It would be natural for Barry Trotz to take a nice, relaxing summer following the NHL playoff grind that saw his Washington Capitals secure the Stanley Cup. But relaxation is the polar opposite of what he has been up to.
Right after finishing the grind to win the Cup, Trotz left the Capitals and joined an Islanders team that needed a lot of work. He teamed up with new president of hockey operations, Lou Lamoriello, and has been constructing his coaching staff and roster since his transition to Long Island.
But a quick break will be in the works next week when the Cup is in Trotz' hands for the first time since the victory on Aug. 22. He knows it will be short-lived, though.
[Editor's Note: Islanders fans, we want to hear from you and share some of your viewpoints. Tweet @ChrisBottaNHL before 11:59 pm on Friday, Aug. 3 to share your prediction -- at this moment -- of where the Islanders will finish in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of 2018-19. We need the number (first? 6th? 12th?) and brief thought summarizing why. Your tweet may be used in a future Point Blank piece.]
You are Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Fame architect. You've taken over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons and won one playoff round since 1993. Then, through no fault of your own, you lose your most celebrated player to free agency.
Suddenly, the new job is eerily familiar to your previous one with the Maple Leafs. There, you started with a thin roster and a top coach, Mike Babcock. But in 2016, you had the first pick in the draft and were gifted Auston Matthews.
Do you remember where you were seven years ago today?
On Aug. 1, 2011, I went for a run in the village of Rockville Centre, saw the determined looks on the faces of the residents marching into South Side Middle School, and knew it right away.
The public vote to build a new arena on the Coliseum property for the Islanders was going to be a big, fat, no frickin' way.
To hear his college coach talk about him, the Islanders may be justified in their faith that Devon Toews will be an impact defenseman this season and for many to come.
"Devon's going to be a Corsi king - a top possession defender," said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who took over the program in 1994 and is third among active NCAA Division I men's hockey coaches in victories. "Some people are going to be surprised about him, but not us. We know how good Devon is, and how good he's going to become."
Toews played for the Bobcats for three seasons, from 2013-2016, with an appearance in the Frozen Four in his final season. Pecknold identified Toews as an intriguing prospect and recruited him to attend the university in Connecticut with the guidance of a good connection: Matt Erhart, who played for Pecknold at Quinnipiac in the first four years of this century, was Toews' coach as a teenager with the Surrey (British Columbia) Eagles...
The Islanders re-signed forward Brock Nelson to a one-year deal, the team announced Monday.
Terms of the deal were not announced, although The Athletic's Arthur Staple reports Nelson will earn $4.25 million, which is $750,000 more than he earned last season.
Nelson, 26, totaled 19 goals and 16 assists in his fifth NHL season last year, appearing in all 82 games for New York.
Tags: Brock Nelson
Islanders Josh Bailey and Johnny Boychuk are sick of hearing the team doesn't have any hope next season. And more importantly, those who believe the team will lack leadership with the exit of captain John Tavares, must think again.
These two Islanders veterans find themselves in position to take the torch, if you will, from Tavares and lead the pack. These past five seasons have been Tavares' team, but now, it is up to the collective group to work together.
Tavares may be gone, but that doesn't mean the Islanders should be deemed out of the running already.
If the Islanders' arena project on the Belmont Park property faces obstacles in approvals and construction, team management has wisely negotiated a cushion.
Point Blank has learned that the Islanders' agreement with the operators of the Nassau Coliseum is not just for the next three NHL seasons, but also includes two option years for the club. Two people with knowledge of the agreement shared the information, requesting anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue.
This means that if the Islanders' arena in Belmont is not completed for the start of the 2021-22 season, the team has the option to continue playing at the Coliseum for at least that season and the following one...
The Islanders' defense will improve in 2018-19 for a simple reason beyond the fact that the team is now coached by the infinitely more accomplished tactician Barry Trotz. It will be better because it could not possibly be worse than it was under Doug Weight and his band of assistants last season, when it was historically very, very bad:
Most goals allowed (293) by an NHL team since 2006-07
Allowed five or more goals in regulation and conceded at least 40 shots on goal 20 times
The Islanders announced Wednesday that John Gruden has been named an assistant head coach under Barry Trotz.
Gruden, 48, was the head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League for the past two seasons, finishing with an overall record of 76-45-8-7.
Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Gruden worked with USA Hockey, where he was an assistant coach for Team USA of the 2016 U18 World Championships. He also worked as an assistant in other roles for USA Hockey from 2011 to 2015.
We don't know if there are pictures of 10-year-old Anders Lee of Edina, Minn. in the pajamas of the first-year Wild back in the year 2000, but the Islanders might not want to take any chances.
As the Islanders embark on this uncertain three (or more)-year path to Belmont, they must learn from the John Tavares heartache. They need to control what they can control, and make their organization as attractive - or at least as less unattractive - as possible. They need to eliminate the excuses for someone else to walk out the door.
Beginning with the 2019-20 season, all of their home games must be played at the barn in Nassau County. And the plan to move all of the games to Nassau should be announced weeks before the trade deadline in February 2019.
Tags: Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Chris Botta
Islanders D Ryan Pulock has agreed to a two-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday.
Pulock played in 68 games with New York last season, where he totaled career highs in goals (10) and assists (22). Overall, the 23-year-old has 36 points over 84 career games.
The 15th overall pick by the Islanders back in 2013, Pulock has spent most of his career with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He has totaled 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) during his time there.
Tags: Ryan Pulock
The Islanders have announced that they have resigned defenseman Kyle Burroughs and Devon Toews. Both were restricted free agents and spent time with AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Burroughs was a seventh round pick for the Islanders back in 2013. He has now spent three seasons in Bridgeport, posting a career high 25 points and a plus-minus of +16.
Toews has spent the past two season in Bridgeport but missed the second half of the season after having a shoulder injury in January. Toews, 24, played for Quinnipiac University for three years before heading to Bridgeport. The former fourth round pick had five goals and forty assists in his first season in the AHL.
Now that "John Tavares" has "written" his farewell to the Islanders for The Players Tribune, here are some final Point Blank thoughts on the whole ordeal:
Tavares' piece was what you'd expect: an attempt to explain himself and thank Islander fans. The timing of its publishing was flawed; the piece posted just as the pain and anger in Islanders Country had subsided. Getting his message across by July 2 would have been more effective and heartfelt. But hey, I know how tough it is to write on deadline.
Still, it's clear from reading the piece that Tavares was very aware of the reaction of his departure, and cares what people think about him. There's nothing bad about that.
Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
John Tavares thanked Islanders fans and reflected on his time with the team via a Players' Tribune letter published on Wednesday.
The former Islanders' team captain described a breakdown-like situation he endured when he was forced to choose whether to sign with the Maple Leafs or remain with the Islanders -- a decision he said he "just literally, physically could not" make.
Tavares, who turned down an eight-year deal with the Islanders in favor of a contract with the Maple Leafs, said he wrote the letter because of his "real, honest, still-there love for the New York Islanders hockey franchise."
Tags: John Tavares
Face it: if Garth Snow had made all of the player personnel moves that Lou Lamoriello has so far as Islanders GM, there would be a march on Eisenhower Park.
In the excitement over the removal of the embarrassing regime of Snow and installation of Lamoriello as leader of hockey operations, somewhere along the line it seems people believe the legendary ex-Devils architect is untouchable.
Since the painful exit of John Tavares, there has been a lot of puffed-out chests and declarations of Hey, Screw Tavares -- We've Got Lou and We Can't Go Wrong...
The Islanders are continuing to bolster their roster for the upcoming season with C Jan Kovar inking a one-year, $2 million deal.
The 28-year-old played for the KHL's Magnitogorsk Metallurg since 2013, where he has totaled 286 points (97 goals, 189 assists) over 285 games. Last season, he notched seven goals and 28 assists over 54 games.
Kovar has also represented the Czech Republic in five World Championship, including the 2017 Winter Olympics. Overall, he has six goals and 13 assists in 42 international games.
After winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, 21-year-old Islanders forward Mathew Barzal can be the new face of the franchise with John Tavares out of the picture.
"He's a driven, driven guy to be the best player he can be," Russ Farwell, the VP of hockey operation for Barzal's junior hockey team, the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, told Newsday's Andrew Gross. "He's totally focused on his game. He's a very confident guy, too. He was a really highly touted minor player, so being the show or being the guy wasn't foreign to him. His whole life, everybody has pointed to him."
