sleep 5Around the three-hour mark of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play August: Osage County, the matriarch of the dysfunctional family decides to cut through all the BS. "It's time for some truth-tellin'," she says.

 

Same here at Point Blank. I've always tried to have an open dialogue with our readers, but I feel like it's been a while. The time is now because it's been a few weeks since the end of the season and the rhetoric in the Comments space and in the emails has intensified to the point where I want to address some issues.

 

This is going to be long, long-winded, blunt, defensive and maybe at times offensive to a few of you. Just putting it all out there, folks. I will cover a whole range of topics, so pull up a chair and bear with me. Thanks.

 

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sleep 5Sponsors: You may see some ads on the site over the next few days. Our hope is to prove the value of the blog to potential sponsors. I would be indebted if you would please click on these ads from every computer you have access to, patronize the sponsors and spread the word. It could go a long way in keeping us running longer.

 

Support Drive: There's a likelihood that if the blog continues into next hockey season, I will run a support drive in the form of a deal on tickets to one or two Islanders games during the season. Consider it (hopefully) one giant Point Blank group sales night. Perhaps it's an opportunity for many of you to meet up at a game. I understand some readers may be season ticketholders and many are not from New York, but I certainly would appreciate the support of anyone in position to get involved.

 

PB Night III: If we're back for another season, it's a lock that the next Point Blank Night will be at R.C. Dugan's on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. Thank you, Jay, for your dedication to the cause.

 

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"Conflicts": I realize some of you missed this when I wrote about it in the early days of the blog, or did not see when I spoke about it with C.J. Papa on the Islanders telecast. So that there's no misunderstanding, let me make a few things perfectly clear.

 

The idea for Point Blank came from Islanders President Chris Dey about a month or so after I left the organization last May 5. The team and the sport was in need of more coverage. Fans hungered for non-stop reporting on the Islanders and Dey wanted to deliver it to them. I was available! It was Dey who understood that it would only work if the blog was run independently of the team. For the record, Dey has stood by his end of the bargain, and I applaud him and am thankful to him for it.

 

The New York Islanders are the primary sponsor of Point Blank. Newsday refers to PB as the "team-sponsored blog" - as opposed to the Rangers-sponsored newspaper - and I've never hid from that.

 

Some facts: the Islanders have never asked me to write a story or not write a story. The first time Islanders management sees a post is the same as you: when it's published on the site. I've never been asked to take down a reader Comment about members of the organization, and there have been plenty of vicious ones.

 

sleep 5In 2009, more than three-quarters of sports journalism is touched by some conflict of interest. Leagues are in bed with networks. Writers from major magazines and newspapers serve as paid talking heads on league-owned networks. Two of New York's top sports radio voices receive checks from the companies that own major league sports teams. Sportswriters have publishing deals with the coaches and athletes they are supposed to cover.

 

Long Island's newspaper is owned by the company that owns the Knicks, Rangers, Madison Square Garden and MSG Network. Neil Best, one of the finest media columnists in the U.S. and a man of impeccable honor, covers one of the major holdings of his boss. So do the Newsday writers on the Knicks and Rangers. Wally Matthews blistered Charles Wang last summer, has plenty of tough opinions on the Steinbrenners and at times has been vicious toward Jeff Wilpon. As for the Dolans, Wally doesn't seem to have much to say.

 

I stand by the facts I've written, and the opinions that have come from the heart and the mind.

 

Town of Hempstead: Before I ever wrote my first critical word of Kate Murray's handling of the Lighthouse Project, I called Town spokesman Mike Deery three times and left him three voicemails. I attempted to start a professional relationship, but the Town did not have the time nor the interest for this blogger and resident. I don't expect them to ever want to deal with me now. Should the Town of Hempstead ever make its first right move - like maybe Murray showing up at a meeting - I'll be the first to praise it.

 

For now, that Islanders Fan First website and mailer fiasco - the project they aborted after three days - remains the Town's signature moment. To those of you who believe I just get my kicks bashing the Republican side of this issue, you don't know anything about me or my other projects. By writing the facts, and writing what I feel, in this brutal economy I'm potentially costing myself income from some of the PR consultant jobs I've been up for. That's about as far as I can take it.

 

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My Background: Other than knowing I worked for the team for a while, understandably most of you don't know my background and how it relates to the blog. So here's a bit about my career in the game.

