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 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Islanders Captain John Tavares suggested on Tuesday that he wants to remain in New York for the long haul.

Early in the day, he made a guest appearance Tuesday at the Gatorade GCamp, taking part in a light skate with 14-to-19 year olds who represent the best the amateur game has to offer.

Afterwards, word got out on Twitter from Joe Buono, who runs IslesBlog, that the captain spoke to Sportsnet 590 - The Fan about his much discussed future, even though the captain is two years removed from unrestricted free agency.

Needless to say, as I waited for my day to end in the financial market, I didn't expect anything other than a lighthearted summer conversation about one of Tavares' passions, his hometown Toronto Blue Jays, who just recently acquired Melvin Upton, Jr. in a trade. I should have known better.

The Toronto media has not let Tavares' "definitive" and "certain" move to Toronto in two years die. They just kept banging on the drum in an effort to drum up listens, page views and controversy. Needless to say, the captain was not buying any of it.

The discussion started as expected with some Jays talk, when things got real...real quick. When asked 'what will be the best part about playing in Toronto in two years' Tavares countered quickly and with authority.

"I would not count on that. I think I've shown my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island," Tavares said. "I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think that you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire careers somewhere. I hope I'm in that same position."

"Being from Toronto, people are going to make those connections and it is what it is," Tavares continued. "That's nothing I can control. I just want to go out and be the best player and person I can be for the Islanders day in and day out and I'm just going to focus on tomorrow and the upcoming season."

One would figure that would have been enough for the host, Andrew Walker, to move on. Nope. The next question was a direct shot across the bow in regards to the latest news of the Islanders potentially moving to Willets Point or Belmont Park or Alaska for that matter. Walker phrased his question and awaited Tavares' response: "Now on the back of your hockey card, it could say Islanders from year one to year 20. But it could be Queens or Brooklyn or Nassau or... you're all over the place."

"Yeah, there's a lot of stuff floating out there," Tavares said. "But I've always told people, until you've played there or been there -- I've been around the team, been around the organization, our fanbase -- you really don't know what it's like.' 'There's a lot of opinions that are really... far off and don't really have a good pulse of what's going on or what the organization is all about. They drafted me there, gave me a great opportunity to play this game I love and fulfill my dream."

"They've put a lot of high expectations in me and I don't take that lightly. I've always liked being there from Day 1, so I'd love to see it through and lift the Stanley Cup there."

A captain saying captain things. And basically saying to the entire hoard of Toronto media -- "enough." As Tavares has proven in his tenure with the organization, he likes to focus on two things and two things only: Getting better as a player and pushing the team on the ice forward.

He does not like distractions, a prime example of his leadership in that department being last year when he campaigned for the move of gameday skates back to Long Island for the betterment and comfort of his teammates.

Even though his offensive output was down 16 points in the first season in Brooklyn, he had his finest season as a pro. He led the Islanders through the tumultuous waters of a move and secured their first playoff series win in a long, long time with a dramatic Game 6 "do-it-yourself" goal against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.

Tavares didn't give up any leverage in making these comments today. It should not be expected that he is just going to jump and sign the first piece of paper general manager Garth Snow puts in front of him next summer, when the two can open up extension talks.

But, at the end of the day, he will not be interested in how much upfront money he can make nor will he will be interested in a "different challenge." If the organization shows a continued ascension like they have over the course of the last four years and has a vision for the next eight, he will show his true colors at the negotiation table -- loyalty and commitment first.

There is no doubt whatsoever the feeling has always been, and will continue to always be mutual.

Tags: John Tavares , Andy Graziano

A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. (Aaron Doster)
A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. (Aaron Doster)

George McPhee is general manager of the NHL's new Las Vegas franchise, and Garth Snow is hoping his Islanders ties will make McPhee go easy on New York in the upcoming expansion draft.

ESPN's Tal Pinchevsky recently sat down with McPhee to discuss a variety of topics, and he asked what executives McPhee had spoken to since taking the job.

"I called [Islanders GM] Garth Snow to say, 'Thanks for everything, it was a great experience and you really helped me get the other GM job,'" McPhee told ESPN. "[Garth] said, 'Just remember that during the expansion draft.' Then he said, 'Now that you're back to being a manager, I can't wait to see you look old again.'"

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

That sounds like typical Garth.

I absolutely view the Islanders as one of the most vulnerable teams in the expansion draft next season, and it's directly because of McPhee's familiarity with the organization. The Islanders have so many players, particularly affordable defensemen, that they'll have to protect, meaning they're going to leave themselves vulnerable somewhere. McPhee is well positioned to anticipate where that will be, and he should be easily able to work around any curveballs Garth throws at him to keep him off toes.

Every team is going to lose someone next offseason, but I'd be willing to wager the Isles' loss will hurt. We'll have the better part of a year to debate who that will be. But rest assured the McPhee probably isn't all that willing to do the Isles too many favors in his quest to building a winning franchise in Vegas.


General view of opening tip off during the first period between the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)
General view of opening tip off during the first period between the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

There is a lot of legwork to be done before a new Islanders arena in Belmont Park or Willets Point becomes a reality. But I've been assured talks are serious and not just a leverage play to force Barclays Center into making improvements. Some burning questions still remain, though, that could offer plenty of stumbling blocks before this even gets out of the gate. Let's take a look:

How will it be financed?

Public financing for sports stadiums and arenas is a notoriously bad investment, and in an arena like Long Island where any increase in properties taxes is about as popular as Kate Murray is at an Islanders fan tailgate, is ownership capable of financing the arena privately? Considering that the August 1, 2011 referendum failed thanks in large part to that relatively-small tax hike that Nassau pays, one would assume they know any attempt of getting funds from taxpayers would create a huge hurdle that they probably wouldn't overcome.

Are five arenas in the area too much?

Yes, ownership wants its own home for its team, and both the players and their fans deserve to be treated as more than a bothersome guest. But the reality is that the building would have to book dates outside of the 41-nights-plus-playoffs that the team takes the ice, and that means competing with Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, the newly-renovated Nassau Coliseum, and the New Jersey-based Prudential Center for bookings.

MSG and Barclays both have astronomical venue fees (at last check, Barclays actually charges acts more than MSG), so I'd assume the building could coax some entertainers to the new venue simply by making them a sweeter deal. And they'd certainly have a huge advantage over the Coliseum, whose capacity would presumably be much smaller than a new Belmont or Queens arena. However, concern of oversaturation is a legitimate worry.

What's changed in the last seven years?

Once it was evident the Lighthouse project wasn't happening, Charles Wang went through the paces of finding the Isles a home outside of Uniondale. The Islanders talked with Mets ownership in 2009 about a Queens building, and obviously the difficulty presented by the Bernie Madoff saga contributed to putting that on ice. So has enough changed in that landscape to make the Mets viable partners? And just how large of a role does the ongoing litigation surrounding the Iron Triangle play in all this?

Does Scott Malkin offer an advantage?

Malkin, who has been the silent half of the ownership partnership thus far, knows the real estate game. He is said to have worked extensively with Sterling Equities (the Wilpon family-owned group) on deals in the past, and brings a ton of clout to these negotiations with the potential site officials. Simply, he just may be the trump card the Isles need to spearhead this project, something that Charles Wang never quite had in his hand. Malkin's presence could be enough to bring the Isles closer to home.


New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of game two of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of game two of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement)

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.

The Finish

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.

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

Additions

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.

Losses

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.

What's Needed

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.

Tags: Anders Lee , Brock Nelson , John Tavares , Josh Bailey , Mikhail Grabovski , Nick Leddy , Nikolay Kulemin , Ryan Strome , Travis Hamonic , Andy Graziano

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

The end of last week read like a what's what of Islanders fans' pipe dreams. Rumors began to run rampant about the team's new ownership finding a new site for an arena of their own, first in Queens, then back in Nassau at Belmont. But just how much should we get our hopes up?

I can't blame fans, myself included, for being skeptical. We've heard it all before. Both destinations were floated as possibilities to host the Isles after the Lighthouse project fell through. We even bit hard on Brett Ratner's promise of a six-game plan back at the renovated Coliseum, which is all but dead now.

This time, though, may be different. There's a lot of smoke, and with it, could come a raging fire, with the Isles returning close to home at the heart of the flame.

I spoke with one person on the condition of anonymity who had been briefed on the talks between the Islanders and officials both in Queens and at Belmont. To try to get a sense of how realistic any of this was, I asked how seriously fans should take the talk about a new arena. I was told simply: "very."

That on its own wouldn't be enough to sway me, but I started reading the tea leaves around the situation and began to wonder.

If I'm staying skeptical, of course the Isles have to show they have plenty of options within the next three years. That way, if they want Barclays Center to make any improvements -- from the ice to the obstructed view seating to incorporating more Islanders branding throughout the arena -- they'll have some leverage. But I think Jon Ledecky sees getting the team an arena of its own as part of a much bigger picture.

Let's face it: the Islanders home schedule for the two years at Barclays Center has been abysmal. While the arena in Brooklyn figures out what it wants to be - a sporting venue that also attracts big musical acts, or a music venue that also hosts two sports teams - the Isles certainly don't feel like a priority, even if Brett Yormark says otherwise.

Ledecky spoke so much about the fan experience two weeks ago to the media and fans, and how he feels it can be improved. You can't tell me that fan experience is the same at a 3:00 puck drop on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a full slate of NFL games than it is on Saturday night at 7:00. And those Saturday slots are basically forbidden at Barclays, between the Nets and saving the dates for concert bookings.

On top of that that, Ledecky probably wants control of his own team's business operations, which Barclays Center took over last season as part of the lease agreement, and most likely believes that the Isles - if they break through and become a top-five team in the league - can obliterate that $53 million per year guarantee from the arena in revenue.

Of course, there is always a possibility that the Barclays people want out, even if the Islanders don't. I don't think anyone with knowledge of the relationship would call the marriage between Barclays Center and the Islanders a match made in Heaven. Prior to the opt-out after year four, it might behoove the Isles to line up as many viable alternatives as possible.

Ultimately, I think the new ownership group believes a great deal in this team's future, and I think part of the lofty ambitions they have may very well be getting the team that sparkly new arena of its own that fans have been promised for almost as long as I've been alive. There's a lot of real estate (no pun intended) for these various negotiations to cover, but don't dismiss them out of hand. There's more to this story than rumor and speculation.

Tags: Brian Erni

Feb 15, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrate after the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Barclays Center. The Islanders defeated the Red Wings 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports  (Brad Penner)
Feb 15, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders celebrate after the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Barclays Center. The Islanders defeated the Red Wings 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The Islanders are looking at Belmont Park in Elmont as a possible location to build a new arena, sources told Newsday's Robert Brodsky and Jim Baumbach

A source told Newsday that the talks between the Islanders and the New York Racing Association, which runs Belmont Park, are in the early stages, but another source said the two sides have met a few times to discuss possibly bringing a hockey arena to the park.

According to the report, the Islanders are interested in a 28-acre portion of the park's south parking lot, which has been up for bid since 2012. Previous bidders include the New York Cosmos, which planned to build a 25,000-seat stadium. 

