July 31, 2000
Hamrlik changes tune
Defenceman happy to be an Islander
By BARRY BAUM
Out of his momentary depression about being dealt to the Islanders in
June, restricted free agent Roman Hamrlik is soon expected to begin
contract negotiations with the club.
Acquired in a trade last month from the Edmonton Oilers, the 26-year
old Hamrlik could seek as much as $4 million a season, which would
make him one of the NHL's highest paid blueliners.
"I just hope everything will go smoothly and we'll make a deal, but
you never know," said Hamrlik's agent Jiri Crha. "I just want [the
Islanders] to be fair, that's all."
When the trade was consummated on June 24 (the first day of the Entry
Draft), Hamrlik was upset at joining the Islanders because of their
string of poor seasons. Hamrlik said he had already had his share of
losing with both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Oilers.
Upon learning of Hamrlik's disappointment, Islanders general manager
Mike Milbury quickly contacted the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder at his home
in the Czech-Republic. With a fast-talking spiel, Milbury tried to
convince Hamrlik that the team was significantly upgrading its roster.
And with that, Hamrlik has since changed his tune.
"He knows there's probably a great future with the Islanders," Crha
Hamrlik made $2.25 million last season, which would have made him the
highest-paid Islander. But with new co-owners Sanjay Kumar and
Charles Wang showing their desire to dramatically improve the club,
the Islanders are not letting Hamrlik's hefty salary demands scare
Coming off last year's laughable $16.4 million payroll, the Islanders
are nearly doubling their salary structure this season. In taking on
Hamrlik (eight goals, 37 assists last season), the Isles sent
promising forward Josh Green, underachieving defenseman Eric Brewer
and their second-round pick (35th overall) to the Oilers.
For Milbury, Hamrlik was his most coveted player during this off-
"He brings the offense, he brings the minutes [averaged 25.3 minutes
of ice time last season, 12th in the league], and he's insurance if
Kenny [Jonsson] goes down," Milbury said.
NOTES: Unwilling to risk going to arbitration earlier this month,
Kenny Jonsson, the Islanders' restricted free agent, still remains
determined not to settle for the $1.85 million (for either one or two
years, Jonsson's choice) the club is offering him for next season.
Jonsson, the 25-year-old defenseman and team captain, is adamant that
he deserves a raise on his '99 salary. But Milbury won't budge.
"The bottom line is, we are going to negotiate," Jonsson's agent Mike
An all-star during the '98-99 season, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jonsson
is coming off a disasterous season in which he tallied just one goal
and 24 assists in 65 games. A series of concussions and headaches
severely limited his production.
As a restricted free agent, Jonsson's only leverage against the
Islanders is to threaten to sit out training camp and, perhaps, the
Barnett is hoping to avert that possibility. However, another Barnett
client, Mats Lindgren, sat out Islanders training camp last season in
a contract dispute. Lindgren eventually signed a two-year deal during
But threats are unlikely to shake Milbury's stance. With the off-
season additions of defensemen Kevin Haller and Hamrlik, the Isles
have significantly upgraded their backline corps.
During last Tuesday's press conference for the signing of No. 1 draft
pick Rick DiPietro, Milbury said he had had no new discussions with
Barnett concerning Jonsson.
It is thought that Jonsson opted not to go through arbitration for
fear that his salary would be slashed due to his poor '99. The
Islanders would have likely offered $1.5 million in an arbitration
"It was a decision that he made," Barnett said of Jonsson's decision
to bypass arbitration.
Barnett, meanwhile, said that Jonsson feels that he's recovered from
his concussions and the headaches. The next step, Barnett said, is to
negotiate a deal before training camp.
"Right now, we'll try to get a contract done," Barnett said.
MORE NOTES: Beginning in the 2001-02 season, the Islanders will
create a new AHL franchise in Bridgeport, Conn. The team will become
the Islanders only minor-league affiliate, which will end the club's
ties with Lowell and Springfield of the AHL, and Chicago of the IHL.
The team will be owned by Roy Boe, the Islanders original owner in
their initial NHL season in 1972-73. It will play its games in a yet-
to-be-completed 9,000-seat arena next to Bridgeport's waterside minor
league baseball stadium. Players who are sent from the Islanders to
Bridgeport can take a ferry from Port Jefferson, Long Island to the
docks by where the new arena will stand.
EVEN MORE NOTES: The Islanders signed three veteran free agent
defenseman last week: Dan Trebil, Aris Brimanis and Ray Schultz.
Trebil, 26, played three games with the Penguins last season (one
goal), and has played parts of four season in the NHL. He spent most
of last season with Cincinnati of the AHL (52 games, seven goals, 21
assists, 48 penalty minutes), and made the AHL all-star game.
"Dan Trebil is a very reliable defenseman who brings us some depth,"
Brimanis and Schultz played well in their limited action last season
with the Islanders. The 28-year-old Brimanis was particularly
impressive, scoring two goals in 18 games. He had played parts of
three seasons with the Flyers.
Schultz, a 23-year-old feisty backliner, played nine games with the
Isles last season, accumulating 30 penalty minutes and one assist.
While with Kansas City of the IHL last season, he served 208 penalty
minutes, but found enough ice time to tally five goals and five
assists in 65 games.
"We're happy we were able to bring back Brimanis and Schultz,"
Milbury said. "Aris was very good at the end of last season for us
and Ray is a hard-nosed competitor that gives us everything he's got."