 

sleep 5In my senior year in college, I worked full-time for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1986-87 season, the year they went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Along the way, the Flyers defeated the Rangers, Islanders (right after the Easter Epic) and Montreal before Wayne Gretzky took over in the final period of the deciding game in the Final. I did not get a Cup ring, but I made countless friends and contacts with the Flyers and around the league, most of them still in the business.

 

Six months later, I was hired by the Islanders to edit a monthly newspaper, Islander News. Among those on my first Islanders team: Trottier, Bossy, Denis Potvin, LaFontaine, Brent Sutter, Morrow, Flatley, Billy Smith and Kelly Hrudey. Along the way, I managed the team's publications, sold group tickets and even served as radio color commentator for a year and a half after Bob Nystrom left the job (yup, it was a major step down in the booth, but I tried). I went into PR fulltime in the mid-90s, was named VP in 1999 and stayed in that position for 9 years.

 

sleep 5So many of the players and coaches on those early Islanders teams are spread out around the league as scouts, coaches and broadcasters and remain good friends and invaluable contacts. On the 1992-93 team alone, former players are now near the top of directories with NHL teams and the Players Association. My favorite time was working for Al Arbour and the '92-93 team, the second was the mini-revival in 2001-02 under Peter Laviolette and watching the Coliseum come alive again.

 

For more than a decade, I managed a press box that hosted scouts from every team in the league and elsewhere. Most of those relationships are still in place today. Naturally, I'm still in contact with many of my former colleagues in the Islanders front office.

 

So when I rank prospects, I may not always be bang-on, but understand I'm not throwing paper darts into the wind. When I write that the majority of scouts I've spoken with say Drew Doughty will have a better NHL career than Victor Hedman, it could ultimately be wrong, but I'm not listening to the voices inside my head. I'm a reporter who listens to dozens of men who do this for a living. Turns out the amateur scouts on the Point Blank speed dial knew almost all season Matt Duchene was 2 or 3, even when The Hockey News had him at 6.

 

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Blog Stats: With each month, the Page Views and Visits for Point Blank grew in leaps and bounds, peaking (of course) in March with Gueringate. The drama got so big, the numbers on Sunday - when everyone thought Bill was going to be traded - actually were better than the day of the Trade Deadline.

 

The really good news is that the stats in April barely dropped off. Lottery day was a good one, but it was so gratifying to see all the new readers we picked up in March seem to be sticking around.

 

When you consider the Islanders did not play an important game for the purposes of playoff contention since the holidays, the numbers have been remarkable. The credit goes to you for your dedication to this team and for spreading the word about the blog.

 

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Comments: One of the reasons why the Page Views of Point Blank have grown beyond my expectations is because of your efforts in the Comments space. I spoke with a top guy at NHL Security the other day who told me he is as interested in reading all the Comments as my blog entries. I wasn't offended. That's the way it should be on a good blog.

 

If many of you believe I'm a nut about moderating the Comments space, I take the hit but also have no regrets. We have all seen how the blogs of many talented writers have been almost destroyed by the nonsense that goes on in the Comments. I refuse to let that happen. For everyone I've ticked off, I still believe the Comment Guidelines are a vital reason why the site tends to get at least 100 legitimate, passionate, insightful Comments (and often a lot more) after each story. I want as many readers as possible to feel like they can share their opinions.

 

On criticism of my work, I have no problem when a reader disagrees with me, tears me apart or even plays the ever-popular shill card. (The son of a friend of mine posted from his college dorm a while ago that I was still Garth's boy). I love that stuff.

 

To be candid, the only ones I find personally annoying are the ones that say something like, "I don't care about this subject" or "Don't you have anything better to write about"? One of my favorites was when I broke the news the Islanders had signed third round pick Mark Katic and a regular reader of an Islanders blog said he didn't care and it was just "fodder."

 

If you are the kind of person who actually takes the time to post on an Islanders blog that you don't care about stories on Mike Bossy, Kirill Petrov, Denis Potvin, the Lighthouse - after all, it only determines the team's future - prospects and small anecdotes from behind-the-scenes, I encourage you to go somewhere else for your daily Islanders reading.

