In one respect, the union of Mark Streit and the New York Islanders makes a lot of sense because Streit can play multiple positions and the Islanders need help everywhere.
How the Islanders decide to deploy their new Swiss swing man will be interesting in terms of determining whether Streit is worth the $4.1 million per season he’s about to earn.
If all you know of Streit is based on glancing at this year’s scoring charts, you’d be forgiven for thinking he has the worst agent in hockey.
The 30-year-old scored 62 points this year, tied for third league-wide among blueliners. The other defenseman who tallied 62 points, Brian Campbell, was just handed a deal worth $7.1 million per season from Chicago. The reason for the $3-million discrepancy, of course, is the fact Streit took the majority of his 5-on-5 shifts at wing while playing in Montreal this year.
As a defenseman, Streit is not somebody you’d feel great about having in your top four. He moves the puck well, but is small, not overly fast and in no way physical.
His puck smarts come into play at wing, too, but he’s by no means a natural goal-scorer. He never really got a chance to play among Montreal’s top-six forwards and, in truth, he probably belongs outside that group on any good team.
Where Streit’s value comes into play is on the man advantage, where he always plays the point armed with good vision and a hard shot. The Isles had the second-worst power play in the league this year, so any help Streit can bring will be welcomed.
Because of the asinine deals dolled out to free agents on July 1, it’s increasingly difficult to determine which teams are getting good value. My instinct before free agency began would have been to say Streit is definitely not a $4.1-million defenseman or winger.
Then the Leafs gave Jeff Finger $3.5 million a season and the Bruins promised 14-goal scorer/frequent healthy scratch Michael Ryder $4 million to man their wings. It’s becoming increasingly clear where Streit got his leverage.
Really, Streit is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s the kind of player whose diversity makes him valuable to a good team that already has guys to fill front-line roles.
The Islanders are a bad team with front-line holes and they’ve allotted what still amounts to a significant amount of cash to a player who’s much more suited to a supporting role.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blognormally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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