NHL Free Agency: New York Islanders Sign A Stud In Travis Hamonic, A Dud In Evgeni Nabokov

By Randy Holt
Travis Hamonic
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders made their presence known on the first day of free agency, making multiple moves, including retaining a pair of their own. One of those moves was a brilliant one, the other one will likely prove to be a big mistake if they hope to build on their 2013 success.

Their big signing of the day was signing Travis Hamonic to a new seven-year contract. Hamonic was a restricted free agent, and an obvious necessity to get re-signed this summer. Garth Snow made a great move here, in terms of the years involved, as well as the money.

In keeping Hamonic, the Isles keep a top, young defenseman around, who could be ready to slot into a no. 1 role with Mark Streit having moved on. He averaged almost 23 minutes a game in 2013, including 2:44 of shorthanded time per game, as well as some power play time as well.

The seven-year contract for Hamonic will add up to a total of $27 million. That’s less than $4 million a year for a 23-year-old defenseman, who has yet to hit his prime. That buys out the remainder of his restricted free agent years, as well as a couple of years in which he’d be a UFA. Overall, it’s a steal for the Islanders.

On the other hand, Snow’s re-signing of free agent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov could prove to be a big mistake. It’s a one-year contract for a much-too-high cap hit of $3.25 million. Obviously, there wasn’t a wealth of goaltending available, but Nabokov will likely hold the Islanders back from accomplishing much more than they did in 2013.

He’s almost 38 years old, and he’s an awful performer in the playoffs. That doesn’t bode well for next season. They would have been better off pursuing another option out on the trade market, or even someone like Ray Emery, before he eventually signed with Philadelphia.

All in all, it’s a solid day for Snow and the Islanders. The success of the Hamonic deal overshadows the failure of signing Nabokov, at least right now, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Islanders look for a true contingency in the event that Nabokov falls flat on his face, like he did in the postseason.

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