Poti leaves Rangers, signs with Islanders
NEW YORK -- Tom Poti is leaving the Rangers, but the veteran NHL defenseman is staying in New York.
New York Rangers
The 29-year-old Poti joined the rival Islanders on Saturday by signing a one-year, $2.75 million deal after three-plus up-and-down seasons on Broadway.
"From the beginning of free agency, I told my agent that I wanted to see if something could be worked out with the Islanders," said Poti, a U.S. Olympian in 2002. "The opportunity to be one of the veterans on such a talented young team is something I wanted."
Poti was thrust into the spotlight with the Rangers after fan-favorite Brian Leetch was traded to Toronto late in the 2001-02 season -- New York's fifth straight out of the playoffs.
Known as an offensive-minded defenseman, Poti never could live up to expectations and was unable to be a comparable replacement to Leetch -- a likely Hall of Famer.
So he would hear boos starting from pregame introductions and through each time he touched the puck.
Last season, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Poti -- who isn't a strong, physical presence on the ice -- had three goals and 20 assists in 73 games. He ranked first on the Rangers with 123 blocked shots and was tops among defensemen with 122 shots on goal.
Poti was a plus-16 and posted two goals and 12 assists on the power play. His departure from the Rangers was basically sealed when New York signed former Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward to a two-year, $5.5 million deal on Monday.
Poti should serve as a complement to hard-hitting defenseman Brendan Witt, who signed a three-year deal with the Islanders during the opening week of free agency.
"Tom Poti is a perfect fit for us," general manager Neil Smith said. "I spoke with him several times over the last week and I was really impressed by Tom's desire to become an Islander. He knew we had a need for a skilled defenseman and he really wanted to be a part of our team."
Poti should continue to see time on the power play, where he can start the offense from the blue line. In addition to Witt, the Islanders also have veterans Alexei Zhitnik, Radek Martinek and Joel Bouchard on defense along with second-year player Chris Campoli.
In 516 NHL games, the first 285 with Edmonton before being dealt to the Rangers, Poti has 52 goals, 156 assists and a plus-13 rating. The Worcester, Mass., native -- a fourth-round pick of the Oilers in 1996 -- had a career-high 37 assists during the 2002-03 season, his first with the Rangers.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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