I like your ideas, but I would say that any move to get a top-tier defenseman involves buying Yashin out. We would have around a $34-35 million starting payroll with him but $30 million if he is bought out. If we don't buy him out and sign a Redden/Chara/McCabe, we are out of money. The cap probably goes up to around $44 million next year, so I would much rather have $12-14 million to work with than $9.
Yeah, you need a top-tier defenseman, no doubt. I don't recall a lot of teams that have won the Cup without one. And the Islanders are going to have to be willing to fork over $6-7 million to do it. True, Savard may be pricey, but I think Briere is capable of similar production and be worth less because of his injuries. However, he isn't chronically injured and makes around $1.3 right now. He could be pryed away from Buffalo for around $3 million. Sign Cory Sarich or someone around $2 million to round out the defense and you have a payroll of $42 million, likely giving you a million or two to spare.
This might still be a little pricey, but I could also see the Islanders packaging Gervais and someone else from the Bridge for Leopold or someone along those lines. Zhitnik could still be traded. It will be interesting to see who will be outgoing. If we trade away Zhitnik and get Leopold in a separate deal, there might be room for another forward.
Briere isn't a UFA,he'll be re-signed to a long term contract in the off-season,and he would get a lot more then 3 million in UFA anyway.