Brian Rafalski, who retired this week following an 11-year career as an upper- echelon defenseman with the Devils and Red Wings, once took considerably less money to stay in New Jersey than he would have received on the open market after a qualifying-offer snafu would have set him free.

It was the same scenario for John Madden, the outstanding checking center who is pondering retirement himself after an 11-season career that also began with the Cup champion 1999-2000 Devils. Back then, those decisions served to demonstrate the strength of the New Jersey program and organization that produced three championship teams and another finalist in a nine-season span from 1995-2003.

Now, nearly a decade after Rafalski and Madden accommodated the Devils' needs, a pair of young Islanders have made accommodations for ownership in securing long-term contracts that will allow Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow to keep their team's emerging nucleus intact at least until either the team moves into a new Coliseum or moves to a new location five years hence.

Michael Grabner, a 23-year-old Calder nominee off a 32-goal, plus-13 rookie season, signed a five-year, $15 million back-loaded contract under which he will be paid $1 million this season, with annual $1 million increases.