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.