It's remarkable when you sit down and examine, in your own mind, the concept of time. As you get older, it seems to move faster and faster. Of course, time doesn't actually go faster, it just seems that way with increased responsibilities taking up most of the free hours we hold so dear.
I'm sure hockey players are no different in this mental phenomenon. To the New York Islanders, it probably seems as if the season just ended this past Sunday instead of May 8 in Tampa with a 4-0 loss eliminating them from the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Now, it's back in the gym preparing for a training camp in September that will be here in the blink of an eye, approximately eight short weeks away.
As we hit the unofficial mid-point of the offseason, we take a look back at what the Islanders needed, what they acquired, what they lost and what they still have to do to prepare for a 2016-17 season in which they should be considered an early playoff contender.
New York followed up their first 100-point season since the dinosaurs roamed the earth -- ok, maybe not that long -- with another, falling one point shy of the previous season. More importantly, they continued to show improvement in the postseason, as their third appearance in the last four years finally brought them a series victory, knocking off the pesky Florida Panthers in six games on a John Tavares overtime winner in Brooklyn.
Tavares, even though his offensive output was down 16 points, continued to show maturity and leadership, guiding the Islanders through their first season at Barclays Center. Nick Leddy rebounded from a horrid first half to show why the Islanders locked him up to a smart, long-term deal. At only 25 years old, Leddy is under-compensated when you look at some of the other deals defenseman of similar ilk have signed.
Travis Hamonic rescinded his trade request and the fourth line was better than most teams' third on a consistent, shift-to-shift basis. New owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin took over on July 1 from Charles Wang, who retains a 15 percent ownership stake in the hockey club.
Brock Nelson, his career-high 26 goals notwithstanding, faded at the wrong time for the second straight season, Ryan Strome had his worst season as a pro, from training camp right through the end, Anders Lee's offensive output was down and when he started picking it up, he suffered a broken leg at Madison Square Garden, ending his season.
Barclays Center was a talking point all season long, from the commute to the scoreboard, SUV, gameops and ice conditions. Whispers have not been silenced over the summer as rumors persist that new ownership might be looking for a way out.
General manager Garth Snow locked up almost all his free agents, with the exception of Strome and Christopher Gibson, whom he is still working with toward extensions. Andrew Ladd arrived from Chicago, Jason Chimera from Washington, and P.A. Parenteau made his return from Toronto.
Kyle Okposo signed a front-loaded deal with the Buffalo Sabres, Frans Nielsen took a change of scenery deal with Detroit, and Matt Martin got the contract dollars he wanted out of the Maple Leafs. Brian Strait signed with the Jets and Steve Bernier and Marek Zidlicky will not be returning as unrestricted free agents.
Salary Cap Situation
Have the Islanders ever been in a position where they had no internal salary cap and maintained a player payroll that was closer to the ceiling than the basement? I'll go ahead with the safe answer and say absolutely not. But that's where they find themselves now.
GM Garth Snow will be put to the test with a team that still needs some things but finds themselves without the cap space to take on any large additional salary. With Strome and Gibson (who likely will not be on NHL roster anyway and not count against cap) still to be signed, the Islanders find themselves with $3.658 million to spend.
The additions of Ladd and Parenteau, who are assumed to be playing with captain John Tavares between them, could offset the offensive losses of Okposo and Nielsen. Ladd will be much better defensively than Okposo, and Chimera replaces Martin nicely.
The Islanders have still not found a defensive replacement for Nielsen and could also use a big-time winger to slot into the lineup on a nightly basis. Not to mention the three-headed goaltender monster that needs to be rectified (Halak, Greiss, Berube).
With the aforementioned salary cap situation, it could make dealing difficult for Snow heading into the season, but that has not stopped him from conversing with almost every rival general manager this summer. You would think he is trying hard to move Mikhail Grabovski's contract off the books, before deciding whether to use a LTIR designation on him.
Josh Bailey and Nikolay Kulemin could also be in play, although with the departure of Nielsen's defensive prowess as mentioned earlier, Kulemin could be very valuable there.
In The System
New York has one of the deepest forward prospect pools in hockey. Teeming with talent, we should start seeing them trickle into the lineup, possibly as early as 2017-18.
Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang will start the season in Bridgeport, with Ho-Sang making his professional debut. Anthony Beauvillier will play his fourth and final season in the QMJHL and Matthew Barzal is Islanders or bust, as he will either earn a nine-game tryout or be back with the Seattle Thunderbirds for a final season.
Barzal has been battling hip issues this summer, keeping him off the ice for Islanders prospect camp and Canada's junior training camp. Keifer Bellows, a 2016 first round pick, is headed back to Boston University and is likely two to three seasons away.