 

Now that we've been at this seven months and I have regularly asked readers to review the Comment Guidelines, I'm done with warnings. If you go off-topic, write not a comment but a full-blown blog entry, post more than 3 per thread, are profane, call your fellow readers "idiots" and "morons" and the ever-popular "___ clowns" or give me other reasons to be cautious, your Comment posts are going to moderation. If you'd like to address this issue, please send me an email so we can work it out one-on-one.

 

Effective today, while some readers may have their Comments go to moderation, no one is on permanent block any longer.

 

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sleep 5The Year in Review: After working for the team for so long, I was more comfortable transitioning to the media side than I expected. It probably helped that there was a new head coach and some key players (including Doug Weight) that I had never worked with.

 

Scott Gordon and I didn't have much to do with each other for about two months mid-season. He didn't like some stuff I wrote. I didn't like the way he handled it, so I passed on many of his media scrums because he wasn't saying much. In the final 4-6 weeks of the season, the working relationship improved. I stubbornly believe Scott has a few things he needs to work on. He stubbornly thinks I'm wrong and everything is okay. Scott works his tail off, is extremely bright and is a very talented coach. Time will tell how it works out.

 

Garth Snow was irritated with me for a few weeks, primarily because I wrote my 8-year old twins did a better job of staying on the same page as the Islanders were on the Rick DiPietro injury stuff. The Islanders stood by their version of the story. Over time, we moved on. As I wrote when I was in timeout, I do not need complete access to write the blog. When you shut out the media, it usually hurts the team more - especially when that team does not boast bountiful coverage. Felt the same way when I was the PR director.

 

I especially want to mention youngsters Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo for their professionalism during a difficult season. Think about Bailey. He knew about the immediate fan and press reaction when the team went from 5 to 7 to 9 and drafted him. I wrote that he should go to juniors, and then to the World Junior Championships. Yet through it all, he answered the questions and handled himself like a 15-year pro. My experience tells me that's a good sign.

 

All of the veterans were very good with the press, most notably for me Weight, Brendan Witt and Richard Park. The team's PR staff - Seth Sylvan, Corey Witt and young Josh Bernstein - are good men and made me feel comfortable in my new gig. I thank them for that.

 

Other than a few hours one Sunday early on when we battled over the "team-sponsored" thing, Greg Logan and I got along really well. He is a friend, and I have learned a lot from him. The days when Dan Martin of the Post and Peter Botte of the Daily News attend practice are always good days.

 

I also want to thank the MSG Network crew for putting me on the pre-game show and Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe for mentioning Point Blank more than a few times. Same to Steve Mears and Chris King for their support on the radio side and their assistance. Thank you to Lisa and the moderators at Islandermania for always linking to my stories. That's a huge help, and especially was early on when the blog was trying to get off the ground. Thank you to Roseanne and the crew at Gabrielle's for their amazing generosity as our unofficial watering hole.

 

In the world outside the Islanders, thank you to Don La Greca for guiding this novice on ESPN Radio. Thank you to Hofstra University for the opportunity to see if I can teach. Thank you to Stan Bratskeir for his PR guru-ness.

 

Thank you to Kevin Schultz of Barry Melrose Rocks for getting behind the Gran Torino when I had to step away. Thank you to B.D. Gallof for his help in the early days and best of luck with his new venture. Whatever happened in between, I wish him well in doing his best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

 

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Future: As of this date, there's a commitment to write this blog until the NHL Draft in late June. After that, I do not have any guarantees. It is my sincere wish to run Point Blank for at least another year and hopefully a lot more beyond that. I hope to know in the next few weeks if I'll be around past June. For now, please click the heck out of any sponsor ads you may see.

 

One thing is certain: the only way I will ever do this blog is if I'm provided the opportunity to cover the Islanders 24/7/365. From time to time readers suggest that if I move into another full-time career that I pop in and write once or twice a week. This franchise has been my life's work and a bit of an obsession now for 21 years. When I worked for the Islanders, I thought about my responsibilities every hour for two decades. It's impossible for me to picture doing this blog half-way. In fact, I'm sure I will never do it that way.

 

One more time, thank you to all of the Point Blank readers for checking out the site, sharing your insight, passing along your knowledge and keeping me in line. Here's hoping we can keep this going for a long time.

 

 

Since I went long, the 100-word limit is waived for this Comments section - as long as you stay on topic!

 

I need to take a personal day, maybe two, so I will miss the U.S.-Russia game on Friday morning. Unless there is any breaking Islanders news, I'll be off the laptop. I'm sure Greg and the Times blog, among other sites, will be on the Worlds.

