Thanks to winning the bid to build an arena at Belmont Park, the New York Islanders are in the running for the best free agents in the NHL.
Finally, New York Islanders fans can rejoice having won the bid for Belmont Park on Tuesday afternoon. What can make it better? The fact that the Islanders will be a serious contender for top free agents in the years to come.
By winning the bid at Belmont Park to make a new state of the art arena, the Isles have officially secured a future in New York. Better yet, a future on Long Island. This will surely set in motion a chain reaction.
The biggest question mark swirling in the wind this year has been the future status of John Tavares, the bonafide face of the organization.
Will he re-sign with the team after the 2018 season? The Isles captain has vocalized that he wants to stay an Islander, so why hasn’t he signed yet? There’s no other reasoning than the arena situation. With that locked down, the 27-year old should now be expected to re-sign with the team. While news has not broken on the subject, that would lock down the best player the Islanders have seen in years. Of course, this would also show the Isles are ready to win now. To do that, they need the pieces around Tavares to make a deep playoff run.
For years, the Islanders have been the last destination free agents choose to sign with. No one wanted to play in what most people called a dump, when referencing Nassau Coliseum. In Brooklyn, players do not want to deal with the Barclays commute, since most live on Long Island.
Now, when players choose the Islanders, they are choosing a brand new state of the art arena in Belmont partnered with one of the best practice facilities in the league. Furthermore, they will be living in an upscale community with a tame commute compared to Brooklyn and will not have to deal with the troubles of an inner-city.
A few of the upcoming free agents are John Carlson, Joe Thronton and James Neal. These are just some of the players that five years ago, would never look at the Islanders as a potential landing spot. Now, those players can look at Long Island and make a decision after actually seeing the area and what the Isles have to offer.
That being said, not all free agents should be targets. The Islanders need a defenseman and perhaps a goaltender as their main priority. Carlson is the best offensive defenseman in the free agent class. If he were to make it to Jul. 1, after re-signing Josh Bailey, Carlson should be the Islanders main target. In terms of goaltenders, it looks like a weak year. The biggest name out there in terms of save percentages is Darcy Keumper, currently with the Los Angeles Kings. Due to his low salary, he is likely to re-sign, which should reinforce the fact that Carlson should be the main free agent target.
Finally, Belmont will keep the team together for years to come.
Tavares is the first proof of that. Bailey, Nick Leddy and other core players that choose to re-sign when their contracts are up are other examples of how having a plan in place for the future of an organization can keep the team on the ice together.
Belmont Park is officially in the hands of the New York Islanders. This is the biggest win in recent memory for the franchise and it can set the team in a direction it hasn’t seen in a long while. For the first time in years, Long Island will be a suitable candidate for big-name free agents.
Five years ago, these players would never have even looked at Long Island. The Islanders have a committed team on the ice, their own arena and one of the best practice facilities in hockey.
With these three assets, the Islanders are officially back in the hunt for the best names in the NHL.