The New York Islanders faithful can dream, right?
Coming off their best season in more than two decades, the New York Islanders have key pieces primed for free agency.
GM Garth Snow is going to need to figure out what they are going to do come the start of free agency on July 1st.
Matt Martin, Kyle Okposo, and Frans Nielsen — three essential pieces of the team’s starting lineup and some of the longest tenured Islanders — are UFA’s. It seems like Okposo and Martin will walk, while the chances of Nielsen returning are much better.
Assuming Snow is able to re-sign Nielsen, the deal will probably be worth about five-million dollars per year. That’s not the biggest move in this dream offseason, though.
Snow has an appreciable history with trades in general, but is a magician at the draft. If he can work some wizardry at the draft again and can trade Nikolai Kulemin, Josh Bailey, and somehow find a team willing to take the contract of Mikhail Grabovski (maybe the Leafs because c’mon their the Leafs), that would free up about $12 million in cap space and help the Islanders tremendously.
Now we move away from the draft and skip a couple of days to July 1st for the start of free agency. The Islanders typically don’t make a lot of noise on this day but remember this is a dream offseason.
After trading away Kulemin, Bailey and Grabo at the draft and re-singing Nielsen, the Isles now have about $20 million in cap space.
Now everyone is well aware that the blue ribbon prize of free agency is Steven Stamkos and most teams would be ecstatic to sign him. With all of the cap space the Isles would have freed up, they should be able to drop a seven-year, $70 million contract.
That means Snow will have roughly ten million dollars left to work with.
The departure of NHL hit king Matt Martin hurts the Islanders’ vaunted fourth line, but there are a couple of options of who can replace him.
The ideal candidate is Milan Lucic.
Every hockey fan grows up hating Lucic, but once he’s one of those players that you won’t appreciate unless he’s on your team (i.e. Cal Clutterbuck). Lucic brings solid goal-scoring touch and a physical style of play suited to the fourth line. He also spent this past season with the Kings playing with Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli on the top line for L.A.
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He also boasts a Stanley Cup ring in 2011 with Boston (which he won with Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk) and another Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2013 (a loss in 6 games to the Blackhawks). His experience and his age (29) are valuable assets for whomever signs him.
The additions of Lucic and Stamkos are awesome, but what to do with all the lost forwards? Well for starters, prospects Matthew Barzal and Michael Dal Colle will be competing for a job in the big league’s.
After a disappointing campaign in 2013-14, the Islanders held the fifth overall pick and selected Dal Colle from the Oshawa Generals, the same junior team John Tavares, Calvin De Haan, Cal Clutterbuck and other current Islanders have played for.
New York traded defensive prospect Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers at the 2015 Draft for a first round pick (#16 overall) and a second round pick. They used the first round pick on Barzal.
The Isles also have a couple of RFA’s in Ryan Strome, Alan Quine, Shane Prince, and goalie J.F. Berube. It’s safe to assume that all of these players will re-sign and give the Islanders some more depth.
The Isles spent a number of seasons being penalized for breaking the cap floor, so why don’t they go out spend some money and pay for the winger Tavares needs in Stamkos, a replacement for Martin in Lucic, and let the kids play in Barzal and Dal Colle?
Islander fans are hungrier for a winning team than they’ve been in close in a long time. They have the pieces to chase gold. The question is whether or not they’ll step up in the clutch like their captain.