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FREE AGENCY 2011: Five to Watch

 1. Joel Ward (RW, Nashville; 10-19-29; 10/11 salary: $1.5 M ) A physical winger with scoring ability, Ward had a good playoff run with the Predators last season. Snow also has a great working relationship with his agent, Peter Cooney, who represents fellow Islanders Andrew MacDonald, Trevor Gillies and Micheal Haley.

2. Erik Cole (LW, Carolina; 26-26-52; 10/11 salary: $3 M) This veteran winger scored 26 goals and played all 82 games with the Canes last season. Cole’s skill and experience would be a nice addition to the Islanders’ young core.


3. Mike Rupp (LW, Pittsburgh; 9-8-17; 10/11 salary: $850,000) Rupp’s a gritty, hard-nosed player with size and a reputation as a high-character guy. Several teams will be willing to give him the raise he has earned.


4. Jan Hejda (D, Columbus; 5-15-20, 10/11 salary $2 M) Isles have shown a willingness to shell out money for a solid defenseman in acquiring the rights to Canucks’ Christian Ehrhoff. Hejda will also be looking for a raise, but could be a more cost-efficient consolation target.


5. Tyler Kennedy (RW, Pittsburgh; 21-24-45; 10/11 salary: $725,000) The Penguins opted not to extend a qualifying offer to Kennedy, who is now an unrestricted free agent, but GM Ray Shero has stated publicly he’d like to re-sign him. If he can’t, the Islanders could take a run on the feisty forward. Not a big guy, but a young talent coming off a season of career scoring highs.

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