June 28, 2011
The New York Islanders are clearly entering a summer in which they're going to overcompensate some free agents in order to transition this team from hapless also-ran to playoff contender.
So they sent a 2012 fourth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for the negotiating rights to defenseman Christian Ehrhoff(notes), knowing what it's going to take to sign him — well over $5 million per season on average ... and since it's the Islanders a few dollars above that market value.
Ehrhoff flatly rejected the Canucks' last offer, which was the same five-year, $23-million deal Kevin Bieksa(notes) agreed to Monday. The Canucks may have lacked confidence in this negotiation, but they did hold out hope that their final offer, and a chance to win, would be enough to win Ehrhoff over. It was not.
"Playing on this team is more important than individual compensation and that's our expectation with everybody," GM Mike Gillis said before the trade. "It will work with some and it may not work with others."
Ehrhoff tied his career high for goals (14) and set career high numbers in assists (36) and points (50) last season. He had 28 of those points on the power play. You add him to a defense that will have a healthy Mark Streit(notes) back next season, and those are two pillars around which the Islanders could build.
If he signs. Which, of course, is the catch.
Would Ehrhoff go from a Stanley Cup finalist who lost in a Game 7 to a team that's in a 4-year playoff drought and could still be two years away from serious contention, just because they break the bank for him? (The Kurtenbloggers think it could go as high as $6.5 million per season, which is Chara-ville or PhaneufLand.)
It's worth a shot for Islanders GM Garth Snow. If he signs with the Islanders, it's like sending up a flare to the rest of the free-agent field, declaring that the top defenseman on the market was willing to commit to the Island … so why don't you join him?
If he doesn't … well, at least Snow can take a bathroom break during the fourth round next summer.