By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Over the summer I spoke to an NHL source about how long it would take to get a new collective bargaining deal done.
The answer I received was: “At least mid-November, and not a moment sooner.”
That should give you an idea that many teams and NHL brass, besides players, knew that it would be a contentious negotiation. After all, in 2009 the NHLPA was in tatters. It was clear that the owners wanted to maximize the opportunity with a new CBA.
Don’t believe the hype and emotional capitulation that went on during the actual event. Once in that steel trap, fans, the media, players, teams and NHL people all seemed to lose all sense of self as the temperature got raised and we sailed into December and then January.
As I said on Twitter, it seemed the NHL’s own internal date for a deal was Jan. 1, which seemed to get blown to smithereens and then buried with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman shaking and angry because NHLPA head Don Fehr didn’t seem to play by the carefully owner-scripted rules and melodrama that many seemed to buy into. So it was in that moment the NHL realized its internal date would not stand. The game would go into overtime.
So the NHL reconvened with a new internal date that this time was made public, instead of being protected like a state secret. Once that was in place, and Fehr correctly called that the NHL would offer up concessions, in the end because nobody wanted to lose a season, lo and behold, a deal was finally hammered into place one week into what was surely sudden death.
It appears the season will start on Jan. 19, despite some differing takes/dates thrown out there since the deal was consummated. The NHL is in high gear to put together and inform teams of rules, dates and, of course, the official schedule. The Islanders, as of late Wednesday night, still had not been given a schedule. They are also waiting to be informed of rules on junior eligibility and how many NHL games they can play before having to send them back down.
According to Arthur Staple over at Newsday, Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart will be camp invites. Back in the summer, the Islanders’ development camp perception was that Strome needed another year before being NHL ready. His professional career, however, might begin sooner. His play in the OHL, where he was described as “a man among boys,” has progressed so much that he will get a serious opportunity. Without Strome, Frans Nielsen is on paper the second line center, but everyone knows that he is far more suited to be a two-way third line anchor.
The problem is that Strome must show the Islanders that he belongs on the top two lines to make the NHL roster. He is not the type of player you let languish on a third or fourth line.
However, those same sources that were in awe of his play in the OHL, said Strome does have a very good shot to make the team, along with Niño Niederreiter.
“They are already in game shape. A compressed season will be very hard on vets,” a source told me.
Reinhart will also get a look, but chances are slim to none he will stick on Long Island this season. Scouts last summer felt he was two or three years away. According to an Islanders team source, they feel he might only be a year away. However, they were very doubtful on him being part of the team when Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness are far more along in their development.
ONE MORE YEAR ON THE CAP FLOOR AND AMNESTY REALITY
Speaking of tempering expectations, despite the Isles having reached venue certainty with a 25-year iron clad deal in Brooklyn, fans should expect another year at the cap floor. With no real reason for teams to shed money to get under the cap this season, they will be forced to continue the status quo until next season when there will be free agency, a cap ceiling drop, and amnesty buyouts in effect.
Speaking of amnesty buyouts, do not expect the Islanders to do anything for quite a while. Pursuant to this CBA are two buyout options that at paying two-thirds the values, won’t impact the cap. At the cap floor, with room galore, the Islanders do not need to buy out anyone and likely won’t.
Those expecting Rick DiPietro, the guy who went to Germany to play all of 59 minutes despite declaring he was not injured, to be cast off, well, you will be disappointed. The status quo on him will remain, at least this season.
But here’s the caveat, and Islanders fans should watch closely:
CBA amnesty buyouts can’t happen if a player is injured. As you might recall, just before the lockout started DiPietro came off the injury list.
If the Islanders plan to buy him out next season they won’t start him once this season. Conversely, if you see him starting/getting game time, chances are the Islanders will not be looking to do a amnesty buy-out down the line.
It is that simple. Watch carefully. There won’t be any coincidences.
THE VISNOVSKY EFFECT
With a short season finally coming into focus, and the Islanders’ venue situation finally solved, fans once again are slapping themselves in the head over key personnel. The latest? Projected first-line defenseman and power play kingpin Lubomir Visnovsky. Recently, he started another dramatic fiasco by telling local press overseas that he would like to remain in the KHL.
If you recall, this is the guy who tried unsuccessfully to annul the trade from the Anaheim Ducks.
Back on Sept. 12, I spoke to and then ran an exclusive interview on Twitter with his agent, Neil Sheehy, who said this about his client:
“Visnovsky is a true professional. Now that [arbitration] cleared, he knows he’s with the Islanders,” Sheehy said. “The issue was between the NHL and NHLPA. Visnovsky is happy to be with the New York Islanders. We feel Visnovsky’s addition to the Isles will make their power play best in the league.”
However, the thing is, per an agreement between the NHL and the KHL, Visnovsky is not allowed to play in the KHL.
I e-mailed the NHL’s Bill Daly, who gave me the following statement:
“We have an agreement with the KHL that would preclude the Player from continuing to play in the KHL following the lifting of the NHL lockout. We expect the KHL to honor that agreement with us and they have confirmed that they intend to,” Daly said.
What does this mean? It means that Visnovsky won’t be able to play where he wants, period. It likely will mean down the line, if he refuses to report to the Islanders, similar to the shenanigans Evgeni Nabokov tried to pull, his one-year contract could be tolled, or carried over in full, next season.
The question now becomes more about how aggressive the NHL will be in enforcing its agreement with the KHL, because if the league doesn’t stand firm, and Visnovsky stays abroad, the Islanders and general manager Garth Snow will be in a huge bind.
There is nothing more glaring than the need for a solid two-way defender with offensive skills. The Islanders’ lack of a true No. 2 defenseman has really shown over the last few years, and they do not project any prospects filling that role until they develop. According to one source, Calvin de Haan would have filled that role nicely based on his projection and skill-sets, but injuries has hampered his development and once again he is on the shelf and out of the equation.
If Visnovsky blows off the NHL-KHL agreement, the Islanders will look to see if they can fill the role based on availability, or leave it to competition in camp.
Those I have spoken to feel in the end Visnovsky will report and play the mere three months in which he is contractually obligated. The whole thing is silly and is more indicative of a poor handling of himself with the media, which has inflated every one of his statements into a fiasco. Media departments might be savvy to use him as a prime example of what not to do. He has made each item a drama, and then has cried about the results.
Also, in speaking to a few other people in the know about the Visnovsky situation, I’ve learned this sobering item: chances are if he doesn’t show up, there would be no compensatory pick for the Islanders, who blew their second round pick in next year’s draft on him. Caveat emptor.
Fans seem to be hyped to see someone like Chris Campoli or Radek Martinek back in the fold. However, I am told neither really is likely to make the team. Of course, this flies in the face of Martinek perhaps being a camp invite, according to those reading tea leaves.
They might be right about the camp invite, but it seems that it might be more to get a body in there as opposed to filling out the team’s future plans. Or it could all be about insurance, with Martinek getting to show his stuff, just as the Isles gave opportunities to players like Miroslav Satan and Mark Parrish in the past.
The same expectations and guesswork were thrown around then, and neither landed with the team.
It’s a shame, really, because I was all set to mark up my “Gumby” Martinek doll with his latest injuries.
Stay tuned next week for a season prediction and a look at the issues that remain. Suffice to say, the pressure is on the Islanders to show something during this part of the rebuild. Until then, I’ll see you on Twitter.
Read more columns by B.D. Gallof and follow him on Twitter at @BDGallof
Are the playoffs an unrealistic expectation during this shortened season? Are you on board with Strome possibly making the big club? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …