The Islanders GM on his team's plans for free agency, the Smyth deal and his review of 06-07
This morning, the staff of newyorkislanders.com had breakfast with Islanders general manager Garth Snow and put a wrap on the 2006-07 season while looking ahead to what could be a hectic and exciting offseason. In Part I, Snow discusses free agency, the blockbuster Ryan Smyth trade and whether 06-07 was, in his eyes, a success.
Of course, the question on everyone's mind is what are your plans for the many potential unrestricted free agents you could have on July 1, but especially Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake?
Snow: We want to bring back as many as possible. I don't look at this offseason any differently than I did the trade deadline. We only want to add to it while subtracting as little as possible.
I'm not going to go into our plans for each individual player, but I understand that Ryan and Jason are special cases not only for us but to our fans, too. Ryan Smyth turned out to be everything we knew we traded for. He was one of our best players on the ice for just about every game and he brought so much more to the Islanders than just his play. Our players learned a lot from being around him day after day. Of course, we're going to do everything we can so Ryan stays an Islander for a long time.
What can you say about Jason? He'll be 34 when training camp opens but he just keeps getting better. His work ethic is phenomenal. We will continue to talk to Jason about ways to keep him an Islander.
How do you look back on the Ryan Smyth trade? It was the talk of the league for a while and you certainly received plenty of praise for it. But when the Islanders looked like they may not make the playoffs late, then all of a sudden criticism came your way.
Snow: That's a trade I would make every day of the week with no regrets. With the new CBA we're more of a "now" league than ever. If you have a good team and can add a Ryan Smyth to your roster, you do it. Plus, we still have some strong prospects led by Kyle Okposo - who was not even a consideration for that trade -- and plenty of young players like Gervais, Campoli and Bergeron already up with us, so the cupboard is far from bare.
What will be your philosophy heading into July 1 on UFAs from other teams?
Snow: We learned last summer that it's important to be ready to be aggressive when the doors open on July 1, but it also pays to be patient. That first week the organization was aggressive and we signed two players to longterm contracts - Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt - who are very important players for us. When I became GM later in the summer, there were still some holes to fill and we signed a few players who also turned out to be important contributors at very good value (Viktor Kozlov, Richard Park, Sean Hill, Mike Dunham). So I think we learned a lot from last summer.
That said, we'll be competitive. It's not necessarily about going after stars. It is proven year after year that just because you land the big fish on July 1 doesn't even guarantee you a playoff berth. We'll look at everything, and thankfully our team is owned by a man committed to building the best team possible. It's proven that, despite everything, Charles will put his personal resources behind the Islanders to help us build the best team possible. I'm sure that will be the case again this summer.
You've heard about the poll in The Hockey News that said Long Island isn't a top "destination" for UFAs. Does this hinder the process at all?
Snow: Those polls are meaningless. Last summer the organization signed more than a half-dozen veterans, some of the most respected players in the league. If it wasn't an issue then, it certainly isn't now. Every player who comes to Long Island loves living here. It's not just the dynasty guys. You go to the store and you run into Benoit Hogue or Darius Kasparaitis or any number of former Islanders. And as for our team, there isn't a player in the league who wouldn't be proud to wear the Islanders crest, see Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier in the hallway, play for Ted Nolan and perform in one of the loudest barns in the league. Believe me: I talk to agents every day. It's not even an issue.
What about your own restricted free agents, Trent Hunter and Chris Campoli?
Snow: They are Islanders. Trent is the kind of young player we want the Islanders to stand for. Chris battled some injuries early on but he's a very good young defenseman. I think you could see in the Buffalo series why we like him so much. Both are very competitive guys. You never question how hard they try, how badly they want to succeed.
Overall, would you consider 2006-07 a successful season?
Snow: It's tough for me to sit here and say it was a great success when we were just eliminated in 5 games and our two closest rivals are moving on to the second round. So no, it was not a success in the big picture. Only one team has a truly successful season in our eyes. Let's put it this way: it was a good start.
(In Part II tomorrow, Snow will discuss among other topics Ted Nolan, Kyle Okposo and the state of the Islanders' prospect chart.)