Lubomir Visnovsky, the veteran defenseman the Islanders acquired for a second-round pick on draft day in June, intends to stay in his home country of Slovakia for the remainder of this season, his agent told Newsday.
But the Islanders and the NHL don't plan on allowing that to happen. With just a few days until the new collective bargaining agreement is set to be ratified and training camps open before a 48-game regular season, the international incident could hurt the Isles' preparations.
Visnovsky, 36, issued a statement to Newsday through agent Neil Sheehy: "I have decided to stay and continue my career in the KHL for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. I am thankful to the New York Islanders for being so good to me. My decision not to play in the NHL is due to family and personal reasons. I have made no decisions on next season. My focus now is on HC Slovan Bratislava, and enjoying my family in my home country."
But that is not the end of the story. Islanders GM Garth Snow declined to comment, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email that the NHL and the Russia-based KHL, in which Visnovsky's team competes, have a transfer agreement that must be honored.
"We have an agreement with the KHL that would preclude Mr. Visnovsky from continuing to play in the KHL once the lockout is officially lifted," Daly said. "I assume that agreement will be respected."
Daly is awaiting word from his KHL counterpart on the case, and Snow and Sheehy are due to talk again Tuesday.
Sheehy reiterated to Newsday that despite the grievance Visnovsky filed to void the June trade from the Ducks, his client holds no ill will toward the Islanders. "The situation would have been the same with any NHL team," Sheehy said.
The Islanders are not in position to let Visnovsky walk away. Snow acquired the 11-year NHL veteran to shore up a thin defensive corps, and that position still is not strong. Travis Hamonic resumed light skating Monday, having missed more than a month with the Isles' Bridgeport farm team because of a concussion, and prospect Calvin de Haan is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Notes & quotes: Five Islanders, including Rick DiPietro and Matt Moulson, skated at IceWorks on Monday, the first day they were allowed back in the team-owned rink. "Never thought I'd miss this place so much," Moulson said . . . John Tavares is slated to return to Long Island Wednesday or Thursday with a special traveling companion: 2011 first-round pick Ryan Strome, who works out with Tavares in the offseason. The Isles have not made a decision on whether to have Strome or 2012 first-rounder Griffin Reinhart at training camp or into this season, but Strome at least will have a few days before camp opens with the team.