Peca to join Pronger in Edmonton
Peca joined the Islanders along with Alexei Yashin in separate draft-day trades in 2001 as New York tried to shed its losing image following seven years of missing the playoffs. The two-time NHL defensive forward of the year immediately became the team's captain and helped lead New York to three straight postseason appearances.
"It's never easy to trade anybody, tougher still when the person is your captain," general manager Mike Milbury said. "That's compounded by the fact that Mike Peca, in large part, was responsible for restoring credibility to the New York Islanders franchise."
But the Islanders never made it out of the first round, losing to Toronto, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Peca's salary might have pushed him closer to the door, too, as the 31-year-old center is due to earn $3.99 million this season.
"We've only made it to the playoffs and not gone further than that so a shakeup could be in part attributed to that," Milbury said.
New York already has $7.6 million of the $39-million salary cap tied up with enigmatic center Alexei Yashin.
"It's time for Alexei to have a breakout season," Milbury said. "The table has been set for him to break out. I hope and trust that he's doing everything to get ready and accomplish that."
The Islanders have been busy this week, signing defenseman Alexei Zhitnik to a four-year, $14-million deal on Tuesday and then adding Satan and acquiring defenseman Brent Sopel from Vancouver on Wednesday.
Edmonton pulled off its second major trade in two days as the Oilers acquired Chris Pronger from St. Louis late Tuesday night for defensemen Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. The Oilers then gave Pronger a five-year deal at $6.25 million per season on Wednesday.
New York made defense a top priority heading into the free-agent season and nabbed Zhitnik just hours after losing stalwart blue-liner Adrian Aucoin to Chicago.
Satan signed with the Islanders just three days after being cut loose by the Buffalo Sabres, also Peca's former team. He became an unrestricted free agent when the Sabres declined to qualify his $4 million contract for next season.
In the past six seasons, the 30-year-old forward has 194 goals -- ninth best in the NHL. He led the Sabres in scoring in six of his eight years in Buffalo.
The Islanders have been looking for a left winger to play alongside Yashin, and now they might have two options in Satan or the 27-year-old York -- who had 16 goals and 26 assists with Edmonton in the 2003-04 season.
"There's been sort of this undercurrent, 'We need Alexei to have a good winger.' I thought we had pretty darn good players here before," Milbury said. "I can't say it was specifically for Alexei but it certainly opens a door for him to be more successful with somebody of Satan's quality, somebody of York's quality, and maybe more importantly a balance that this brings to this lineup to make him less of a target."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Satan has played in two All-Star games and helped Buffalo reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1999. He's represented Slovakia at the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup of Hockey. In the 2003-04 season he had 29 goals and 28 assists with Buffalo.
Milbury also talked to the agent for former Islanders player Ziggy Palffy, but Palffy's past injuries compared to Satan's durability helped to take him out of the mix.
York spent the past two-plus seasons in Edmonton after being traded there by the New York Rangers in March 2002. In six NHL seasons, York has 98 goals and 137 assists in 374 games.
"This new look in general gives us balanced scoring throughout the lineup," Milbury said. "We think that we're going to be tough to defend."
Sopel, acquired for a conditional draft pick in 2006, had career highs with 10 goals and 32 assists in 2003-04 with the Canucks. He has one year left on his deal, that will pay him $1.59 million this season, and he can qualify for unrestricted free agency next summer.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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