ESPN has a plan for how the Islanders can turn their franchise's fortunes around.
Matthew Coller lists (Insider required) letting Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen walk, signing Andrew Ladd, and poor goaltending performances as the primary factors that got the Islanders into this mess. To get out of it, Coller suggests selling at the deadline, exercising patience with their young talent, and most notably (and controversially), getting an answer on John Tavares' future as ways to fix things.
"One player holds the key to the Islanders' future: Tavares. He is set to hit free agency in 2018, and his decision to stay or go will ultimately decide if the Islanders have to go back into rebuild mode or keep swinging for a Stanley Cup," Coller writes. "If their former No. 1 overall pick is willing to sign a long-term deal, Snow, or whoever the GM is after this debacle, can start moving assets to acquire win-now players around Tavares. If he decides to test the market, then he needs to be traded as soon as possible. Even if other teams knew the Islanders' hand was forced, 29 teams would be making a call to see if they could acquire one of the NHL's elite centers."
With all due respect to Coller, this is absolutely nuts. First, the Islanders didn't let Nielsen walk. That's a fair criticism when it comes to Okposo, but the Isles made a more lucrative offer to Frans before he signed with the Red Wings. It was a no-move clause that ultimately made the difference there. Also, he lists Mikhail Grabovski as a veteran player that could have value at the deadline. Last time I checked, not many people are going to be knocking down the doors for an injured player whose career may be over that carries a $6 million salary for 2017-18.
When it comes to fixing things, I'm sorry, but the Islanders can't play hard ball with Tavares. JT is this franchise, and the Islanders can't afford to lose him. John has said all the right things about wanting to stay, and there is no indication that he wants to take a similar path to free agency like his friend Steven Stamkos. The Islanders have to let Tavares dictate how things progress, and once they can actually start talking about an extension in July, they'll have a ton more clarity.
I do agree that the Isles have reasons to be optimistic, with Matt Barzal and others on the horizon, and I'm with Coller that they should sell off pieces at the deadline, but maybe the Isles should try changing some more glaringly misfiring pieces before putting the screws to one of the best things to ever happen to this franchise?