In a report released by Bloomberg on Thursday, sources said the Islanders have considered a move to Queens near Citi Field

In 2015-16, the Islanders played in Barclays Center for the first time, averaging 13,626 fans per game, which was an 11 percent decrease in attendance from the last season at Nassau Coliseum. 


Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

The big drawback of the Belmont site is the ambiguity that surrounds it. The site has been up for bid since 2012, but it still hasn't been awarded. Belmont officials are not giving any indication if a decision is imminent either.

That said, the fact that Belmont seems to be actively courting the Isles is very intriguing, and it would certainly be a better option than even Queens. A return to Nassau? The fan base would be delirious.
I have to say, as I read the tea leaves, I'm starting to get the sense that a move to either Queens or Belmont is more than just a bargaining position for the Isles. There's a lot more viability to this than initially met the eye.
I'm very intrigued to see where this heads, and with only three years left before the opt out rolls around, I have a feeling we'll get answers sooner than later.

The Islanders have signed RW Eric Boulton to a one-year, two-way deal, his agent announced.

The deal has a guarantee of $200,000 and will pay Boulton $575,000 if he's with the big club, Arthur Staple of Newsday reported.

Boulton, 39, failed to notch a goal or assist in six games with the Islanders last season. 


Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

To a man, the Isles tout Boulton as one of their most important voices in the locker room, his lack of contribution on the ice notwithstanding.
He has a great sense of humor, and keeps the room loose, but focused. That counts for quite a lot, especially when you consider that the Isles' roster is still relatively young.
I'd assume Boulton will spend the bulk of his season at Bridgeport acting as a mentor for the young players moving through the system. And, just like Matt Carkner, who just transitioned into coaching after his retirement, I wouldn't be surprised to see Boulton find his way onto the Sound Tigers staff at some point in the near future.

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

It's only been a few years since they entered a new marriage in Brooklyn, but the Islanders are finally going to flirt with the one that got away.

Thursday's bombshell report that the Isles have been in talks with the owners of the New York Mets (disclosure: the Wilpon family-owned Sterling Equities owns a controlling stake of SNY) sent #IslesTwitter into another tizzy, and this time, it was with gleaming optimism.

Whenever Long Islanders sit over a Barn Rocker or two and lament the loss of the Islanders to Brooklyn, Queens is always brought up as a missed opportunity. It's in the city and carries the big-time cache, is but still easily accessible without having to rely on mass transit.

Plus, it's fairly common for the Mets and Isles fan bases to have overlap, and forming a type of sports complex in Flushing -- like for example the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers have in Philadelphia -- seemed like a no-brainer. For whatever reason, nothing materialized. Until now.

And if Jon Ledecky could somehow pull it off, I think it would really be the perfect solution for Long Islanders. Without trying to speak for everyone, I feel it's fair to say that since the move to Brooklyn became a reality, the fan base has wanted two things above all others: to somehow get the team out of Brooklyn and closer to their Nassau County roots, or worst case, find a way to make Barclays Center a suitable arena for hockey. It certainly appears that one of these is the ultimate mission of these leaked talks. It's just a matter of which.

Let's face it, the large majority of the fan base is based on Long Island (myself included). We like to drive. We like to tailgate. And if we're coming from Suffolk County, we like to leave work at an acceptable hour (read: not 4:00) to get to a game, and make it home before midnight on a work night.

Personally, I didn't make it to Brooklyn nearly as much as I wanted to last year. If the Isles inked a deal to go to Queens, I'd be calling inquiring about season tickets again. That's just how much easier it is for a Suffolk resident to get to a potential Citi Field arena than Brooklyn.

And even if this is just posturing on Ledecky's part, it's a wise one. With that opt-out clause looming down the line, the Islanders have a finite window of leverage to try to get some costly improvements incorporated into their current home. Maybe if Barclays Center, which has a rebuilding basketball team that isn't going to be good for a while, is faced with the prospect of 41 less dates, they'll be more inspired to fix some of the obstructed view problems.

It goes without saying that this is probably a long shot. Redeveloping the Willets Point "Iron Triangle" has always had its pitfalls, which is why after decades of planning, the area is still largely in disrepair. Who knows what kind of approval they'd have to get from the league, the owners, and the city. What will the financing for a new arena be like? But if they can clear all those hurdles, it would essentially solve every single one of the Islanders' problems with their current home.

And so we wait again. This time, with hope. Hope that, one day soon, we'll be honking our horns to the tune of "Let's go Islanders!" on the way out of the parking lot after a gigantic playoff win, or dare we do too much dreaming, a Stanley Cup championship.

Time will tell if this is just another humorous chapter in the Islanders' never-ending arena drama. But at least this time, both potential outcomes look fairly promising.

Tags: Brian Erni

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

The Islanders are in talks with Mets ownership about a potential move to Queens, reports Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.

According to Soshnick, a move to Queens for the Islanders would include a new arena built next to Citi Field.

The potential move has been under discusion for months, Soshnick added.

After moving from Long Island, the Islanders played their first season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last season, averaging 13,626 fans per game.

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter

Well, that certainly came out of left field, didn't it? Am I surprised? No. But I also wouldn't read too much into the story at such an early stage.

It's very interesting that, when news concerning the roster and players who will suit up for the 2016-17 season dies down, we get two interesting pieces of media. First, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Twitter account showing pictures of the construction, as well as a look into what one of the luxury boxes will look like. Now this.

I guess what this story does is finally quiet, once and for all, the talk of the Islanders ever returning to the refurbished Coliseum. But there are zero media members who saw a potential partnership with the Mets and Willets Point ever being on new owner Jon Ledecky's agenda.

There were whispers last season that he was unhappy with the current Barclays Center setup, but with game operations much improved over the course of the season and the building rocking in the playoffs, some of those complaints were dealt with and resolved quickly.

A couple of things to note: The sources here are 'people'. We don't know how reliable these 'people' are or who these 'people' even are personally. But for Bloomberg -- a very reputable outlet -- to put something like this out to the mainstream, there has to be a certain amount of credibility to it.

Ledecky seems to be putting more public relations work into the hands of guru Kimber Auerbach, much more so than Charles Wang did. And Auerbach's 'no-comment on speculation' remark is consistent with how he has operated the department since being promoted. It's a safe, effective answer.

Lastly, this marriage can still work. Ledecky told media members, including IPB, at lunch last Wednesday that he speaks to Barclays every single day. He obviously has some issues relating to his new business venture. If those get worked out to his liking, don't be surprised if this becomes a non-issue very quickly.

The kicker is, no matter what is speculated, the Islanders would be foolish to walk away from $53 million in guaranteed funds per season, unless it's really worth it.


New York Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski (84) skates on the ice before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)
New York Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski (84) skates on the ice before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)

Mikhail Grabovski's time as an Islander has seen the talented, but maligned forward riddled with injuries. And he may not be past his latest yet.

Grabovski, who had his last two seasons derailed by concussions and played in just one game after February 19 last year, could miss the start of the regular season.

In a Twitter Q&A on Wednesday, Newsday's Art Staple said that he has heard conflicting reports on Grabovski's availability for the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign.

Earlier this week, our Andy Graziano reported, citing a league source, that the Isles are trying to trade Grabovski to get out from under his $5 million cap hit for next season.

In 109 games over two seasons for the Islanders, Grabovski has scored 18 goals, tallied 26 assists, and posted a 52.3 Corsi For Percentage.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

It's a shame, because Grabovski is talented and does a lot of good for this team when he's in the lineup. I'm still convinced that the funk the Isles hit at the latter half of 2014-15 was directly attributable to losing Grabovski to injury. But that's always been the problem for the 32 year old. Over the course of eight full NHL seasons, he has played in 59 games or fewer in half of them (not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season).

We all know that the Isles overpaid to bring Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin in the summer of 2014 to offset their lack of depth up front at the time. And now that some younger players are taking, those big cap numbers loom larger and larger with each passing day, particularly when there's so much ambiguity surrounding Grabo's health. Hopefully, he can heal and be ready to contribute next season. But the way it's gone in New York so far for Grabovski, I wouldn't be surprised if he's just not ready to go when it's time to go to camp.

Tags: Mikhail Grabovski

 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Sunday afternoon, an unconfirmed rumor made the rounds across Twitter, saying the New York Islanders were close to a deal involving Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, mentioning Ryan Strome as part of the package heading to South Florida.

A league source told IPB that this is not the case at the present time. While it's true that GM Garth Snow has 30 lines in the water still hoping to hook a trophy catch before the puck drops on the 2016-17 season, including one in Tampa, there are a number of reasons why this (and perhaps Tampa in general) isn't a match...

1.) Salary Cap Issues: These are not your Islanders from five years ago, with a roster made up of a star in the making, a couple of low-priced entry-level deals and veterans on show-me contracts. They don't have the cap space to play with like they did back in the grim days.

Currently, generalfanager.com is showing New York $3.658 million under the ceiling, with the aforementioned Strome still needing a contract as a restricted free agent. Christopher Gibson needs one also, but he will not be on the NHL roster, and therefore, won't count against the cap.

Tampa has $8.529 million in available cap space with Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov to sign. The thinking is that Kucherov can approach six million on a long-term deal, leaving GM Steve Yzerman not much room to work with.

2.) Of the three players Yzerman has issues with, why would they move the most talented one? Remember when the thinking was that captain Steven Stamkos was a goner? That there was no way Yzerman could work out an amicable deal? Yzerman has pushed all the right buttons as an executive as he did as a player.

Kucherov is a 23-year-old Russian dynamo who already has back-to-back seasons of 65 and 66 points, with 29 and 30 goals, respectively. He has terrific possession stats and, for such a young player, is playoff tested, with 22 goals in 45 games. This is not the kind of player Yzerman is looking to trade just because it's mid-July and there is no contract yet.

3.) Ryan Strome is still packed with tremendous talent: It's there and has been since he was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 entry draft. You don't have a 50-point season as an NHL sophomore by accident. Sure, there were some issues last year relating to attitude, but are you really using that to claim three strikes against the 23-year-old?

As noted, the Islanders are closer to the ceiling at present than Tampa, and Strome is not going to command the contract Kucherov will. He'll probably get more like a fifth of it.

Make no mistake, last year was a horrid one for Strome. You know it, Snow and head coach Jack Capuano know it, and Strome knows it. The feeling is that he deserves the benefit of the doubt and the 2016-17 season to prove --perhaps at his natural position -- that it was part of the maturation process.

4.) There seems to be no current indication that Snow is willing to gamble on Ben Bishop's salary demands as an unrestricted free agent next year: Right now, Bishop carries a cap hit of $5.950 million and there are rumblings from his agent that he is looking to $7 million on his next contract.

Bishop is one of the best goaltenders in the league, but does have some durability concerns. He's had a couple of playoff injuries the last two seasons and is coming off 60+ game regular season workloads. The feeling around the league is he is not worth the salary he is commanding.

5.) This isn't XBOX one or PS4: You can't just hit the 'X' button and give away your bad, underperforming contracts that easily. The league source told IPB that Snow has been trying to get out from under Mikhail Grabovski's $5 million cap hit, but obviously, teams are reluctant due to recent medical concerns and the fact there is no telling he can make it through training camp.

There is the assumption that the Islanders still view Nikolay Kulemin's overall game as something they would like to hold onto, especially the defensive aspect he brings, to help offset the departure of Frans Nielsen.