Tags: John Tavares, Mathew Barzal
Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello has nothing but respect for John Tavares after the former team captain opted to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"In my dealings with John, he proved himself to be a sincere, honest young man," Lamoriello told NHL.com. "He earned the right to test free agency, and that's what he did.
Tavares totaled 621 points in 669 games with the Islanders since he was drafted in 2009.
Tags: John Tavares
It's a time for genuine optimism around the Islanders despite captain John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $11 million.
The team hired a new GM and president of hockey operations, Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello then hired reigning Stanley Cup champion head coach Barry Trotz. The team is rife with young talent, including Calder Trophy-winning Mathew Barzal, and will continue to take steps forward, even without Tavares.
"I know it's a big blow and everyone has the sky falling, but we're a young team," Trotz said...
Islanders F Brock Nelson has filed for arbitration, as the NHLPA announces the league-wide list. His qualifying offer is $3.5 million.
Nelson, 26, had 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) last season. He was a first-round pick (30th overall) in 2010. He's scored at least 14 goals in each of his five professional seasons and has missed just two games in the last four years.
He has the highest qualifying offer among the five Islanders.
Qualifying offers are issued to restricted free agents whose team wishes to retain their negotiation rights.
After most of the free agent goaltenders had come off the free agent board (Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier, Petr Mrazek, among others), the name of Robin Lehner stood out as the best available one for the Islanders to sign on a low-risk, one-year deal. On Tuesday, Erik Karlsson was all the rage and then the Islanders traded for prodigal son Matt Martin, so my plans to write about Lehner got put on the back burner.
When the Islanders signed him on Tuesday afternoon, I laughed out loud…and liked the move even more.
With the Islanders having so many tough, fearless, edgy fourth-line forwards in the fold, why not add the equivalent in goal? The Islanders may not be the most skilled team next season, but you can't blame Lou Lamoriello for "making it look mean."
Islanders GM and president Lou Lamoriello saw franchise player John Tavares walk out the door last week, but says the Isles did everything in their power to prevent it.
"We did everything we possibly could to keep John," Lamoriello said Thursday on Sirius XM NHL radio. "He's a quality player. He's now with another team. That's the past."
Tavares bolted the Isles for his hometown Maple Leafs, while also passing on joining the Sharks, Bruins, and others. And with Tavares gone, the Isles should be on a three-year plan as they prepare for their new arena, says SNY contributor Chris Botta...
Tags: John Tavares
The Islanders now have two former Capitals coaches on their staff for next season.
The team announced Lane Lambert will reunite with head coach Barry Trotz as an associate coach on his staff.
Lambert held the very same role under Trotz last season during the Capitals' Stanely Cup run. He spent four seasons with Washington after coaching three seasons with the Predators as an assistant.
The acquisition of Matt Martin makes little sense, and -- on the heels of Lou Lamoriello's free agent signings so far -- raises more concerns about the plans of new management.
I love it.
Welcome back, Matt.
The Islanders agreed to terms on Tuesday with goaltender Robin Lehner on a one-year contract.
Lehner had a .908 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average in 53 games last season with the Sabres.
Lehner, who is from Sweden, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft.
After the gut-punch of the loss of John Tavares on Sunday, anyone could understand the desire to rebound. Who among us hasn't been dumped, only to dream of bouncing back with someone just as dazzling?
Otherwise, count me in the minority when it comes to clamoring for the Islanders to make a trade for Erik Karlsson. The Islanders will inquire, and would be right to investigate, but it is not the right move at this time for the club. The reasons...
Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Chris Botta
Forward Matt Martin is returning to Long Island.
The Islanders made a deal with the Maple Leafs to send G Eamon McAdam in return for Martin, who they drafted in the fifth round back in 2008. In the deal, the Islanders are taking on Martin's $2.5 million he is owed this season and the 2019-2020 season as well.
Martin played seven seasons for the Islanders, where he totaled 88 points (42 goals, 46 assists) in that span. Even more impressive was winning five straight Bob Nystrom Awards, which goes to the Islander that best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication.
Tags: Matt Martin
Islanders fans called in to SNY en masse to bid John Tavares farewell.
Some were furious with Tavares, some understood his decision, and others had vitriol for ownership and departed GM Garth Snow.
What are your feelings about Tavares bolting for Toronto?
Tags: John Tavares
Isles Country was devastated to see John Tavares decide to take his talents home and play for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season. And though fans may see only darkness ahead for the Islanders, NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire believes there to be light at the end of the tunnel.
