Isles: Cut Arena Deal or We Trim
An NHL source told Newsday yesterday that if an agreement with
Nassau County officials for a new arena to replace Nassau Coliseum is
not in place by July 1, the Islanders plan to cut payroll drastically
A league source said co-owner Steven Gluckstern told commissioner
Gary Bettman the team lost $20 million this season and cannot afford to
do so again. Bettman has represented the Islanders in arena negotiations
with county officials. The talks were suspended on Jan. 29, nine days
after Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta reported there had been
"tremendous progress" toward a deal.
Sources say the talks were halted for two reasons: Islanders
co-owner Howard Milstein's failed attempt to purchase the NFL's
Washington Redskins and Bettman's attempt to broker the sale of the
Islanders to a group headed by former Madison Square Garden president
Gutkowski told Newsday he no longer is involved with SFX
Entertainment, which owns the Westbury Music Fair and is interested in
buying the team. Gutkowski refused to divulge whom he now represents but
said, "I'm still very interested in pursuing the Islanders." Club
officials were coy about whether the team is for sale but said
Gluckstern urged Bettman to rekindle arena talks with county negotiator
Certilman has said he is waiting for the club's ownership situation
to be clarified. Certilman and Gluckstern did not return calls
One NHL team had a budget of less than $20 million last season -
the expansion Nashville Predators at $13.7 million. The Islanders
finished their fifth straight season out of the playoffs with a $24.6
A published report said Gluckstern told Bettman he would reduce the
payroll to $12 million if he does not get an arena deal. A Gulotta
spokesman said, "The county has not been made aware of any such
discussions." An NHL source said Gluckstern did not specify $12 million
as a projected budget but the source said without an arena deal the team
will be forced to trade Linden (who earned $2.5 million this season) and
Pilon ($1.5 million) and could not re-sign restricted free agent
Smolinski ($1.75 million).
A spokesperson for Bettman characterized the published report as
The Islanders do not plan to offer contracts to unrestricted free
agents Craig Janney ($1.7 million), Joe Sacco ($700,000) and Mike Hough
($700,000) but raises would have to be factored in for restricted free
agents Felix Potvin, Mariusz Czerkawski, Wade Flaherty, Mats Lindgren,
Barry Richter, Vladimir Chebaturkin, David Harlock and Steve Webb.
Zigmund Palffy, due to make $5 million next season, is expected to
survive any payroll trimming.
"Looks like I'm going to play in Florida with Pavel [Bure],"
said Gino Odjick, scheduled to make $800,000. Pilon said, "The owners
either will pay us or get rid of us. Until they get a new arena, they'll
probably keep the payroll down."
Mark Lawrence, who is to become an unrestricted free agent July 1,
other teams while reserving the right to make an offer.