The goaltender glut will also likely not be resolved anytime soon, as Jaroslav Halak ($4.500 million cap hit) is in a similar situation to Grabovski, coming off a major injury which lowered his trade value. Both Halak and Thomas Greiss are headed to the World Cup of Hockey instead of training camp in September, but there are no guarantees there either, with Frederik Andersen in the mix to start for Team Europe.

Snow seems to be leaving no stone unturned in the trade market with a lot of different conversations taking place. With the marketplace changing daily, things tend to happen quickly, without warning or any kind of heads up. Boychuk/Leddy, anyone? We could be looking at a repeat this fall.

Tags: Mikhail Grabovski , Nikolay Kulemin , Ryan Strome , Andy Graziano

 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Jamie Benn signed an eight-year contract extension worth $76 million with the Dallas Stars last Friday. Why does it matter to Islanders fans? Because it could be a template for John Tavares' next contract.

Benn is the perfect comp for Tavares. He is 27, Tavares is 26. Benn has played in just two less NHL games (508) than Tavares (510), and the numbers are strikingly similar.

The Stars winger has 192 goals, 256 assists, 448 points, and a career 52 Corsi For Percentage. Tavares has 207 goals, 264 assists, 471 points, and a career 51.1 Corsi For Percentage. So is this the kind of deal the Isles can sign their captain to when they're eligible to next summer, one year before he'd be due to hit his UFA year? Probably.

The deal comes with a $9.5 million AAV, and like the deals signed this year by Andrew Ladd, Kyle Okposo, and others, a large chunk of the money is to be paid in signing bonuses (in Benn's case, $56 of the $76 million). That will help safeguard Benn against losing any money due to a work stoppage and/or a buyout.

Benn's deal is player-friendly, and even though the the salary is front-loaded ($13 million in the first three years, down to $6.5 the final three), the cap hit isn't affected (thanks to Eric Hornick for the head's up!) It also includes a full non-move clause.

Without any insight into Tavares' thinking, I would assume that kind of deal would be very attractive to him. He'd get a commitment into his age-35 season and get paid like the superstar he is, all while getting protected against a potential lockout.

With lots of salary due to expire after the 2018-19 season (Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Jaroslav Halak, Josh Bailey), the Isles should be able to easily absorb paying Tavares $9-10 million annually and still maintain enough flexibility to add the talent they need to be competitive.

All the while, the Isles would earn all that good will from making sure one of the best talents to ever wear their sweater (and that's saying something) will never play for another franchise. That's what Jon Ledecky has promised, that's what Islanders fans want, and that's what New York can deliver if they're willing to pony up for a Benn-like deal.

To me, it's a no-brainer. Once next season ends, this is the deal I'd offer. Yes, it's pricey, but Tavares is well worth the investment.

Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni

Brian Compton and Mike Carver discuss Kyle Okposo's written goodbye to the fans and Garth Snow's interview on SiriusXM Radio.

Later, the guys chat with Arthur Staple of Newsday about the team's moves this offseason and the job security of Snow and Jack Capuano as Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin take over as owners of the franchise.

Tags: Kyle Okposo

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

A new era of Islanders ownership was ushered in on July 1, when Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky assumed 85 percent control over the business operations of the hockey club.

On Wednesday afternoon, Ledecky hosted a four-table open conversation session with members of the media at Manhattan's exclusive 21 Club to discuss his platform for turning New York into a 'world class organization that players want to come to and don't want to leave.'

He followed that on Thursday by meeting with fans at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, an event hosted by MSG's Shannon Hogan, which also featured appearances and comments by Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas and Bob Nystrom.

Appearing equally comfortable in both settings, Ledecky offered up some interesting comments on the future of how the team will be run while also taking some shots across the bow of the Islanders cross-town rivals, the New York Rangers.

The audience of each event came away impressed with all the learning Ledecky was able to do in the background over the course of the last two years. Since the deal was announced, he has possessed the vision and drive to return the Islanders to relevance while infusing a celebration of old and new traditions.

After speaking about how he and Malkin first met, in which Ledecky was a sports journalist covering his high school hockey team, of which Malkin was a player, he described the bond they formed that still lasts to this day.

Malkin seems to be more of the 'silent partner' type, as his global travel schedule as founder of Value Retail PLC keeps him on the road more often than not. Ledecky said the two speak every day and this would be his full-time job, from the time he awakens at 8 a.m. until settling in for the night around midnight.

His focus will be on the business operations side exclusively, as his comments made it pretty clear he will not be a meddling' owner. '

"The worst kind of owner is one who meddles in hockey operations. I will not tell (GM) Garth (Snow) how to do his job. That is how disaster starts," Ledecky added before finally putting an end to what kind of financial team the Islanders will be, stating "we will spend to the cap to win the Stanley Cup." Words to a long-time or decade-long Islanders fans' ears, after being beaten down by ownership follies that Saturday Night Live skits are made of and financial constraints put on a GM trying desperately to rebuild and field a competitive roster.

Ledecky would walk the concourse of Barclays Center, sometimes being mistaken for an usher, adding color to his philosophy of rebuilding the Islanders image. "The great thing about being invisible for two years, because your picture is not online or in the newspaper, is I talked to hundreds of fans anonymously, and not posing as the owner, just posing as a fan, sometimes wearing a coat and tie," Ledecky said.

"The most important thing was to take that feedback, because you're competing against this wonderful ghost in the Coliseum," he continued. "The Coliseum had a whole bunch of issues, but nostalgia overwhelms our fans, as it overwhelms all of us as we get older. We have to make Barclays Center feel more like the Islanders' home. It's a wonderful facility, but it is generic. So we're working with Barclays. In the middle of last season, we weren't happy with the scoreboard presentation, so we sat down with them, and they're great partners, and they got a production company to start increasing the professionalism and expand the number of the videos to engage the fans."

The fans seem to be the focus of Ledecky's initial agenda, but that strategy has implications that go well beyond and extend to the bottom line of wins and losses on the ice. That is, making this an organization and destination that keeps players here and lures the best talent from around the league.

"We should be the world-class destination for free agents," Ledecky said. "If you think about a cap world, everybody can spend to the cap and we certainly have no constraints on our GM and our staff to spend. We want to create and continue to progress towards John Tavares lifting that Stanley Cup, so we should be world class in everything we do."

"If I see a tweet from a player's wife complaining about the Barclays Center experience, it makes me cringe," Ledecky continued. "What's wrong with the family experience at Barlcays? Let's fix it. Let's get the buzz that you want to be playing for the New York Islanders, because they are a world-class group, world class in the way they travel, where they stay, how they treat the players."

You get the feeling that Ledecky will spare no expense to make the fans comfortable and wanting to come back to Barclays Center again and again. He spoke of one incident where a fan complained after an Islanders loss about the food. He then went around to almost every vendor in the facility to find out what happened and how they can rectify the situation.

The next game, an Islanders win, he saw the same fan and Ledecky asked him about his culinary experience this time. 'Fantastic. Everything was great!, he was told. 'Winning really does make food taste better,' Ledecky quipped with a boyish grin.

Take what Ledecky said about Montreal at face value to fully understand how serious he is about the fan experience in Brooklyn. "In Montreal they're there, and if there's one imperfection on that glass, they're replacing it for their fans. That's meticulousness. If you start with that it permeates through the whole organization. It's like when the squeegee men were in New York City. Get rid of the squeegee men and all of a sudden the feeling about New York went up. It's the same thing. When you start from the most basic thing and work your way up from there you become successful."

When a premium ticket holder complained to Ledecky last season, he went right to the source. "They said, 'Jon, I can't see through the glass.' I finally went to Brett and said, 'I'm sorry, each pane of glass is $750. You need to buy new panes of glass and when I get that complaint you have to fix that. That's our stockholder.'"

On the topic of Barclays Center itself, the time has come to move on from the fans fantasy of seeing this team move back to a refurbished Nassau Coliseum.

Ledecky would not comment much on any particulars relating to a still largely uncorroborated report of a five-year out clause, saying, "We didn't make that deal. I wasn't there when that deal was cooked up. And Bruce Ratner is no longer there. I think the Barclays folks feel like we feel, which is: Hey, fresh start, blank piece of paper."We have the guidelines of this relationship. But I have to give them credit: When we were very unhappy with the video presentation, they did something about it. When we were unhappy about the ice, they brought in the chillers. When we still were unhappy with the ice, we went to the NHL and they brought in [ice expert] Dan Craig."

He finished off his thought by answering the question of if he sees the Islanders at Barclays Center for a long time by saying "Yes. Yes, I do. Barclays Center is our home."

For the record, the NHL has so far been reluctant to even discuss the proposed 'six-game' plan for the new Coliseum and with work looking far from being completed, there won't be any more discussions at least until the building is completely finished and open for business.

For an afternoon and subsequent evening, Ledecky mastered the art of public relations. He said everything he needed to, with enthusiasm and confidence. You get the feeling that he is truly legitimate, sincere and excited to finally be working full-time on everything Islanders.

As we stood just inside the entrance to the Gallery Room of the 21 Club, talking before the media session got underway, Ledecky told me how excited he was to be reading my work, congratulated me on my new position at SNY, and went on to speak of his dislike of the shots required to head off to Rio and watch his niece, swimmer Katie Ledecky, participate in the summer Olympics. For a second, I felt like I was talking to someone I went to high school with. It's that kind of personality that endears Ledecky to many that he comes across.

But, as we've said before in this space, it's a results-based business. And the results are all that are going to define where Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin end up in the storied history of the New York Islanders. We finished our personal conversation with Ledecky saying, 'If we're doing well, you'll write about it. If we're not doing well, make sure you write about that too."

Tags: Andy Graziano

A general view of a jersey for Metropolitan Division forward John Tavares (91) of the New York Islanders being made during the Fan Fair for the 2016 NHL All Star Game at Bridgestone Arena. (Aaron Doster)
A general view of a jersey for Metropolitan Division forward John Tavares (91) of the New York Islanders being made during the Fan Fair for the 2016 NHL All Star Game at Bridgestone Arena. (Aaron Doster)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Jon Ledecky is busy making friends everywhere he goes. On Thursday night, Islanders season ticket holders were next on his to-woo list, and he hit all the right notes.

Appearing alongside Bob Nystrom, Casey Cizikas, and Brock Nelson, Ledecky fielded questions from season subscribers, and he knocked the ball out of the park. Just like his sit down with various members of the New York hockey media, Ledecky came off passionate, honest, and most of all, devoted to making this organization the absolutely best it can be.

"What we are going to do is open the checkbook. You're going to have a team that, if it needs to be a cap max team to compete for the Cup, it will be a cap max team," he said, reiterating the point he made to the media on Tuesday. "You guys have been through thick and thin, and thick is really good, and it's going to get thicker. Our goal next year is to keep advancing in the playoffs."

That had to be music to Isles fans' ears, especially these season ticket holders who are maybe the heartiest bunch of fans in the entire sports world. They've had their patience tested, but many have kept their plan through the Gang of Four, John Spano, Milstein and Gluckstern, Mike Milbury's devolution into "Mad Mike," the Lighthouse Project, and the most recent rebuild. They've heard a lot of promises, and seen the vast majority of them broken. Like a lover who has been jilted a dozen too many times, Isles fans are desperate to eat up these new pretty words. This time, they very well may be worth believing.