After analyzing the process Tavares took during his interview period that led up to his ultimate decision, McGuire understood why Tavares decided to fulfill his "childhood dream" to play for the Leafs instead of the organization that drafted him first overall back in 2009.
"I'm not surprised," McGuire told SNY. "When you grow up in a Canadian city and you grew up dreaming about playing for that team whether it'd be Montreal or Vancouver or Toronto, that's a hard thing to not want to foresee or go through. So I understood that part of it after the fact."
The Islanders announced they signed five players, including former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Thomas Kuhnhackl, on Monday.
New York re-signed goaltender Christopher Gibson to a two-year, two-way deal, and also announced it signed Seth Helgeson to a two-year deal, Mike Sislo to a one-year deal and Matt Lorito to a two-year deal with the first year being a two-way one.
Kuhnhackl, 26, totaled two goals and six assists in 69 games for the Penguins last season, and has recorded 11 goals and 28 assists since entering the league three seasons ago.
On the day after, as the Islanders turn the page after the most soul-sucking moment for the club and Country in this century, some thoughts as we await Lou Lamoriello's next move…
Lamoriello did not agree to run the Islanders because he was convinced Tavares was staying with the team
Take this to the bank: Lamoriello's decision to tackle this major project did not come down to whether one great player was going to re-sign with his team. His life in the game has always been about the image of "team," not "individual" accomplishments. If anything, Tavares' defection should only further energize the new boss. If this is to be Lamoriello's final act in the game, what better way to close a magnificent career than with the complete exorcism of a team haunted by three decades of mismanagement?
Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
The Islanders extended G Christopher Gibson for another two years, the team announced Monday.
Gibson signed a two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL and $225,000 in the AHL next season, and for the 2019-2020 season, his pay increases to $700,000 and $250,000 respectively.
Tags: Christopher Gibson, Scott Thompson
John Tavares asked the Islanders not to trade him during the season. He then flirted with five other teams before bolting the Isles for his hometown Maple Leafs.
Maybe the Islanders never had a chance to lure Tavares back, with the dream of playing for the Leafs trumping anything the Isles could've done to convince him to stay.
What was your initial reaction to the news? How do you think Tavares handled the decision? What will you miss the most about him? Where do the Isles go from here?
Tags: John Tavares
As the confusion, sadness and anger sets in with the news that the days of John Tavares as a New York Islander have come to an end, it is constructive to accept the magnitude of the loss.
While he fulfills what he has described as a "childhood dream" to play for the Maple Leafs, Tavares' departure is the latest (and hopefully final) massive blow to the reputation of the Islanders organization -- as big a blow as any New York sports team has endured since free agency first came to baseball five decades ago.
This absolutely a stain on the franchise -- the final piece of the legacy of former general manager Garth Snow, with blame shared by the refusal of current owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky to do anything for two years to upgrade a miserable organization.
Former Islanders captain John Tavares wrote goodbye letters to the Islanders organization and their fans after he decided to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The 27-year-old Tavares spent all of his first nine career seasons with the Islanders dating back to 2009-10 when he was 19 years old.
Tags: John Tavares
The Islanders announced they re-signed defenseman Thomas Hickey to a four-year deal on Sunday.
Hickey, 29, had five goals and a personal-best 25 assists last season.
Tags: Thomas Hickey
Islanders captain John Tavares has signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $11 million.
The Islanders had extended an eight-year offer to Tavares on Saturday afternoon, reports Arthur Staple of The Athletic. But on Sunday morning, he informed the team of his decision not to return.
The Islanders were expected frontrunners to re-sign the veteran center.
Tags: John Tavares
The Islanders announced they signed forward Valtteri Filppula to a one-year deal on Sunday.
Filppula, 34, totaled 11 goals and 22 assists in 81 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season.
After John Tavares announced he was signing with the Maple Leafs, the Islanders signed former Toronto forward Leo Komarov to a four-year, $12 million deal, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports.
Komarov, 31, scored seven goals and 12 assists in 74 games with Toronto last season.
A former sixth-round pick, Komarov has totaled 52 goals and 70 assists in 327 games since debuting in the 2012-13 season.
The latest John Tavares update is that there is no update.
