Free Agency, Day One: The Garth, The Bad, and The Ugly

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The opening 15min of Christmas In July is normally chaos. A new signing every minute, dollar figures higher than most can count, and pairings of odd bedfellows. That happened to a degree, but after Hour Two.

The first man signed? Manny Malhotra to Montreal. First man traded? Jason Spezza to Dallas in a wild and lopsided deal. Pittsburgh became Team Germany with the acquisitions of Christian Erhoff and Robb Zepp.

Who did the Islanders land? A real backup goalie and some spare parts.

Chad Johnson – Garth Snow struck early and hard to settle up his goaltending situation. A position that is no longer a dust devil of question marks and dread. The 28 year old Johnson is coming off a solid season as Tuukka Rask’s backup, going 17-4-3 with 2.10 GAA and .925 SV%, well above League average. He replaces the 38 year old Evgeni Nabokov who had been on a steady decline the last three years. Though the numbers look good, losing a mentor and leader like Nabokov could hurt.

TJ Brennan – The Toronto Marlies’ leading scorer for defensemen, Brennan is a depth move. Fine, but more is needed.

Cory Conacher and Jack Skille – A college free agent First Round draft pick that have not lived up to their annoited status. Conacher will be on is third team in four years, Skille his fourth team overall. They have potential to be Brad Boyes or Keith Aucoin type reclamation projects. If they don’t pan out this year, it’ll be one and done for them.

David Leggio – Signing for Bridgeport, discarded by Washington after they revamped their own depth goaltending. May never see time on Long Island. This signing would not have hit the radar had something else happened.

Garth Snow was reportedly in on every possible free agent during the negotiation window last week. He was also the last in on Vanek, Dan Boyle, and a few other high proflie players but could not get it done. Conventional thinking says “Garth Sucks!” while more sound logic shows players will go to where they can win. The Islanders are a bubble playoff team not a Cup favorite.

The last “big” free agents (not named Jaroslav Halak) who signed were cast offs and older players with families. Nassau County is perfect for them, not for the younger guys who want The Player’s Lifestyle. This is a small improvement from “NVMC Sucks!”, thought that is still the case. Maybe players are not willing to slog out one year in the suburbs even with the big city lights of Brooklyn around the corner. That’s more of a sign they need to leave as soon as legally possible.

Until one player or agent steps forward and specifically says “Garth Snow is a bad negotiator”, “Snow isn’t giving the whole story”, or “My client will never play for Charles Wang”, all we can assume is that there’s a much more abstract reason for players to avoid Nassau County.

Here’s to Brooklyn.

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