It's a strange dynamic to be an Islanders fan born after the dynasty, that much I can attest to. We're just not used to getting nice things and seeing them last. We've seen our own draft picks, like Roberto Luongo and Zdeno Chara, get hastily dealt away and find superstardom elsewhere. We've seen bursts of contention, followed by years of continued downturn. Right now feels different, because it looks like a team on the precipice of something great. But there's always that inner id setting our default to gloom and doom. That's why some just flat out lost it when three homegrown talents found somewhere else to play this summer, and why some remain so convinced John Tavares' days in Brooklyn are numbered.

Which is why the pop of the night probably came when Shannon Hogan specifically asked the possibility of John Tavares becoming an unrestricted free agent two summers from now.

"What," Ledecky asked defiantly. "He's not going to be a free agent."

This man may just be the fastest person to get this popular on Long Island since Billy Joel.

Thus far, every word from Ledecky has sounded sweet, and it's hard not to notice just how earnest he seems delivering them. From the roster to the fan experience, it seems he wants to finally be the one to fill Isles fans' hearts with joy. If and when a fifth Cup comes to Brooklyn, he even pledged to get every season ticket holder a ring. That's enough to send some to the box office this morning.

Of course, history will tell us if Ledecky can deliver on his lofty promises. A decade from now, we may smile at these last few days as the moment this organization broke through the glass ceiling it seemed to have been living under for 30 years. Or, we may simply shake our heads at the next in a line of people who got our hopes up. But Ledecky is making believers out of everyone he talks to, and even if you're actively trying to stay skeptical, it's hard not to buy in. Let's see if he can deliver.

My thanks to IslesBlog (who Periscoped the event) and Lighthouse Hockey (for a few transcriptions). 

Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni

Michael Dal Colle after being selected as the number five overall pick to the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. (Bill Streicher)
Michael Dal Colle after being selected as the number five overall pick to the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. (Bill Streicher)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Slowly but surely, the Isles' forward prospects' time is arriving. So who has the inside track on cracking the NHL roster?

It's tough to say. After years of spending their picks primarily on defensemen (in the 2012 draft, they used all seven picks on d-men, headlined by Griffin Reinhart), many of the Isles' future hopes now ride on the development of these four forward picks. Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, and Anthony Beauvillier are all first rounders, three of which were taken with picks that the Isles weren't even supposed to own on the night they were drafted. And they're all hungry to make the squad and make an impact in Brooklyn.

Of course, each comes with their own interesting tale. For Dal Colle, it's in his role in the much-maligned Thomas Vanek trade. Garth Snow protected his first round rights in 2014 when he made the Vanek swap with the Sabres, and he opted to keep it for his own use that summer. Dal Colle was taken fifth overall, and responded with a 42 goal season in Oshawa en route to a Memorial Cup and some serious summer chatter about him making the roster out of last camp.

Ho-Sang's story needs no re-telling. Brian Compton put together a great profile on the talented, but controversial winger who overslept last prospect mini-camp and was sent home before he even got a chance to hit the ice. Ho-Sang's talents are irrefutable, but he's had to face adversity along the way, some self-inflicted and some not. His personality seemed to rub the notoriously-crotchety Canadian hockey people the wrong way, and that's no fault of his own. But stuff like the oversleeping incident is a hurdle he made for himself. Thankfully, Ho-Sang is eager to show how much he's matured.

"He's focused in," Islanders director of player development Eric Cairns told Compton. "He took some steps this year towards being a more reliable guy off the ice, as well as on the ice. He's a mature guy, but he also needs to keep on learning the steps to do the right things at all time, which is normal for a lot of different young men."

The cases of Barzal and Beauvillier are related, but different. Both were drafted thanks to Snow's wheeling and dealing for picks on draft night 2015, and they both impressed people around the in the 15-16 season. Barzal is said to have the highest ceiling of all Islanders prospects, but I think that may work against him getting a shot at the roster first. The Isles have been very cautious before throwing their big prospects into the fire. If they really believe Barzal is the best of the bunch, there may be a reason to give him room to get a bit more seasoned.

Because of his size, Beauvillier is a prospect that most didn't expect to move as quickly as Barzal, but back-to-back 40 goal seasons at Juniors have certainly raised expectations. His skating ability makes one wonder if he has the potential to be a special teams player, but before he gets the call, I think the Isles will want to give him plenty of time in the AHL to see how his game rounds into form, something both he and Barzal can't do for another year until they turn 20.

Of all of them, Barzal seems to be the consensus to being the closest, and Garth left room for the possibility that may be the case in a recent interview. But he also never singled Barzal out by name, as he wisely is tempering expectations across the board. Getting a read on Garth's front office is never easy to do, so it's hard to be sure of anything.

If I had to put money on it, though, I'll go out on a limb and say MDC gets the call first. Barzal might be going off at even money, but I love Dal Colle's mental make up, and I think it puts him closer to the NHL than most people realize. I'll play the predictions game and say Dal Colle turns a lot of heads in training camp, then get the nod after lighting up Bridgeport sometime late in the fall.

But no matter if it's Dal Colle, Barzal, or someone else, the Isles have a bit of luxury brewing at forward down on the farm. If all four develop into anywhere from serviceable-to-good NHL players, there will be some very bright days in store for us all at Atlantic and Flatbush. 


The Barclays Center hosts Game 3 of the Islanders-Panthers playoff series Sunday. (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY )
The Barclays Center hosts Game 3 of the Islanders-Panthers playoff series Sunday. (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY )

Newly-minted Islanders co-owner Jonathan Ledecky addressed the media at length for the first time in his tenure on Wednesday, and he certainly made an impression right out of the gate.

After decades of ownership seemingly being a hurdle in the hockey operations process, Ledecky was quick to dispel the notion he'd be a stumbling block for Garth Snow. He said that the worst kind of owners are those who interfere in hockey ops, and a result, he will let Garth focus on the on-ice product, while he will concentrate on maximizing the fan experience at the arena, and making an impact on the community.

Wait, this is an Islanders owner?

Hold on to your hats, because there's more! Ledecky also added that money is not an issue, and Garth Snow has "no financial constraints" to build the club into a winner.

"If we need to be a cap-max team to compete for the Stanley Cup, we will be," Ledecky told reporters in attendance, including our own Andy Graziano.

Ledecky also said that he envisions the Islanders remaining in Brooklyn long-term, but he would not commit to a six-game plan to play at the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum. He also tempered expectations that the Isles' AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, would move into the new Coliseum, something that had been widely speculated since Forest City Ratner won the redevelopment bid for the Coliseum.

I'll give this to Ledecky: He certainly has mastered the art of wooing the media. If you check in on Twitter, all the reports from this event were glowing. I wasn't in attendance, so I'm not quite as ensconced in the afterglow of his charisma. That's not to say I doubt him. I love that he seems to be a great guy, and cares so much about the organization. That can only mean good things for the fans, of which I am one. And I also find this people skills encouraging from a hockey perspective, because a lot of times, it's ownership that can come in later in a contract negotiation and lock up the deal.

In that vein, I'm sure this is everything that Isles fans were hoping to hear coming out of the Charles Wang era. Wang did all he could, but he was obviously financially strapped for most of his tenure. It seems that won't be a problem for Ledecky and Malkin group, and that's music to my ears. This is a New York team with an incredible history, slowly re-gaining their footing in a market with tons of money to go around. Why not throw every resource possible at producing a winner, provided it's done wisely?

I think most fans will be upset to hear about the Coliseum news, but truthfully, it's time to leave that in the past. Brooklyn is the place for this team now, and with that rumored opt-out clause looming, what I wanted to hear Ledecky is that he's committed to making Barclays Center the best venue it can be. That was all he seemed to talk about, so that's the biggest takeaway out of this from me.

Ledecky made a lot of friends in his first showing. Let's hope he only continues to make more as the years go on. 

Stay tuned for more from Andy, including his first-hand accounts and impression of Ledecky.

Tags: Brian Erni

Referee Bill McCreary (7) stands with his wife Mary Ann (L) and daughter Melissa (LC) as Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee (R) presents McCreary with a silver puck prior to his final regular season game as an NHL referee. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)
Referee Bill McCreary (7) stands with his wife Mary Ann (L) and daughter Melissa (LC) as Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee (R) presents McCreary with a silver puck prior to his final regular season game as an NHL referee. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

New York Islanders special advisor George McPhee will be named the general manager of the NHL's expansion franchise in Las Vegas, as confirmed by Scott Burnside of ESPN.

McPhee served as GM of the Washington Capitals from 1997-2014, helping the team reach it's first and only Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Under McPhee, the Capitals won seven Southeast Division championships and a Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular season team in 2009-2010. 

McPhee's most recent position in the NHL was a special advisor role to Islanders GM Garth Snow.

The Las Vegas franchise will begin play in 2017-2018. Before its first season, the team will draft players from each of the 30 current NHL teams in an expansion draft that will be held next June.

 


New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (42) celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins with defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) during the third period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson)
New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (42) celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins with defenseman Thomas Hickey (14) during the third period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson)

The New York Islanders have signed D Scott Mayfield to a two-year, one-way contract, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday. Mayfield's deal is for $625,000 AAV.

Mayfield appeared in six games for the Islanders last season, and scored his first career goal on April 9 against Buffalo.

In 54 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this past season, Mayfield had 5 goals and 7 assists.

The 23-year old defenseman will make $575,000 in the first year of his deal and $675,000 in the second year.

The Islanders selected Mayfield with the 34th overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.


Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Joshua Ho-Sang after being selected as the number twenty-eight overall pick to the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports (Bill Streicher)
Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Joshua Ho-Sang after being selected as the number twenty-eight overall pick to the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports (Bill Streicher)

Joshua Ho-Sang constantly thinks about what went wrong for him last fall, according to a story on by Islanders Point Blank podcast co-host, NHL.com's Brian Compton.

"It's tough. I think about it every day," Ho-Sang said. "In a lot of ways, it helped me, and in a lot ways, it was hard. It's part of the reason why I grew up a little more and have come a long way from my mistakes."

Last fall, Ho-Sang, the Islanders' 2014 first-round selection, was invited to the team preseason camp to earn a starting spot on the NHL roster.

The first day of camp, Ho-Sang overslept and was immeadiately sent back to the Islanders OHL affiliate where he had tallied 62 points in 49 games the year before.

Ho-Sang would go on to put up 82 points in 66 games for the 2015-2016 season.

The Islanders organization says they still believe in Ho-Sang and will not give up on him. Ho-Sang says he reflects on what happened as a learning experience.

"For me, it's just about moving forward," Ho-Sang said. "I'm really excited to start the next chapter of my hockey career.

"If you're not growing, you're not living."

 

Tags: Joshua Ho-Sang

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

After a flurry of activity the week prior to the opening of free agency and on July 1 itself, the market has gone quiet the last couple of days.

All the major names are off the board and teams are now looking to manage their internal and external salary caps and turn their attention to restricted free agents that need contracts.