 

Please feel free to submit any questions you may have related to this post and I will address as many as I can as soon as I return. Thanks...CB

Tags: News

Cal Clutterbuck (15) Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)
Cal Clutterbuck (15) Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)

Islanders D Cal Clutterbuck has a new nickname, but he isn't too fond of it.

"Shuttlebuck" came about from an interview with Flyers F Robert Hagg, who expressed his hatred for Clutterbuck during an interview after the Isles preseason opener at the Coliseum. 

"It doesn't matter if you play against Martin or Shuttlebuck, or whatever it is -- I hate that guy," Hagg told The Post's Brett Cygalis. "There's that kind of player on every team."

Tags: Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin
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Mar 11, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (27) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)
Mar 11, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (27) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)

The Islanders already missed out on their coveted free agent in C John Tavares this offseason. But that is now officially in the past, and focus turns toward another Isles key cog that will see his contract expire at the end of the year as well. 

Anders Lee is in the final year of his four-year, $15 million deal, after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. It is too early to tell if Lee will take Tavares' route and hear out potential suitors next offseason, but that isn't even on his mind. 

According to Newsday's Andrew Gross, Lee isn't worried about his contract situation, saying "our cases are different."

Tags: Anders Lee, John Tavares
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New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

Josh Ho-Sang's Islanders career hasn't exactly gone to plan.

The Islanders made Ho-Sang the No. 28 overall pick in the 2014 Draft and last season was supposed to be his breakout campaign but he couldn't break out of Bridgeport, spending most of his season in the AHL. He played just 22 games with the Islanders, scoring four goals and adding six assists.

Tags: Josh Ho-Sang
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Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)
Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)

Islanders' Mathew Barzal turned some heads last season and is being recognized as one of the best players in the league.

According to NHL Network, Barzal is the 49th best player in the NHL. The second-year man is expected to pick up much of the offensive burden left by departing John Tavares.

Last season, Barzal led the team with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists).

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders' return to the Coliseum while their new arena at Belmont Park is built continues to go smoothly thus far.

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks for the Isles' renovation plans at the Nassau Coliseum, according to Newsday's Victor Ocasio. The Islanders were looking to get a $400 million to $450 million tax break to purchase new equipment, furniture and fixtures for their renovation project.

The upgrades, which will be worth $9.95 million, would deem the arena worthy to play in for the three years needed before the Belmont Park arena is finished. A $6 million state grant will pay for most of the project, while the Islanders will pick up the rest of the tab at around $3.9 million.

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Nov 11, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) celebrates after scoring a goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (not pictured) during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports (Billy Hurst)
Nov 11, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) celebrates after scoring a goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (not pictured) during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports (Billy Hurst)

With Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello in charge of the Islanders, center Casey Cizikas told the Islanders website that he feels like a rookie and is coming in to training camp looking to prove himself "all over again."

Cizikas has played in 413 career games, all with the Islanders, and had 7 goals and 10 assists in 64 games last season.

He said that he is excited to play under Trotz and is looking forward to the opportunity for more minutes and responsibilities with John Tavares now in Toronto.

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Apr 7, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders center Jordan Eberle (7) gets defended by Detroit Red Wings left wing David Booth (17) during the third period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Apr 7, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders center Jordan Eberle (7) gets defended by Detroit Red Wings left wing David Booth (17) during the third period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

Jordan Eberle said on Tuesday that he and the Islanders have not yet discussed a contract extension.

Eberle, 28, is entering the final year of the six-year $36 million contract he originally signed as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

"To be honest I haven't had any conversations with anybody," Eberle said, per NHL.com. "Going into the summer I was trying to focus on me and being the best I can be, and come into the camp the best I can be. Once that happens you start trying to fill a role and try to make this team as good as it can be."

Tags: Jordan Eberle
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

It's time to test your Islanders' historical knowledge as preseason hockey inches closer.

How many of the 30 players who scored 100 career goals for the Islanders can you name? Try it below!

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Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates a goal against the Ottawa Senators by New York Islanders center Anders Lee (not pictured) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates a goal against the Ottawa Senators by New York Islanders center Anders Lee (not pictured) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

In the history of the franchise, there have been 76 instances of which that an Islanders' player has scored 30+ goals in a season. How many can you name? 

Test your knowledge by playing the quiz below...

