The New York Islanders concentrated on improving their blueline on the first day of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
First, the Isles acquired veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a second round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Then, a few minutes later, they Islanders selected defenseman Griffin Reinhart with the fourth overall pick of this year’s draft.
Visnovsky adds experience and skill to the Islanders blue line. GM Garth Snow has been looking to add a top-four defenseman for more than a year now and Visnovsky definitely fits the bill. At 35, he adds experience and offensive productivity. He will give the Isles an additional power play quarterback to compliment Mark Streit and be able to mentor some of of the Isles younger defensemen. Last season, the native of Slovakia had six goals and 27 points in 68 games. In 2010-11, Visnovsky was healthier and more productive, totaling 18 goals and 68 points in 81 contests.
Since the NHL lockout, Visnovsky has the third most points among NHL defensemen with 337. Only Nicklas Lidstrom and Dan Boyle have more.
Visnovsky will also help the Isles stay over the salary cap floor. He is under contract for the 2012-13 season with a cap hit of $5.6 million but is owed only $3 million in salary. He is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Reinhart is the son of former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart who played for the Flames and Canucks from 1979-1990. At 6’4″ and 207 pounds, Reinhart adds size and is capable offensively. Some scouts want him to play a more physical style in his own zone but others feel he will do so once he matures and grows into his body.
Isles GM Garth Snow views Reinhart as another big piece of the club’s future, although probably not in the coming season. “Our organization is fortunate to have already developed a formidable young core, which gives us the flexibility to allow elite prospects like Griffin to develop,” Snow said. “He is a highly skilled defenseman who has been very impressive in his first two WHL seasons. Griffin’s size and defensive instincts will be another piece to help solidify our lineup for years to come.”
In 58 games with the Edomonton Oil Kings of the WHL last season, Reinhart scored 12 goals and totaled 36 points while adding 38 penalty minutes. Scouts project him as a two-way defenseman.
Forward Matt Moulson, who was at the Islanders Draft Party at the Nassau Coliseum, was pleased with the two moves the club made on Friday. “We’re in the process of losing some guys to free agency and we need to build that “D” up,” Molson explained. “Reinhard is a big body, a skilled guy and he competes hard and that was a great pickup for us. You can never have too many great young defensemen.”
Moulson played with Visnovsky in Los Angeles and knows what the veteran can bring to the table for the Isles. “I think he was a very good pickup for us,” Molson said. “He’s an extremely skilled defenseman, great on the power play, moves the puck well, skates well and he’s a great guy. It’s a little help on the offensive output on the back end.”
The NHL Entry Draft continues Saturday in Pittsburgh and the Islanders will have the fourth pick in the second round (34th pick overall).