A source indicated to IPB that Islanders GM Garth Snow, after having serious interest in Loui Eriksson, who signed in Vancouver, is keeping tabs on Shane Doan, an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Coyotes.

The trade market, changing on a daily basis as to who is really available and who isn't, seems to be very lively, as some teams look to position themselves before the start of training camp in mid-September while others wait in the weeds for the perfect time to strike.

As you remember from two seasons ago when the Islanders struck gold with Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy a week before the start of the regular season, this could be a painstaking process for fans who are eager to see their team strike a deal, and the Islanders are no exception.

Even though the consensus opinion is that Snow did well to replace his losses, the need is still there for an impact winger and the three-headed goaltender monster needs to be addressed.

The same source told IPB that Snow has been involved in conversations throughout the league, looking to trade. There was no indication on specific names the Islanders GM is offering up, but Evander Kane was mentioned on the other side, with Snow being reluctant to give up 'significant' assets for the much-maligned Sabres winger. The 24-year-old Kane is under contract for the next two seasons at an annual cap hit of $5.250 million.

If it was up to me, I would be calling the Toronto Maple Leafs (and who knows, maybe Snow did) and finding out if Middletown, New Jersey native James Van Reimsdyk would be willing to come home and what the cost would be.

The 27-year-old is signed for the next two seasons at a cap hit of $4.250 million and would be an absolute bargain playing next to John Tavares. Toronto, in the middle of a rebuild, is obviously looking to stay young and talented, something the Islanders happen to be long of, especially at forward.

Tags: Andy Graziano

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

July 1 was not only the opening of the annual free agency period in the NHL, it was also a monumental day in the future of the New York Islanders franchise. After a 15-year run as majority owner, Charles Wang relinquished that title and dropped down to a 15 percent stake, giving up the remaining 85 percent to Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky.

After GM Garth Snow went out and replaced the departed Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin with Andrew Ladd, P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera, the only thing Islanders fans have heard from new ownership is that they have full confidence in both Snow and head coach Jack Capuano as they move forward into the 2016-17 season. Well, they are about to hear a whole lot more.

Ledecky will be speaking this week for the first time since taking over, hopefully offering fans a glimpse into what the ownership style will be and how the direction of the franchise will be different.

On Thursday, Ledecky will be hosting a town hall for Islanders fans at 7 p.m. at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Season ticket holders were given first access to open seating in mailings that went out on July 6.

Wang, on the way to a minority stake, showed his clear love and passion for the team and pride he takes in keeping them in the metropolitan area, but made it quite clear Snow was working under a very strict internal financial cap for all but the final three years of his tenure. That made it incredibly difficult for the team to be as competitive as they wanted on the ice.

All in all, this should be a great opportunity for media and fans alike to get a glimpse into what the future could hold from the top down. Of course, consideration should be given to the fact I am sure there will be questions, either spoken or thought, that Ledecky will not be able to logically answer in such a forum.

Tags: Andy Graziano

Brian Compton and Mike Carver look back at the first week of free agency, including the departures of Okposo, Nielsen, and Martin, and the arrivals of Ladd, Chimera, and Parenteau.

Later, PA Parenteau calls in to the show to talk about reuniting with John Tavares, and which number he'll wear upon his return. 


 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Matt Barzal has turned a lot of heads since being drafted by the Islanders, and there are murmurs he could make the big club as soon as this season.

Islanders GM Garth Snow was recently asked about Barzal's status and if he could envision the 2015 first round draft pick filling the void left by the recently-departed Frans Nielsen.

"We wouldn't discount any player, especially talented young players we've been fortunate able to draft, to be able to crack our lineup,"Snow said on SiriusXM radio on Thursday. "That's why you have training camp and preseason games and make a determination at that points."

"For me to sit here on July 7 and make proclamations about what young player can make our team and play at the highest level just wouldn't be the right thing to do," Snow continued. "But we're confident in the group that we have, we're confident in our prospect pool, we're confident in the direction we're going in, and we're looking forward to training camp."

Barzal, 19, scored 27 goals and tallied 61 assists in 58 regular season games with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. He sat out last month's prospect camp with a strained hip flexor.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Snow certainly didn't want to publicly commit to Barzal making the team, and that's very sound thinking. No need to put more pressure on him before he even sees time in a preseason game. But it seemed like something he's open to, and there's good reason for that.

Barzal displayed some incredible poise this season, showing he's probably the closest to taking the next step of the Isles' big forward prospects. And if you follow our own Brian Compton on Twitter, you know he's been saying Barzal has the best chance of the youngsters of cracking the roster this season.

In a similar situation to Michael Dal Colle's from last year, it's either the big club or back to Juniors for Barzal, as he won't be 20 years old yet, and therefore, not eligible to play in the AHL. But I think Barzal is a lot closer this summer than MDC was last year, making this upcoming training camp very intriguing to watch play out. 

Tags: Brian Erni

 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Islanders GM Garth Snow knows how close Steven Stamkos got to becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he's intent on making sure that doesn't happen with John Tavares.

Snow was asked on Thursday about Tavares' contract status and his strategy to retain their captain beyond the end of his contract in 2018, and Garth made it clear it's something he'll start working on as soon as the CBA permits next summer.

"Well, when we drafted John first overall, we knew we were getting a special person and a special player," Snow said on SiriusXM radio on Thursday. "We envision him wearing a New York Islanders jersey his entire career. He's got two years left on his contract. We'll reach out to him next summer and try to get an extension done. The conversations I have with John, those obviously those will remain private. But we know we have a special player, a franchise player, that loves playing for the Islanders, he loves living [on] Long Island, and being in the metropolitan area."

Tavares, 25, is a four-time All Star and a two-time Hart Trophy finalists. In 510 career games, he has scored 207 goals and tallied 264 assists.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Just this summer, Snow got to see firsthand what it's like when a premiere, franchise player almost gets to the open market. The Lightning were within days of watching Stamkos test the UFA waters, and Snow was one of the GMs ready to pounce if that happened. I think it's the understatement of the century to say Garth definitely doesn't want to be in that situation two years from now.

Last contract, Tavares took a very team-friendly deal to ensure the Islanders could build a winner, while showing his commitment to the organization. This time around, he'll definitely want to be paid like the top player he is, and the Islanders will almost certainly be willing to do so. There's a reason why so much money comes off the books after the 2017-18 season.

I just don't envision Tavares leaving this organization. I think he places a very high priority on being loyal, and I think he knows what kind of legacy he could write for himself if he wins right here in New York. This is one special player that I truly believe wants to be an Islander for life, and I think Snow will do everything he can to make that happen. It appears we'll start seeing just how far he's willing to go at this time next year.

Tags: John Tavares , Brian Erni

Apr 13, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Matt Carkner (7) skates with the puck during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)
Apr 13, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Matt Carkner (7) skates with the puck during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)

Matt Carkner is retiring at the age of 35, he announced on his Facebook page.

Carkner played 237 NHL games in his professional hockey career that began in 1997. He spent the last four seasons in the Islanders organization, the first two with the Islanders and the last two with minor league affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Carkner will remain in Bridgeport as an assistant coach.


Dec 12, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Islanders won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)
Dec 12, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Islanders won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter

Thursday morning, Arthur Staple of Newsday offered some clarity as to the Islanders offseason moves that saw them lose three long-time homegrown talents in Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. General manager Garth Snow acted quickly and replaced the trio with Andrew Ladd, P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera.

Whether the Islanders are truly better off or not will not be known until the smoke clears on training camp and the team enters the 2016-17 season, which begins on October 13 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. There will be trade opportunities to review and roster spots up for grabs. With John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss all participating in the World Cup of Hockey and thus missing Islanders camp, it will also serve Snow best to see how one player, in particular, makes it out of that tournament (Halak).

The comments on Grabovski and Kulemin are, as usual, on the money from Staple with regards to their uncertain futures with the team. Now that the Islanders have gone from a team struggling to reach the cap floor to trying to stay under the ceiling, those two particularly are troubling issues to sort out. Grabovski now presents health issues and Kulemin a high cap hit for his level of production.

On Nielsen, some, as expected, took his comments on the way to Detroit as another opportunity to slam Snow and head coach Jack Capuano. On the contrary, it couldn't be further from the truth that Nielsen wanted to get away from one or perhaps both. Staple clarifies his conversation with the Dane and its right in this line: "I wouldn't be the player I am today if it wasn't for them". He also added "And you can see they don't have any trouble bringing new guys in". Hopefully this finally ends this silliness in some mainstream outlets that Brooklyn is still an issue for players considering playing for the organization.

Regarding Hamonic, I can see where Staple is coming from in regards to moving him for Hall. The timing was off in terms of Snow looking for a defenseman to replace him and then Edmonton not willing to take anyone else that Snow likely offered. It is what it is and while New York lost out on a potential second franchise player to slot alongside captain Tavares, what they keep in Hamonic could be argued is equally important and effective.

Lastly, was the word that Ryan Pulock does have to be protected in next year's expansion draft for the new Las Vegas franchise. With each team guaranteed to lose one player, there are two different options for teams making up their protected list. One is to choose a 7/3/1 forward, defense, goaltender setup. The other is to select eight skaters (any positions) and a goaltender. With Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Hamonic projected to be Islanders protections at the position, that will leave Pulock, Calvin deHaan and Thomas Hickey exposed to selection.

You could safely assume that one could be shopped prior to the June 17, 2017 deadline. Las Vegas will make their selections on June 20, 2017.

Tags: Frans Nielsen , Andy Graziano

The Islanders' PA Parenteau celebrates after scoring on the Winnipeg Jets during the third period. (AP)
The Islanders' PA Parenteau celebrates after scoring on the Winnipeg Jets during the third period. (AP)

Now that P.A. Parenteau is back with the Islanders, there is a very important order to business to be settled for him--what number he's going to wear.

Parenteau played with the Islanders from 2010 until 2012 where he tallied 120 points in two seasons. In that time, he wore No. 15, which is currently worn by right winger Cal Clutterbuck.

Parenteau says he "doesn't think it's going to happen" that he'll be able to wear 15 again, so is deciding between 17 and 51.

Listen to the full Islanders Point Blank podcast below to hear more from Parenteau, as well as your hosts Brian Carver and Mike Compton on all the latest Isles news. Number talk begins at the 15:50 mark.

Tags: PA Parenteau

 (Jerome Miron)
(Jerome Miron)

Jason Chimera is pumped to be an Islander, and he thinks the fans have a lot to look forward to this fall, too.

Chimera has seen plenty of the Islanders as an opposing player, so when GM Garth Snow reached out with interest in signing him, he said it made joining the organization as easy decision.

"I know the coaches -- I know Doug Weight personally -- how in tune and how good they are. When you come into an organization you [want] know you're right at the cusp [of winning the Stanley Cup]. I didn't want to go somewhere we didn't have a chance to win," Chimera told the NHL's SiriusXM morning show. "It was a no-brainer. It's exciting. They have a lot of good players, a lot of young talent ready to break out, so it's going to be a lot of fun."

Chimera, 37, scored 20 goals in Washington last season, and he believes that adding himself, Andrew Ladd, and P.A. Parenteau to the fold will more than make up for what New York lost in free agency.