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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Islanders may have lost C John Tavares, but new head coach Barry Trotz doesn't believe it will kill their offensive output. 

Yes, Tavares accounted for 82 points last season, but Trotz thinks he has the personnel to find offensive success this upcoming season. 

"This team can score, with John Tavares or without John Tavares," Trotz told The Athletic's Arthur Staple in a Q&A session. "The area it's failed in maybe the last year and a half is on the defensive end. Just looking at the trends over the last four years, it's clear that's an area we need to fix. ...With the John Tavares situation, we look forward, we can't look back. Guys are up to the challenge. John's a fantastic player, face of the franchise and it's a hole you can't fill with one guy. It's collectively with the group."

Tags: Anders Lee, John Tavares, Mathew Barzal
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 (Christopher Katsarov)
(Christopher Katsarov)

Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello has no concerns over the construction of the team's new Belmont Park arena.

The Islanders were dead last in attendence at Barclay's Center last season with 12,000, so the new arena can't come soon enough. Lamoriello is optimstic and thinks people will be pleasantly surprised.

"I think you'll know better in the first of the year of an exact date," Lamoriello said on Sirius XM NHL Network Radio. "But it's not as long as people might think. I think a lot will be surprised and I think that's just great news."

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Barry Trotz Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Barry Trotz Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

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. 

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

[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.

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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.

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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...

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New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

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
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Nick Leddy (L) Johnny Boychuk (55) Josh Bailey (12) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Nick Leddy (L) Johnny Boychuk (55) Josh Bailey (12) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

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. 

Tags: John Tavares, Johnny Boychuk, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Scott Thompson
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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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...

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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

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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.

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The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

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
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Ryan Pulock (6) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Ryan Pulock (6) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

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
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 (Christopher Katsarov)
(Christopher Katsarov)

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. 

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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
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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

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
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Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)

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...

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Feb 23, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar (43) goes for the puck against Olympic Athlete from Russia goaltender Vasili Koshechkin (83) in the men's ice hockey semifinals during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre. Mandatory Credit: David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports (David E. Klutho)
Feb 23, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; Czech Republic forward Jan Kovar (43) goes for the puck against Olympic Athlete from Russia goaltender Vasili Koshechkin (83) in the men's ice hockey semifinals during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre. Mandatory Credit: David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports (David E. Klutho)

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. 

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Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)
Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports (Sergei Belski)

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
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Jan 22, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello and New Yor Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watch the Toronto Raptors play against the Phoenix Suns at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)
Jan 22, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello and New Yor Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watch the Toronto Raptors play against the Phoenix Suns at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)

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
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May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

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...

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New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders left wing Brock Nelson (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)
Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)

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."

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Feb 28, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
		 (Jean-Yves Ahern)
Feb 28, 2018; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports (Jean-Yves Ahern)

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
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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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. 

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Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)
Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)

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.

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Mar 24, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) warms up after replacing starter Robin Lehner (40) during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports (Danny Wild)
Mar 24, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark (35) warms up after replacing starter Robin Lehner (40) during the second period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports (Danny Wild)

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.

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Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)

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...

The Price

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Chris Botta
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Matt Martin (15) Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)
Matt Martin (15) Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)

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
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Isles fans angry over Tavares 00:01:34
Islanders fans give their reactions to the news of John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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
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Anders Lee (27) Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Anders Lee (27) Mathew Barzal (13) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

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."

Tags: Anders Lee, John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Scott Thompson
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Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl handles the puck against New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl handles the puck against New Jersey Devils defenseman Will Butcher during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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
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Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson (33) warms up before a game against the Minnesota Wild at Barclays Center. Gibson was added to the roster this morning when goalie Thomas Greiss was placed on IR. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson (33) warms up before a game against the Minnesota Wild at Barclays Center. Gibson was added to the roster this morning when goalie Thomas Greiss was placed on IR. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

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
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Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

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
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Tavares not returning to Isles 00:02:46
Chris Botta breaks down what the future holds for the New York Islanders after John Tavares' decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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.

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Mar 27, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators left wing Tom Pyatt (10) defends against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 27, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators left wing Tom Pyatt (10) defends against New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) in the third period at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports (Marc DesRosiers)

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
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New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

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
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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

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
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Philadelphia Flyers center Valtteri Filppula (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Flyers center Valtteri Filppula (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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