Andrew MacDonald is, quite likely, the biggest bargain in the NHL. His average salary of $550,000 does not indicate his value to the Islanders, who have needed MacDonald's steadiness and sacrifice -- he leads the team in ice time at 23:25 per game and in blocked shots with 184, tied for fifth in the league -- in a season in which the team's overall defense was shaky.
MacDonald wants more, though. The lack of a playoff berth this season, which ends Saturday night in Columbus, is the biggest negative. MacDonald has 19 points, down from 27 (in 14 fewer games) a season ago, so he's unhappy about that as well.
"I think there were a lot of people that had slow starts, myself first and foremost," said MacDonald, who had only one point in his first 22 games as the Isles slipped beneath the radar with yet another ugly beginning to a season. "We certainly learned last season [with a 1-17-3 slide] that you can't afford to fall that far behind. But we did it again, to a certain extent [with a 2-10-4 skid], and we need to know coming into next season how much those slides can hurt you."
MacDonald, 25, came back from a seven-game absence with a deep leg bruise in December and turned up his game. He and Travis Hamonic are the team's go-to defense pair, out against every opponent's top scorers. On a team that has a minus-47 goal differential, MacDonald's minus-4 rating is pretty solid, given the minutes he plays.
"I still feel I can be better," he said. "You can't be satisfied, especially when the season ends without playoffs."
Notes & quotes: RW P.A. Parenteau (sprained left ankle) and D Mark Eaton (upper body) did not make the trip to Columbus. Parenteau will finish the season with a career-high 49 assists and 67 points . . . Brock Nelson, the 30th overall pick in the 2010 draft, signed a tryout agreement with Bridgeport and might make his pro debut this weekend . . . A loss would ensure that the Isles finish 27th overall; a victory and losses by the Leafs, Wild and Ducks would put the Isles in 24th, removing any chance of their winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery. Columbus already has secured last overall in the league.