"I know Islanders fans will probably be upset losing a couple of key players in Okposo and Nielsen, but adding Ladd, P.A. Parenteau and me, three 20-goal scorers for two 20-goal scorers isn't a bad trade," he said. "You know what kind of player Ladd is, he's won a couple of Cups. When you add those pieces, it's a grittiness to your lineup. He can play north-south, he can score, he's a good leader."

H/t to Lighthouse Hockey for the transcript.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Chimera was beloved in Washington, and from this interview, it's easy to see why. He took time to praise individual players as well as the coaching staff, and it's clear he'll be a very integral part of the Isles' effort to rebuild their locker room dynamic with more experienced voices.

It doesn't necessarily mean the Chimera move will pan out. Any time you commit to a player in his late 30s, especially a forward, there's an inherent risk that you assume. But Chimera is the kind of player who can bring something to the table even if he regresses from his 20-goal performance in 15-16.

I wouldn't be surprised if head coach Jack Capuano uses him in a number of ways, from the fourth line all the way up to the power play and all destinations in between. It may be a gamble, but it's one that could pay off big if Chimera has a lot left in the tank.

Tags: Brian Erni

Dec 12, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Islanders won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)
Dec 12, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; A general view of the New York Islanders bench against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Islanders won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

There was a lot to digest over the weekend in Islanders country, as the Isles brought in both some new and familiar faces into the fold, while saying goodbye to three key pieces of the rebuild. But it appears that there's a sentiment inside the Eastern Conference that isn't that impressed with how Garth Snow opened up free agency.
 
ESPN's Joe McDonald penned this piece that acts more like a recap of the last five days than anything else, as well as providing us the oh-so-common John Tavares UFA scare tactics. But he saves his most intriguing tidbits for this passage that features quotes from two separate Eastern Conference executives:

"Still, not everyone is optimistic about the direction of the team. One Eastern Conference GM said in a text message. 'he wasn't a big fan' of the moves. 'Ladd 7 yrs is crazy. Lost better players to UFA. ' Another Eastern Conference executive wasn't sure the Islanders were closer to contention. 'Tough call,' he wrote in a text. 'Typically a conference finals berth signifies true contention.'"

Now, that's all fair criticism of what the Islanders did, some of which I've even echoes in previous posts. But let's take moment to rein it in a bit. 
 
First, it's July 6. The offseason is still in its infancy, and a trade (or multiple trades) could have a giant impact on how we ultimately end up viewing the Isles' offseason. As far as financial flexibility goes, Andrew Ladd's seven-year contract is loaded in signing bonus. His salary is just $1 million per season, the rest of the deal paid out upfront. That makes this deal a major short-term investment, but absolutely nothing that is going to hinder the Isles in the future. 
 
Plus, as I touched on Friday, the Isles are setting themselves up to gain a ton of cap space, as they'll clear over $20 million in salary the summer John Tavares' current contract comes due. If Tavares, a fiercely-loyal person, re-ups and makes Brooklyn his permanent home (which is what my money would be on), the Isles will have plenty of money to throw at the next wave of free agents.
 
And as far as being viable contenders, that's really in how you value Ladd and Jason Chimera, and to a lesser extent, P.A. Parenteau. How do we know that Ladd and Chimera don't give the Isles an x-factor? Like most who embrace analytics, I don't overvalue intangibles, because they're hard to quantify. But because these are human beings that play the game and not cyborgs, the human element does plays a part. In the analytics world, it's very simply the x-factor. The reason why writers and fans alike talk about team chemistry is because there's just no way to anticipate how to build it, but we know it when we see it. It's as elusive as it is identifiable. That's what makes it so fascinating and alluring.
 
So, this team that lost two overtime games on their home ice in the second round or else they easily could have achieved that Conference Final watermark for true contention, basically replaced the offense they lost (and then some), probably lost a step defensively, but gained a boatload of veteran leadership. Are they better than last year? I don't know yet. Is there any cause for panic? Not from where I'm sitting, especially when there are two months before training camp opens.
 
The Isles know what is at stake these next few years. They are aware they have one of the most talented players in the game inching toward potential UFA status, and they want to do everything they can to capitalize in this window. So while it's fun to automatically jump to hysterics, it will be a while before we truly know if this offseason made the Islanders real contenders, or shifted them back into the heard of pretenders.

Tags: Brian Erni

New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube (30) before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

The New York Islanders have agreed to a one-year contract with G Jean-Francois Berube, the team announced on Tuesday

Berube made his NHL debut with the Islanders last season and went 3-2-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in seven games. Berube joined the Islanders after the team claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings in early October. 

Berube led the American Hockey League with 37 wins in the 2014-15 season, and helped the Manchester Monarchs to a Calder Cup Championship. The 24-year old was 37-9-4 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage during the regular season. 


Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

So now that Berube has a new deal, we wait in anticipation of what Garth will do with Thomas Greiss and Jaro Halak. Of course, Halak is more expensive, and it makes the most sense that he'd be the one to be moved. But the goalie market just isn't what it was last summer, and no team is really desperate enough to overpay right now. 

That could change though, and it might benefit Snow to go into camp with all three on the roster and see if a team sustains an injury at the position. Then he may be able to hold someone up for a king's ransom. Until that point, though, there are no easy answers.

In Berube, the Isles think they could have a goalie of the future. He impressed in the waning days of the regular season (four games, .921 Save Percentage), and is still just 24 years old. But they also love 20-year old Russian prospect Ilya Sorokin, who was a surprise on Long Island for the prospect camp last week, and turned in a dominant showing. So with Berube's new one-year deal, it gives the Isles a year to let everything play out and see exactly where the chips fall.


Brian Compton and Mike Carver dive head first into the start of free agency, as they discuss the Isles' interest left wing Andrew Ladd.

Plus, the guys discuss the Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson trade, and explain why Garth Snow made the right decision not dealing Travis Hamonic

Tags: Travis Hamonic

Toronto Maple Leafs right wing P.A. Parenteau (15) celebrates his goal during the first period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. (Ed Mulholland)
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing P.A. Parenteau (15) celebrates his goal during the first period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. (Ed Mulholland)

The Islanders have come to an agreement to bring in winger P.A. Parenteau, the team announced Saturday afternoon. 

The one-year deal is worth $1.25 million, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. 

Parenteau, 33, played with the Maple Leafs last season, tallying 20 goals, 21 assists and 68 penalty minutes in 77 games. 

He previously played with the Islanders for two seasons between from 2010 to 2012. Playing largely with John Tavares, Parenteau during the 2011-12 season, Parenteau recorded a career-high in points (67) and assists (49). 

For his career he has 101 goals and 167 assists in 424 games. 

Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter

There is so much to like about this low-risk, high-reward signing today by general manager Garth Snow.

Rumored to be in the Islanders sights at the trade deadline, Snow instead held onto his assets and waited for the free agency market to open, snagging for 33-year-old on a one-year deal with an AAV of $1.25 million.

We all should remember the chemistry Parenteau showed with Tavares in his first stint with the Islanders, from 2010-2012, scoring 38 goals and adding 82 assists in 161 games with 39 of those points coming on the power play. After putting up 43 points in 48 games for Colorado in 2012-13 after he left New York as a free agent and 33 in 55 the following season, a failed stint in Montreal followed.

This past year, he collected a very respectable 20 goals and 21 assists in 77 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are now rebuilding.

This transaction smells of a Garth Snow special, like the Michael Grabner and Thomas Hickey moves before them, and before Grabner developed the 'Knoblauch syndrome' when it came to finishing scoring chances. We all know how well Hickey has worked out.

I have a feeling Snow will strike gold once again as a possible first line of Tavares-Andrew Ladd-Parenteau should make Islanders fans very happy when the puck drops in October.


Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders in a busy first week of free agency (David Banks )
Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders in a busy first week of free agency (David Banks )

New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow jumped into the free agency waters yesterday. And not just to test the temperature. He dove head first to fill holes that were created when three of New York's homegrown talent left for new experiences.

First was the departure of Kyle Okposo to Buffalo on a heavily front-loaded seven-year deal worth $42 million dollars. There he joins ex-teammate Matt Moulson and budding superstar Jack Eichel in an attempt to return the Sabres to relevancy and the Stanley Cup playoffs. On the way out, Okposo made some waves when he made it a point to reach out to his new fan base on Twitter, not making any comments towards the ones he just left. To be fair, Matt Martin didn't either, but knowing his character, I wouldn't be surprised to see something from him sooner rather than later. 

In any event, it begs the question of why Snow didn't bother to contact Okposo or his camp about a contract extension since the beginning of the season. There were literally zero discussions, according to both the player and his agent. There really is no sense even debating the true reason for the discord between the camps, as we will likely never know. Realistically and honestly, it could have been either side or both sides. 

Frans Nielsen was the next to jump ship, heading to a seemingly perfect fit with the Detroit Red Wings, where he will be a different type of player than departing Pavel Datsyuk was offensively but still provide solid defensive play and penalty killing while playing important minutes. After Detroit lost out on bidding for Steven Stamkos, its attention turned immediately to Nielsen, wooing him with a six-year, $31.5 million dollar offer. New York was in contention for an extension, offering more term and more overall money up until Thursday evening, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple, but Frans "wanted a new experience" and admitted he might have gotten a bit too comfortable with the Islanders. 

Since all fingers always seem to negatively point to the general manager when one of their own bolt for other pastures, it's hard to sometimes remember the player has the ultimate final decision in all of these negotiations. Nielsen, based on his comments after signing in Motown, just felt he needed a change. The Okposo and Nielsen situations are night and day when it comes to how they were handled from the Islanders perspective.

Lastly, Matt Martin signed with the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs, going to hockey crazed Canada to resume his career on a four-year, $10 million dollar deal. New York also was said to not have any contact with Martin or his agent on an extension since the end of the season, when it became clear Snow felt he wanted to move on from the mostly one-dimensional fourth line player, choosing to replace him, as we'll get to in a minute, with a much shorter term contract.

Martin was easily my favorite player to deal with in the locker room. Always approachable -- even in the worst of times, up-front and honest, he never shied away from the media and gave us honest answers to all our questions. Even the silly ones. He will be missed and should be sent nothing but well wishes on his new journey, especially considering the countless hours he put in for the Long Island community and its youth. Martin, just this week, held his annual hockey camp for kids even though he knew, with absolute certainty, he was heading out the door. Class coming in, class while he was here, class on the way out. But, on the ice, his skill set was replaceable. 

The reshaping of the forwards and leadership committee began yesterday as well and will continue throughout the summer. First, after coming to a verbal agreement the night before, Andrew Ladd, ex-captain of the Winnipeg Jets and two-time Stanley Cup champion, signed for seven years and $38.5 million dollars ($5.5 million AAV). He will be Okposo's replacement on the first line with captain John Tavares and brings a suitcase full of skills that should continue to mold the younger players currently on the roster, in addition to the ones coming down the pipeline. 

Ladd has scored over 23 goals in five of his past six seasons, and the one he missed was the lockout shortened 48 game schedule in 2012-13, when he was on pace for 30. He has also become a more physical player, averaging 173 hits his last three seasons, and plays extremely responsibly in his own zone, something the Islanders first line has done horribly in the past. He has never finished a year in his entire career below 50 percent in 5v5 Corsi. Durability? How about missing 10 games due to injury/illness - over the last eight years. Basically, he fits just about every characteristic the Islanders were looking for heading into this off-season.

