Ziggy's back! Ziggy's back!
Okay, so the months-long holdout that Ziggy Palffy engineered was
at best interesting, and more frequently acrimonious. But it did
produce one of the best lines in Mike Milbury's quote-ridden
life, and contained one of the best cover-your-butt retractions
of recent years as well.
More importantly, though, it's come to an end.
After a long standoff, Islanders restricted free-agent holdout
Zigmund Palffy agreed to terms with the team on a five-year,
$24.83-million deal. Ziggy wanted $6.8 million. The Islanders
began by offering him $4.2. They ended up paying him an average
of $5.1 million per. They're also hoping that Palffy's presence
could enable them to earn their first postseason berth since
The news was exactly what the Isles needed to hear. Though they
got off to an 8-8 start that put them right in the thick of the
playoff pack, they recently slid to a seven-game losing streak
that put their postseason hopes in jeopardy.
They've have had continual trouble scoring goals. Palffy, 26, not
only is a three-time 40-goal scorer, he also led the league last
season with 17 power-play goals and is a valued penalty killer.
"Obviously, this is a big step for everybody. This is something
we wanted to get done at the beginning of the summer, but it
takes time," said Islanders co-owner Steven Gluckstern. "It was
clear to everybody this was a player who needed to play for this
team. It was critical. He's a first-class player. To really be
competitive, we need him on our team."
"I absolutely feel we can still make the playoffs at this stage,"
Gluckstern said. "You're going to have to play better than .500.
But this team is capable of that - and with Ziggy, is more than
capable of that."
"I'm very happy," said center Robert Reichel, a close friend of
Palffy. "He was a big part of our team last year. He's a great
"I think the first night that he plays, he'll help us," Islanders
coach and general manager Mike Milbury said. "The statistics
clearly point him toward the upper echelons of forwards in this
league and, when you spend more time around him, you come to
appreciate his defense, you come to appreciate his
penalty-killing ability and you come to appreciate his ability to
make people around him better players. He's a top 10 forward in
Gluckstern said: "[We] really wanted to get our star signed to a
long-term commitment and show our fans we're really serious about
building a winning team. I think we ended up with a transaction
fair for both sides."
Captain Trevor Linden said: "It's surprising what one player will
do for the outlook of your team and the depth of your team.
Everyone knows what he's meant to this organization the last few
years, and that hasn't changed. Certainly, it bodes well for the
commitment. It's 30 games later than everyone wanted. But it's a
step in the right direction."
An Islanders spokesperson said Friday the sales staff was busy
from the moment the office opened, with former season ticket
holders who had canceled at the start of the season calling to
reinstate their tickets. There was an instant increase in sales
of partial season ticket plans, and in sales of individual
tickets for Tuesday's home game vs. the St. Louis Blues, which
became the team's second sellout of the season.
Islanders scout Kevin Maxwell said that when Milbury informed his
team of Palffy's signing, the players actually jumped for joy.
The signing came just as the Isles were in the midst of a
dizzying array of injuries, trade rumors, arena announcements,
and name-calling. In other words, a normal week in the life of
On the injury front, the Isles got some good news when standout
defenseman Kenny Jonsson learned he had not suffered yet another
concussion, the sixth of his career and second in 31 days.
Jonsson was checked by former teammate Travis Green in a 2-2 tie
against the Mighty Ducks late Friday night.
Islanders coach and general manager Mike Milbury called Green's
hit a cheap shot. "He's a gutless puke," Milbury said. "That's
what Travis Green is. It's why he doesn't wear an Islanders
C'mon, Mike, don't hold it in. Tell us how you really feel.
Other injured Isles weren't so lucky. Defenseman Bryan Berard is
out for at least a week with a sore groin. Enforcer Gino Odjick
is out at least a month with an abdominal strain that could
require surgery. Tommy Salo broke a finger in the loss to Phoenix
and could be out for two to three weeks. And checking forward
Sergei Nemchinov is day to day with a hip pointer.
As for trade rumors, nothing will get done until after the
eight-day holiday trade moratorium ends. The strongest rumors
involve Bryan Berard being dealt, perhaps to the Florida Panthers
in a deal for 6-5 rookie forward Oleg Kvasha and either Rhett
Warrener, Robert Svehla or Ed Jovanovski. There were also rumors
about goalie Tommy Salo being traded in a multi-team deal that
could land Felix Potvin, but those rumors will likely cool until
The Isles also unveiled their brand new gazillion dollar
scoreboard (you know, the one that wasn't safe to put up in
preseason) in a special ceremony before their game against St.
Louis. But all eyes were on the return of Ziggy, who had two
assists in the team's 3-3 tie. He received a warm, if not
overwhelming, response from the capacity crowd.
Palffy was asked after the game whether the Isles could make the
playoffs. "Fifty games [left] is a hundred [possible] points,"
said Ziggy. "I'm here right now and I'm going to do everything
for the team . . . I'm going to play the same game and not
change." Told Coliseum crowds have chanted his name during
losses, Palffy said, "They've got me now, so they can come and
watch the games."
During the recent contract talks, Palffy had reportedly blasted
Islanders president David Seldin for being new to hockey, said he
did not want to play for the Islanders anymore, demanded a trade
and said he would enjoy playing for the Rangers. Yesterday, he
apologized, saying, "You can say something wrong. I'm only a
human being . . . I always wanted to be an Islander. I never
wanted to change jerseys. I think five years is a good deal for
them and for me. I love [Long Island] . . . We have to stop
talking about money. Let's talk about hockey. It's done for me
and the Islanders. We're happy. They're happy."
He also said "I never said I wanted to be a Ranger. I said I
wanted to beat the Rangers," proving that Ziggy has remarkable
bull skills despite his limited English.
Milbury said, "He wants to get [the dispute] behind him. He's
pleased with the deal. We're pleased with the deal and we all win
- especially the fans."
And in the "waited too long and is now screwed" category,
Vancouver GM Brian Burke said Palffy's signing should help him
finally nail down a deal for Pavel Bure. "There are several
players in this sweepstakes, including Palffy and (Theo) Fleury
as well as Bure," Burke said. "So it doesn't bother me that one
of them is out of it. It just crystallizes everyone else's
options. The fact they signed him and intend to keep him, that's
not all bad. Up until now it's muddied the waters a little bit
because of the number of guys out there."