Lubomir Visnovsky, the veteran defenseman the Islanders acquired for a second-round pick on draft day in June, will stay in his home country of Slovakia for the remainder of this season, his agent told Newsday.
Visnovsky, 36, is in the final year of his NHL contract, but there is no iron-clad agreement prohibiting him from staying in the Russia-based KHL, so he has decided to finish out the season for HC Slovan Bratislava, in his hometown.
“I have decided to stay and continue my career in the KHL for the remainder of the 2012-13 season,” Visnovsky said in a statement, via Neil Sheehy, his agent. “I am thankful to the New York Islanders or 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 Slovan Bratislava, and enjoying my family in my home country.”
Sheehy added that Visnovsky, who filed a grievance to void his June trade from the Ducks to the Islanders that he did not win, does not hold any ill will towards the Islanders. “The situation would have been the same with any NHL team,” Sheehy said.
Islanders GM Garth Snow has few options except to toll the remaining year of Visnovsky’s deal in the hope that the defenseman will want to return to the NHL for the 2013-14 season. The Islanders did that with Evgeni Nabokov when the team claimed the goaltender off waivers in January of 2011, and Nabokov was their No. 1 goaltender last season and has returned for this season as well.
The Islanders were already thin on defense and will now either scramble to make a deal once the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified this week, sign one of the veteran free agent defensemen still available or hope one of their young prospects playing in Bridgeport is ready to step up to the NHL.