On his first media call yesterday, Ladd has something simple, yet powerful to say.

"I am looking forward to the challenge of helping this team get to the next level," Ladd said. "And that's a Stanley Cup. I wanted to be with a team that I think has a chance to win. Any team with John Tavares on it, the goaltending and the defense that the Islanders have, they are very close."

Next up was a replacement for Martin. Snow chose to dip, once again, into the veteran market, grabbing speedster Jason Chimera from the Washington Capitals on a two-year deal worth $4.5 million dollars ($2.25 AAV). It was a smart move by Snow to replace a member of his fourth line, with limited potential on being more, on a shorter term contract, especially when you consider negotiations will likely open next summer on an extension for Tavares. Getting an improved skill set was a tremendous bonus.

Chimera, even at 37, can still skate like the wind. He is an excellent penalty killer and defensive forward, and even shows a bit of a scoring touch. Last season, he tied his career high with 20 goals and has scored over 39 points in three of his last five seasons. He, like Ladd, comes with tremendous durability, missing only seven games the last six seasons combined. After playing 951 NHL games for three NHL clubs, Chimera has been around the block plenty and brings tremendous experience to the table, also having appeared in 69 playoff games. For starters, he debunked a ridiculous myth yesterday on his media conference call that really needs to be put away by some in the mainstream media.

"No one ever says they hated playing there," Chimera said of Long Island. "Everyone says they love living there, they choose to live there for the rest of their life."

With two of the three replaced, the thought is that Snow will now turn his attention to the trade market. Currently, the Islanders have $6 million in available cap space and restricted free agents Ryan Strome, Alan Quine (if he survives camp to count against cap) and Jean-Francois Berube to sign. Scott Mayfield is also a restricted free agent and the battle will be in camp between him and Adam Pelech to make the opening night 23-man roster. One or the other will obviously start in Bridgeport. Matthew Barzal, the prospect thought most ready to challenge come September, carries a cap hit of $894,167. 

There has been considerable interest in Brock Nelson around the league that Snow has resisted thus far and he still has a three-headed monster in goal to figure out. With so many stocked forward prospects, the assumption could be made that it's time to move one with some cap to find another winger to supplement the offense. Rumblings around the league place the cross-hairs on James Van Riemsdyk in Toronto, whose NMC just kicked in, Evander Kane, who comes with some character issues, Jordan Eberle and possibly Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene in Colorado. 

With the trade market being almost impossible to pin down due to variables that change daily, those players, if truly on the market, will not come cheap. Good news is that the Islanders look to have the assets to pull off such a deal.

Cap ceiling to worry about? Having the assets to deal? Feels as strange reading it as it was typing it, believe me.


Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) with the puck during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. (Dennis Wierzbicki)
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) with the puck during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. (Dennis Wierzbicki)

Islanders general manager Garth Snow spoke Friday, a day that saw the team sign and re-sign three players. 

The Islanders and Snow signed free agents Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera to contracts, while also re-signing Shane Prince to a two-year deal. 

But the Islanders lost longtime Islanders Kyle Okposo (Sabres), Frans Nielsen (Red Wings) and Matt Martin (Maple Leafs) to free agency. 

"Obviously, we thank all three of those guys," Snow said, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple. "They were drafted here, developed in our system, they were big parts of some recent success. I wish them the best of luck. We're extremely happy with where we're at today. We feel we've gotten better." 

Ladd, 30, has spent each season since 2007 with the Blackhawks or Jets/Thrashers franchise, said he is excited to join the Islanders and a potential Stanley Cup contender. 

"I wanted to be with a team that I think has a chance to win," Ladd said, according to NHL.com's Cory Wright. "Any team with John Tavares on it, the goaltending and the defense that the Islanders have they are very close."

Ladd has 466 points in 769 career games played. 


New York Islanders defenseman Brian Strait (37) reaches for the puck during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
New York Islanders defenseman Brian Strait (37) reaches for the puck during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

Defenseman Brian Strait has signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets, the team announced Friday. 

Strait's one-way contract will be worth $600,000 for the year. 

Strait joined the Islanders in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, playing a combined 170 games over four seasons. 

Strait tallied six goals and 20 assists in those four seasons, combining for a minus-10 at the blue line. 

 

Tags: Brian Strait , Winnipeg Jets

New York Islanders center Shane Prince (11) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in game one of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement)
New York Islanders center Shane Prince (11) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in game one of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement)

The Islanders have re-signed forward Shane Prince to a two-year deal, the team announced Friday afternoon. 

Prince's deal will carry an average annual value of $850,000, reports Newsday's Arthur Staple

Acquired from the Senators in the middle of last season, Prince recorded five points in 20 regular-season games with the Islanders. He added three goals and an assist in 11 postseason games. 

The 23-year-old has 18 points in 64 NHL games. 


Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Prince was a nice addition by Garth at the deadline last year. He's a great possession player and he isn't shy about shooting the puck at all. We saw in the playoffs how they can pay dividends.

It's a nice value, too. With their moves today, the Isles are maintaining their financial flexibility both in the short and long term, and that's the name of the game in the modern NHL.


 (James Guillory)
(James Guillory)

LW Matt Martin has signed a four-year deal with the Maple Leafs, reports Elliotte Friedman.

It was reported by Arthur Staple of Newsday shortly after the season ended that Martin would be signing elsewhere.

Martin, 27, had 10 goals and nine assists in 80 games for the Islanders this past season.

He was drafted by the Isles in the fifth round (148th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft.

Martin joins Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen as former Islanders who signed elsewhere on Friday. Okposo signed a seven-year deal with the Sabres, and Nielsen signed a six-year deal with the Red Wings.

Tags: Matt Martin

 (Dennis Wierzbicki)
(Dennis Wierzbicki)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

There's a lot to digest in the wake of the initial flurry of free agency. Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen have new homes, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera are coming to Brooklyn, and the Isles still have some work to do.

The Okposo-Ladd exchange is a bit of a strange one. In going with a player two years older, the Isles saved $500,000 per year on the AAV. But it sort of makes you wonder though why GM Garth Snow wanted to move on from Okposo. Did he feel like the Isles needed someone with a Stanley Cup pedigree to come in? Were the Isles worried about the long-term prospects of Okposo's health (i.e. his eye)?

It's impossible to know the reason, but the Isles obviously had reservations about committing to Okposo long-term. This one probably is harder to swallow, because I think most of us assumed Okposo was going to cash in on some deal that would pay him $7-8m million annually. But that wasn't the case.

It seems like Isles could have kept Okposo had they wanted to, although some reports are circulating that Okposo asked for more from the Isles. But I guess both sides were just ready to move on.

Meanwhile, the Isles definitely didn't want to move on from Nielsen, but Frans apparently didn't feel the same. He told SportsNet in Detroit that he "wanted to see a new team, new coaches, a new situation," but the commute to Brooklyn had nothing to do with his departure. That's fine.

People want new challenges. It's why we change jobs, get out of old and into new relationships. It is what it is. But the fact that the Isles offered a seven-year deal and a little more money only for Nielsen to shun them is a shocker, and goes against pretty much everything we thought about the Nielsen situation all year long

What is obvious from the moves the Isles made on Friday is that the organization is placing a premium on playoff experience and leadership. In Ladd and Chimera, the Isles get two leaders, each with their own style, who have a combined 133 NHL playoff games between them (and in Ladd's case, two Cups). Nielsen and Okposo are now both outgoing assistant captains, and it makes you wonder if Snow just felt like his team needed more of an edge.

In that vein, I think these moves take a little locker room pressure off John Tavares, a guy who isn't known to be a huge vocal leader anyway, and brings in more guys like Johnny Boychuk, who are willing to be a little more outspoken in the room. That is the kind of attitude that can really help a team power through some tough spots in the season, and the long grind of the playoffs.

We know that Tavares tends to take slumps a little hard, and by giving him some more veteran support in the locker room, is could help make those ebbs and flows throughout the year a little easier to navigate.

Speaking of Tavares, Darren Dreger reports that the Ladd deal is heavily front-loaded. That's important to note, especially since there has been so much talk lately of Tavares' eventual need for a new contract in the summer of 2019.

That offseason, Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Josh Bailey, Thomas Hickey, and Jaro Halak ($24.1 million of salary) will all come off the books. Add in that the bulk of Ladd's deal is stacked up front, and the Isles should have gobs of money to throw at their captain, while retaining financial flexibility to give him some help. That's important, especially since young players like Michael Dal Colle, Matt Barzal, and Anthony Beauvillier will just be hitting their first RFA years that summer, too.

All in all, I think it was a productive first day for the Isles. While they lost their mainstays, they grabbed two players who should help change the complexion of the organization, and give this team a bit of a sense of urgency to seize their window for contention right now.

The one knock on Ladd and Chimera is that both aren't great possession players (Chimera specifically), so I'd like to see the Isles add a two-way man to replace Nielsen's defense. But so far, so good.

Tags: Frans Nielsen , John Tavares , Kyle Okposo , Brian Erni

 (Geoff Burke)
(Geoff Burke)

The Islanders have signed LW Jason Chimera to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, reports Elliotte Friedman.

Chimera, 37, had 20 goals and 20 assists while playing all 82 regular season games this past season for the Capitals.

He spent the last seven seasons with the Capitals after spending the first nine years of his career with Edmonton and then Columbus.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

This is an interesting one. Chimera is fresh off his second career 20 goal season, and like Ladd, he's an experienced body with tons of playoff minutes that will be inserted directly into that lineup. Chimera can play about 15 minutes a night, get a little bit of power play time, and provide some scoring, all for a very reasonable price.

At 37, he's not a long-term solution, but the Isles don't need him to be. He's the perfect stopgap between now and guys like Barzal and Dal Colle being ready to contribute. He's always been a bit of a thorn in the Isles' side during his time in Washington, and I'll be very intrigued to see what he can now bring to Brooklyn.


 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Kyle Okposo has signed a seven-year deal with the Sabres worth $42 million, reports Elliotte Friedman.

Islanders GM Garth Snow had suggested during an interview on Sirius XM NHL earlier this month that the club would not be retaining Okposo.

When asked about the future of Okposo Snow responded, "We wish him nothing but the best."

Okposo, 28, was selected seventh overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. He had been with the Islanders since the 2007-08 season.

Hehelped the Islanders advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993 this past season, recording seven points in eight playoff games.  

Tags: Kyle Okposo

 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

Free agent Frans Nielsen has signed a six-year deal with the Red Wings,the team announced.

The belief is that Nielsen got $30 million from Detroit, while the Islanders had offered a seven-year deal worth slightly more, reports Arthur Staple of Newsday.

Nielsen, 32, had 20 goals and 32 assists in 81 games during the regular season for the Isles in 2015-16.

He had been with the team since 2006.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Nielsen really was the only one of the Isles' UFAs with a chance to stay, and I thought that his love for the organization might be the ultimate tiebreaker. But with the report that he left money and years left on the table, it's obvious he wanted a change.

