Less than a week after adding physical defensive defenseman Brendan Witt to the lineup, the Islanders have signed veteran puck-moving defenseman Tom Poti, who finished plus-16 as a member of the New York Rangers last season. The Islanders and Poti have agreed to terms on a one-year contract.
Last season with the Rangers, the 6-3, 210-pound Poti played 73 games and registered three goals and 20 assists for 23 points. Poti ranked first on the Rangers with 123 blocked shots and first among all team defensemen with 122 shots on goal. In addition, the 29-year old Poti tied for second on the Rangers with 49 takeaways and ranked sixth on the team with a plus-16 rating. On the power play, he had two goals and 12 assists.
"Tom Poti is a perfect fit for us," said Islanders Vice President and general manager Neil Smith. "I spoke with him several times over the last week and I was really impressed by Tom's desire to become an Islander. He knew we had a need for a skilled defenseman and he really wanted to be a part of our team. (Islanders scout) Ken Morrow felt strongly that, at age 29, Tom was just entering his prime after some good years with the Oilers and Rangers. We are very excited that we were able to agree on a one-year deal and hope Tom will be part of our defense for years to come."
The acquisition of Poti, expected to see a lot of time quarterbacking the Islanders' power play, brings more skill and experience to a blueline that also features Witt, Alexei Zhitnik, second-year player Chris Campoli, veterans Radek Martinek and Joel Bouchard and several impressive prospects. In 516 career games with Edmonton and the Rangers, Poti has 52 goals and 156 assists for 208 points, along with 386 penalty minutes and a plus-13 rating.
"From the beginning of free agency, I told my agent that I wanted to see if something could be worked out with the Islanders," said Poti, a member of Team USA at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where the Americans won the silver medal. "The opportunity to be one of the veterans on such a talented young team is something I wanted, as was the chance to play for a great coach like Ted Nolan. When Matt Barnaby and I were together on the Rangers, he talked a lot about how Ted found a way to get the most out of his players. I'm very happy to be coming to Long Island."
Poti was originally selected by Edmonton in the third round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. After four seasons in Edmonton including an All-Rookie team selection in 1998-99 he was traded on March 19, 2002 along with Rem Murray to the Rangers for now-Islander Michael York and a fourth round draft pick. He had his best NHL season in his first season in New York. In 2002-03, Poti established career highs with 37 assists and a team-leading 48 points. That season he was the seventh-leading scorer among NHL defensemen.
The native of Worcester, Mass. also contributes a significant amount of his personal time to important causes. He serves as a national spokesperson for the Food Allergy & Anaphilaxis Network and is the co-host of the annual Travis Roy Foundation Invitational Golf Tournament, helping to raise funds to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.