Lightning at Isles
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Despite general manager Mike Milbury's announcement last week that he plans
to stay the course with his team, there is a growing sense that change is
indeed what is needed for the reeling Islanders, who look to stop an eight-game
losing streak tonight at Nassau Coliseum against the team against which it
began, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The historically impatient Milbury, however, may be waiting for a bigger
prize to become available in the near future, thus keeping him from making any
knee-jerk deals, no matter how desperate the situation becomes. The one player
a few league sources recently have mentioned should be the Islanders' prime
target is Phoenix center Jeremy Roenick.
The purchase of the Coyotes by real estate mogul Steve Ellman and partner
Wayne Gretzky is expected to be completed and approved next month. In fact, the
paperwork to finally complete the $87-million sale was in Gary Bettman's
office at the NHL headquarters in Manhattan this week. With that, one person
with knowledge of the new ownership's plans said that after the team signs
unrestricted free agent Claude Lemiuex and holdout goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to
contracts, as expected, the team will need to cut at least $8 million in
salary. It has been widely speculated that one of the team's top two players,
Roenick ($5 million this season) or Keith Tkachuk ($8.3 million) will have to
Enter Milbury, who coveted Roenick, 30, a few seasons ago and would love to
add the Boston native to his starless team and to his top line with Brad
Isbister and Mariusz Czerkawski. Of course he'll probably have to outbid
Roenick's old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, who reportedly also are interested.
Roenick becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Rangers have an interest in Tkachuk.
Meanwhile, the Islanders' most tradable asset, defenseman Kenny Jonsson,
continues to garner interest from around the league, more so now after he has
been relieved of the captaincy. The Detroit Red Wings, who will be without
defenseman Chris Chelios (knee) for a large portion of the season, are
interested in adding a player of Jonsson's talent. The Florida Panthers are, as
well. Both teams considered deals to acquire the 26-year-old defenseman late
A person with knowledge of the situation said the Islanders have kept a
dialogue with the forward-laden Toronto Maple Leafs, who might not be
interested in parting with center Igor Korolev but would love to unload left
wing Dmitri Khristich, who has been awful since he signed a four-year,
$10.29-million contract last season. It's hard to imagine Milbury would want to
add the sourpuss Khristich. Yanic Perreault, a lefty center, seems to be the
more favorable target. Veteran Steve Thomas, who played for the Islanders from
1991-95, might also be available.