Islanders have needs, but are looking for good fits as free agency begins

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia,

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia, cannot stop a goal during the third period of a game on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (Credit: AP)

The Islanders have needs as free agency begins Tuesday, but that does not make general manager Garth Snow feel desperate. He has made plenty of calls during the five-day contact window but refuses to overpay or offer multiple contract years to any free agent who doesn't fit into the Isles' youth-centered group.

"We want players who can help us get to the playoffs," Snow told Newsday on Monday, "but we know we have good young players in a lot of spots. We're not going to add someone that doesn't make sense for us."

So when the crazy money and crazy contract years start being thrown around at noon Tuesday, Snow will keep his focus. The Islanders need a backup goaltender and have a host of choices on the open market. They would like a top-four defenseman who can help on the power play and in the locker room and they would consider short-term solutions in a top-line wing and a depth forward.

There are opportunities to be active, but as always with Snow and the Islanders, there likely won't be any eye-popping numbers. Matt Niskanen would be an attractive addition to the Isles' inexperienced defense, but not at the seven years and upward of $45 million he reportedly could command.

Former Ranger Brad Richards, who was bought out last week, would be an intriguing addition to an Islanders team that could use his veteran savvy and power-play ability. But even with his buyout money, Richards could command three years and possibly $10 million to $12 million, which the Islanders likely would pass on, given their young stable of centers.

The Isles are $7.66 million under next season's $51-million salary-cap floor, according to the CapGeek website. With qualifying offers out to three restricted free agents who almost certainly will start the season with the Isles -- Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas and Calvin de Haan -- there is no pressing urge to reach the floor, as those signings plus two free-agent additions likely would get the Islanders there.

Snow doesn't believe his forward group needs much adjusting. "We have flexibility with Brock Nelson," Snow said. "He can be effective as a center or possibly on the wing with John [Tavares]. We feel like we have options."

After last season's non-playoff finish, the Isles seemed in need of a major overhaul. Snow took a big step to fix the team's biggest issue by trading for and signing goalie Jaroslav Halak well before free agency came up. The team still is green on defense, though replacing the departed Andrew MacDonald with 20-year-old rookie Griffin Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, could be a strong upgrade.

Still, if the Isles are not aggressive Tuesday, as they were during the contact window, it could feel like a letdown.

Said Snow, "We'll see tomorrow."

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