the status of injured defenseman Travis Hamonic.
“It’s undisclosed and there’s no timetable,” head coach Jack Capuano said, per Newsday. “When there is, I’ll let you know.”
Hamonic was knocked out of New York’s penultimate game of the season against Pittsburgh, following an early hip-check from Rob Scuderi (pictured).
He finished the game with just 5:46 TOI and didn’t play in Saturday’s season finale against Columbus — a game in which the Isles conceded four goals.
Playing without Hamonic (also per Newsday, it’s unclear if he’ll even travel to Washington) will be taxing for the Isles’ back end. The 24-year-old averaged nearly 22 minutes per night this season and broke out offensively, scoring a career-high 33 points in 71 games. Hamonic was also largely assigned the task of defending Alex Ovechkin during the Isles’ regular-season tilts against the Caps.
With Hamonic out, New York could ice a six-man defensive unit of Johnny Boychuk, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Nick Leddy, Brian Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky, like they did against the Blue Jackets. Another option could be veteran Matt Donovan or Griffin Reinhart, the highly-touted 21-year-old that was recently recalled from AHL Bridgeport.