[caption id="attachment_42" align="alignleft" width="240"] image provided by newsday.com[/caption]
Name: Jesse Joensuu
Jesse Joensuu made his return to North America and the Islanders this past season after spending the previous year in Sweden. Joensuu left because he did not want to sign a two-way contract and face the prospect of playing in Bridgeport, so he took his development overseas to Sweden. After Joensuu played well at the World Championships last year, General Manager Garth Snow decided to give Joensuu another shot to show he could be part of the Isles future. Snow signed Joensuu to a one year, one-way contract last June after the World Championships ended.
Unfortunately for Joensuu, he suffered an injury while playing overseas in Finland during the lockout. Joensuu suffered a sports hernia, and it cost him most of the lockout shortened season, as he only played late in the season in seven regular season games plus one playoff game. Terrible luck for a player who hoped to show he could be part of the team's future core.
Joensuu showed some grit in his small sample size. He played on the third and fourth lines with other forwards Michael Grabner, Colin McDonald, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, Keith Aucoin, and Eric Boulton. Joensuu threw his body around and provided a physical presence on the bottom two lines. Joensuu showed he was not afraid to shoot the puck either, he put eight shots on goal in his season debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning April sixth.
It is hard to evaluate how a player performed with such a small sample size, so it is tough to say how Isles' brass in the front office feel about retaining Joensuu next season. Joensuu left them to play overseas for a year because he did not want a two-way deal and have to possibly go back to Bridgeport. That along with the fact players such as Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter, Johan Sundstrom, Anders Lee, and John Persson are on the cusp on being NHL ready, Joensuu's chance to show he is part of the future may have passed him by.
When the offseason started, I would have thought no way Joensuu is back next year, unless he is willing to accept a two-way deal. However, David Ullstrom's recent departure to the KHL may open the door for Joensuu to get one last chance and return next year. The Isles have three roster spots to fill for next season. They need a top line winger, third line winger, and third line center.
The Isles are not going to hand these three roster spots to rookies. I would expect Nelson makes the team as the third line center, and a free agent or trade acquisition fills out the top line. This leaves a wing on the third line open, and Joensuu could get the opportunity to fill out the third line.
I would like to see Joensuu back and get one more chance to show he is part of the future. I like what I saw from him in his small sample size, and would like to see him for a full season. If he struggles terribly, there are plenty of prospects waiting in Bridgeport for their chance to push Joensuu out then. The Isles want to create competition among the ranks, so bringing Joensuu back to do this makes sense.
What do you guys think? Do you want to see Joensuu back next season, or do you think his chance to show he belongs here passed him by? Comments and discussion is more than welcome!
Follow me on twitter: @ed_omalley