Love for Long I$land

Piling on the Isles is a national pastime for most hockey pundits, but Wednesday a pair of ESPN Insider pieces contained some praise for the boys in blue and orange.

True, the Islanders spend the second fewest dollars in the NHL on player salaries. Yes, their payroll contains two players that no longer skate for the team in order to reach the salary cap floor. And sure, compared to boo koo-bucks spenders like the Rangers, the Islanders drop dimes. But ... when frugal Garth Snow and Co. do open the piggy bank, their cents make sense.

Matt Wuest, the "Geek" behind CapGeek.com -- the best accumulation of “frozen” financial data this side of Bernie Madoff -- posted an article today listing the Top 10 bargains of the 2010-11 season based on player point production over cap hit. The New York Islanders have three of the top six.

That list is headed by Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn, with Frans Nielsen (29 points, $525,000 cap hit) coming in second. Wuest writes: "Nielsen also made this list last season, checking in at No. 5. The Islanders have been reaping the rewards since locking up the Danish winger in 2008 with a four-year, $2.1-million deal."

P.A. Parenteau (No. 3) and Blake Comeau (No. 6) follow Nielsen, but will they remain Islanders? The contracts of both players expire at the end of this season. And as Wuest writes at the top of the article, the pending free agents that landed on the 2009-10 best bargains list usually received hefty raises over the summer. Will the Islanders cough up enough dough for the duo?

Complicating the decisions around Parenteau and Comeau is the recent outburst of Calder Trophy candidate -- and waiver pickup -- Michael Grabner. Although it's a rather pleasant complication. There aren’t a ton of 23-year-olds posting 25-plus goals a season, so you can expect a significant raise off the rookie's $843,333 salary for 2011-12.

In case you’ve been in a coma since mid-January ... or more likely you just don’t follow the Islanders ... Grabner is one of the hottest players in the league, netting 10 goals in his last six games. Not surprisingly he was named the NHL’s player of the week for Feb. 7 - 13.

In his weekly Calder Watch post, ESPN Insider E.J. Hradek breaks down the sensational Austrian. If you don’t know much about Grabner, it’s a great place to start learning.

One of the best nuggets is the recounting of how he came to end up on the Island. From the post:

At training camp, however, Grabner didn't impress Tallon or head coach Peter DeBoer. On cut-down day, they decided to send him to the minors, but he'd have to pass through waivers to get there. That's when the Islanders, in the midst of their own rebuilding plan, claimed him.

"I'd seen him play in Manitoba during the time he was there and, like everybody else, our scouts had filed reports on him dating back to his time in junior," says Islanders Director of Pro Scouting Ken Morrow. "His speed was obvious and we knew he could score, so it made sense for Garth [Isles GM Garth Snow] to claim him."

Florida’s loss is Long Island’s gain. Likely for many seasons to come.