Islanders look to upgrade as free agency begins

New Jersey Devils' Bryce Salvador, right, celebrates with

New Jersey Devils' Bryce Salvador, right, celebrates with Anton Volchenkov, of Russia, after scoring in the second period during Game 5. (June 9, 2012) (Credit: AP )

The free-agent frenzy, as the NHL's summer open market period has come to be known, begins at noon.

The Islanders haven't gotten into the Day 1 excitement the last few years, preferring to wait and see what bargains might fall through the cracks. They might be more active Sunday, but with the same economical purpose they've shown in recent summers.

"We're always trying to do everything we can to improve our team," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said Saturday. "We have some needs and we're going to try and fill them however we can."

Those needs are pretty clear. The Islanders have only four veteran defensemen under contract. Snow and coach Jack Capuano are hoping that one of the young defensemen who got a taste of the pro game last season (Aaron Ness, Matt Donovan, Calvin de Haan) can win a job in training camp, but that still leaves room, especially for a bigger, more physical player.

Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador, who was among that team's best players during New Jersey's run to the Stanley Cup Finals, is on the Isles' wish list, but the 36-year-old might remain just a wish. With a thin market for defensemen and high demand, plus Salvador's brilliant postseason, he might be too expensive for the Islanders, though they will keep an eye on him if he makes it through Sunday without a deal.

More realistic is Senators defenseman Matt Carkner, who turned down a one-year, $750,000 offer from Ottawa to hit the open market. Carkner played only 29 games last season because of a knee injury and he isn't the type of player who would solidify the Isles' defense corps, but when healthy, he is a physical presence and a high-character person to add to the locker room.

Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger is also on the Isles' radar.

At forward, the Islanders could add some scoring and some toughness, though the latter will be far easier to come by at the price range the Isles are trying to work within. Trevor Gillies, the 2010-11 fan favorite, is off to Russia's KHL; Micheal Haley, another fan favorite, is looking for a one-way contract, which the Islanders won't offer.

Heavyweights such as the Ducks' George Parros and the Rangers' John Scott could intrigue Snow; Brandon Prust would add quite a bit to the group of forwards and the Islanders like him, but he could command more than $2.5 million a year, which is too rich for a third/fourth-line player.

The Islanders would love to find a second-line center either through a trade or free agency, but those are in short supply. They have some interest in the Flames' Olli Jokinen, an Islander in 1999-2000, but only at the right price; the same is true for a scoring winger who could fill the slot on the right side of Matt Moulson and John Tavares, with P.A. Parenteau searching elsewhere as of Saturday.

The Caps' Alexander Semin, who made $6.7 million last season, is looking to stay in the NHL and is willing to consider any team, according to agent Mark Gandler. The Islanders could be willing to gamble on Semin short-term. The same is true for Sabres winger Brad Boyes, a one-time 40-goal scorer who had just eight goals for Buffalo last season.

These are not the headline-makers, but the Islanders are searching to upgrade from the start Sunday.

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