As of Sunday morning, none of the six teams in the Tavares sweepstakes, including the Islanders, have been notified of a decision, according to multiple reports.
A decision still could be made on Sunday, though, as the NHL remains on #TavaresWatch...
Former Islanders C Chris Wagner is heading to the Bruins on a two-year, $2.5 million contract, reports Andrew Gross of Newsday.
Wagner spent one season with the Islanders after stints with Anaheim and Colorado. He played in 15 games with the Islanders, tallying one goal.
The NHL is collectively awaiting John Tavares' free agency decision as the superstar picks where he'll continue his career, be it with the Islanders or elsewhere.
In the meantime, fans have delivered with humor. Check out some of the best #TavaresWatch tweets below.
Tags: John Tavares
After giving up an NHL-worst 296 goals last season, the Islanders could use a defensive makeover.
Team President Lou Lamoriello appears focused on doing just that. The Isles selected D Noah Dobson with one of their first-round picks (No. 12 overall) and now they are reportedly interested in Senators G Craig Anderson, according to Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch.
Anderson, 37, requested a trade earlier this month. Last season was his statistically-worst campaign since 2005/06, as he posted .898 save percentage and a 3.32 GAA..
Free-agent-to-be John Tavares could make his decision later today.
Tavares, 27, narrowed down his list of teams to five -- the Islanders, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Stars -- and has met with each over the past week. He met with with new Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello on Monday, and Tavares had previously been a impressed with the Lamoriello hire.
The Islanders drafted Tavares No. 1 overall in 2009, and he has scored 272 goals, 349 assists and 621 points since debuting at 19 in the 2009-10 season.
Tags: John Tavares
At Islanders rookie minicamp, the players got to take part in 4-on-4 scrimmages and did not disappoint the crowd at Northwell Health Ice Center.
Oliver Wahlstrom, who was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in last week's NHL Draft, scored this incredible goal. Watch below.
"He wants a fair deal, to be happy, and most of all, he wants to win." That is the viewpoint of a former Islanders teammate of John Tavares, the franchise player who will conclude his listening sessions Wednesday and decide very soon if he wants to stay with the Orange and Blue.
While TSN insider Bob McKenzie continues to pound the refrain that Tavares will stay in New York -- "If you ask anyone around the NHL, they'll tell you he's going back to the Islanders," said Bob -- the Tavares camp wants you to know this process has been genuine and his mind is open to a move.
Tavares' pal took exception to the notion, articulated a few times in this space, that the all-star center is "doing his part" for the NHLPA by listening to his agents and visiting with six teams (including the Islanders). He insists that these three days of meetings are about more than negotiating a salary he could proudly put on the board for his fellow stars in the NHL.
Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
The Islanders were one of the first teams to pitch John Tavares, who is about to hit free agency. And if the odds are to be believed, they should be confident in their ability to bring him back.
Aside from the Islanders, the Stars, Maple Leafs, Sharks, Lightning, and Bruins are pursuing Tavares. So, who has the best odds to land him?
According to BetOnline, the Islanders are the favorites to land Tavares, which would mean retaining their franchise cornerstone. The Isles come in at +125, followed by the Sharks (+275), Maple Leafs (+500), Bruins (+700), Stars (+800), and Lightning (+850).
Tags: John Tavares
You won't have to wait much longer to learn if the Islanders are still the slight favorites in the hunt for John Tavares. The Steven Stamkos talks of two years ago taught us that.
Although unrestricted free agency begins Sunday, July 1, Tavares will have completed his "listening period" with other teams by Thursday, and possibly Wednesday night. If, when that process is finished, Tavares does not commit to the Islanders soon after - with a press conference by Saturday at the latest - we will know that sincere interest in other teams remains.
Two years ago at this time, Stamkos embarked on his listening period, as overseen by his team at the powerful Newport Sports - the agency led by Don Meehan.
Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
The Islanders were one of the first teams to present their pitch to top free-agent C John Tavares during the interview period that began on Monday, per SportsNet's Chris Johnston.
The meeting on Monday night lasted approximately two hours and 15 minutes, and it appeared successful as Isles GM and president of hockey operations, Lou Lamoriello, and new head coach Barry Trotz walked out smiling.
Tavares has been an Islander his entire life, and though entering the interview period may seem like a slight to the only franchise he's known, Lamoriello doesn't mind it at all. It's his right to do so.