At 32, Nielsen is an interesting case. While I love the versatility he brings with his ability to play both wing and center, can he still be an elite penalty killer as he gets older? That's my ultimate concern. If he can keep his legs, he'll make his new club very happy, but I think there's a solid chance that, depending on how his body holds up, his new deal might not end up providing that much value.

I'll miss Frans. He loved being an Islander, and we all loved having him. But the roster shakeup is on, and now there's no turning back.

Tags: Frans Nielsen , Brian Erni

Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders in a busy first week of free agency (David Banks )
Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders in a busy first week of free agency (David Banks )

Update: Andrew Ladd has signed a seven-year deal with the Islanders worth $38.5 million, reports Aaron Ward.


The Islanders hosted Ladd earlier this week on Long Island, Arthur Staple of Newsday reported.

TSN's Darren Dreger recently tweeted that the Isles are among the teams interested in bringing Ladd into their fold.

In 78 games between the Jets and Blackhawks last regular season, Ladd scored 25 goals and tallied 21 assists with a 51.4 Corsi For Percentage. In Chicago's seven-game playoff loss to St. Louis, Ladd had a goal and an assist.

Ladd, 30, made $4.5 million last season.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Seven years is a lot for the 30 year old Ladd, but I think the Isles did well here with a $5.5 million AAV.

Let's keep in mind that Ladd is a proven goal scorer (he has scored 20 or more goals in five of the last six season, 18 in the lockout-shortened '12-'13 campaign), and has two Stanley Cups to his name. With that kind of production and winning pedigree, you were going to have to overpay a little, and New York did so in years, but not really in money.

I like this signing a lot. I think Ladd will primarily play on the top line with John Tavares, and I think he'll go a long way in making JT better, both by creating more space and helping him grow as a leader.

We'll never quite know how much value "proven winners" actually bring, as that's hard to quantify, but I think Ladd could be a guy who helps a team that is still a little short on playoff experience in that department. And let's not forget, when it does come time for a new JT contract, he'll know Ladd is locked up for the long-term. That could make the deal pay for itself.

Tags: Brian Erni

 (James Guillory)
(James Guillory)

The Oilers dealt Taylor Hall to the Devils on Wednesday, but they checked in with the Islanders before they did.

According to multiple reporters, including Darren Dreger and Art Staple, the Oilers asked the Isles for Travis Hamonic and perhaps another piece back for Hall, and GM Garth Snow declined.

Last November, news broke that Hamonic had requested a trade to a team closer to his Manitoba home to deal with an undisclosed personal issue. However, after spending all year with the team, Hamonic rescinded his trade request.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Frankly, I think the Isles made the right move. Hamonic is one of the emotional leaders on the team, and he's developed into a top-four defenseman they can rely on.

With how team-friendly his deal is ($4.875 million salary through 2019-20), he allows Snow the flexibility to take on salary elsewhere if need be. Simply stated, the Isles can find a comparable player to Hall without surrendering anything but money more easily (and probably cost-effectively) than they can replace Hamonic.

Plus, Staple mentioned that after all Hamonic had been through personally only to decide to rescind his trade request, the team may have staged a mutiny if Snow had moved Hamonic.

The players are under enough stress already, letting core pieces from the rebuild walk away. And make no mistake, that's not an easy thing to handle when the majority of your team came up together and developed a natural closeness. The continuity Hamonic provides is just too important, and the Isles need his skill on the blue line next season and moving forward.

Tags: Travis Hamonic , Brian Erni

 (Anthony Gruppuso)
(Anthony Gruppuso)

I like to refer to the NHL unrestricted free agency period as 'silly season.' The time for some general managers around the league to sit pat and show faith in their current stable of players.

Other GM's will be restricted by internal and/or external salary cap numbers. And the third batch, which will likely lead the league down the path of another work stoppage in four seasons, spend ridiculous sums of money on players who will find it challenging to live up to those contracts, while constricting their organization for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, we saw a whirlwind of transactions over a period of 30 minutes late in the afternoon leading up to the horn signaling the official beginning of the signing season Friday at noon ET. And there might still be more to come as teams now have a general idea of where they stand in regards to the biggest unrestricted free agents left, thanks to the 'contact period' and their own cap situations.

For the Islanders, they stand to lose some significant pieces of their offense with Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin almost certainly gone and Frans Nielsen coming right down to the wire, with some figures being reported as north of $5 million annually, maybe even as high as $5.5 to $6 million from a team desperate to replace their own losses. The Detroit Red Wings, with loads of money available and looking to replace Pavel Datsyuk, could be one of general manager Garth Snow's biggest contenders for Nielsen.

Let's take a look at the three big newsmakers from Wednesday and how they might affect the strategy employed by Snow heading into Friday:

1 - Tampa agrees to contract extension with Steven Stamkos, at eight years and $8.5 million per year

The Islanders were always considered a reach to sign Stamkos, especially with captain John Tavares' deal coming due in two seasons and the dead weight contracts on the books from Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin. Stamkos and Tavares remain close friends to this day and the thoughts were that could have made a difference had he made it to July 1.

Stamkos was not lying to the media when he said he preferred to stay in Florida. General manager Steve Yzerman made it happen, offering a comparable contract to one worth $10 million per season in New York, using one example. He was able to offer the extra year, retaining one of his own, and keep Stamkos in a low tax state.

What's puzzling is that the Islanders failed to even contact Stamkos' agent prior to him putting pen to paper. Not that it would have made much difference, but why not take the shot? To be fair, Detroit, once thought to be a favorite to land the star free agent, didn't contact Stamkos, either. At least Snow has the built-in rationale that he would have had to clear out some salary to make a huge, competitive offer. You can't just hit the 'x' button on your PS4 controller and make teams take your bad contracts.

2 - P.K. Subban traded to Nashville for Shea Weber

And you thought last year's trade of Seth Jones for Ryan Johansson was a big one. They don't come any bigger than this. Subban, set to lock in a no-trade clause on July 1, was rumored to be on the move at the draft last weekend in Buffalo and many, including myself, never saw it actually coming to fruition.

He's a star in every way. On the ice, he's a dynamic puck-mover that plays with a chip on his shoulder. Off the ice, he's an ambassador of the game, providing colorful sound bytes while being receptive and welcoming to fans.

Shea Weber is no joke either. But he seems to be wearing down at age 30 after 10 seasons in the league and still has 10 years remaining on his contract.

I never saw the Islanders as realistic suitors for Subban and many others didn't, either. As improved as New York's defense has become in the past two years, they simply did not have a Weber-type player to entice Montreal. Plus, you have to think Montreal wouldn't have moved him to an Eastern conference squad, anyway.

3 - Taylor Hall traded to New Jersey for Adam Larsson

In one of the worst trades (on paper for now at least) I've witnessed in over 30 years of watching and four years of covering hockey, Hall, who is widely considered a top winger in the league, was traded for a mere pittance -- 23-year-old Adam Larsson. Straight up. Nothing else. Let that sink in for a minute.

Taylor Hall is a 24-year-old who is fulfilling his promise since he was drafted first overall in the 2010 entry draft. Already with an 80-point season in the books, he is third in the league since 2012 in 5v5 point per game percentage.

Larsson is loaded with potential, but that's the key word -- potential. He's not an offensive defenseman and just played his first full 82-game schedule in his fifth season as a pro. The last two seasons, his 5v5 Corsi percentage has been 46.9 and 44.6.

If the Oilers were truly searching for a first pair, right handed D-man, they surely could have done better, no? Peter Chiarelli has now traded Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk and Taylor Hall since 2013. And lost all three deals, easily. Even if Larsson turns into a stud, which is still up for debate, I can't see him equalling Hall's production on a comparable basis.

As far as the Islanders are concerned, Snow had been inquiring about the ex-Oilers star for some time now. Last season, it was said that Travis Hamonic, who had requested a trade, was the want. But Snow didn't budge. Now with Hamonic's trade demand off the table, he's apparently off the market, even for a top flight scoring wing at one of the Islanders biggest needs.

But it begs the question, If Edmonton was sticking to their demand of Hamonic, yet accepted Larsson instead, would a different package have gotten the deal done the Islanders' way? You can argue that Calvin de Haan is just as NHL-ready as Larsson and similarly productive. New York stands to possibly lose Ryan Pulock in the expansion draft next season. Would a package of him and the first pick this year (19th overall) had gotten it done? Hard to believe it wouldn't have.

I agree that the locker room is a sensitive space and team morale, in addition obviously to overall talent, is crucial to team success. But if you subscribe to the theory that moving Hamonic would have done irreparable damage to that culture, the same can't be said of losing Okposo and Martin? Even possibly Nielsen?

At the end of the day, it is what it is. Snow is now facing Friday with Stamkos and Hall off the table. The remaining crop of free agents he has to choose from are second tier at best. Milan Lucic, second on the list, following Okposo in the updated rankings, will likely land in Edmonton as Hall's replacement. Andrew Ladd is reported to be asking $5.5-$6 million AAV on a five-to-six year term. He's 30 years old and has some mileage after an 11-year career. He has also been moved three times in that span.

A source told SNY Wednesday night that New York could very much still sign Nielsen and should also be aggressive in pursuing Ladd and St.Louis forward David Backes. Would that adequately replace the production of Okposo, as inconsistent as it's been at times, put up with Tavares?

Replacing Martin, a member of the fourth line, should be a little easier. The answer to that could be going away from a true physical only line to one that features Alan Quine. Eric Staal or Shane Doan would not, I believe, make the Islanders better. Slower for sure, but arguably not better.

The trade market is impossible, as we saw Wednesday, to predict. But unless Snow changes course and realizes that nobody should ever be truly untouchable, confidence among the fanbase is not high that a solution will produce what's required to move the team forward.

All the questions start Friday afternoon. The answers might not be crystal clear when the dust settles on free agency, as there is still an entire summer to reshape the roster. But as names come off the list, it becomes harder and harder to replace what New York stands to lose, personnel wise.

Tags: Andy Graziano

 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

The frenzy of Wednesday's moves around the NHL has Islanders fans asking what's next for their club, and justifiably so.

Taylor Hall was dealt to New Jersey, Steven Stamkos came off the board. and Kyle Okposo became probably the most coveted forward about to hit the market. All while the Isles moved a few swing-and-misses on free agents away from being left holding the bag.

I touched on these mounting problems in the wake of the Stamkos signing, and the sobering reality still rings true after a good night's sleep. If the Isles simply re-ink Frans Nielsen and maybe add one free agent -- let's say for argument's sake, Andrew Ladd -- does that make them any better than they were moments after their Game 5 loss to the Lightning? I suspect not, and most fans seemingly agree.

Not to mention the aforementioned scenario has Garth Snow being able to convert on pitches to both Nielsen and Ladd. That won't be easy, since other teams will be in on both of those players, especially now that Stamkos is off the board.

The Red Wings cleared salary like crazy -- trading Pavel Datsyuk in the process -- to make their run at Stamkos, and that money is probably burning a hole in their pocket. The Sabres have a ton of young talent still on entry-level deals, and Tim Murray is telling anyone who will listen they'll be active in the market. And Toronto, Arizona, Montreal, and others are connected to nearly any free agent worth mentioning. Would you really be surprised if both Nielsen and Ladd landed elsewhere?

I think there's a prevailing sense, both within the organization and the fan base, that the Isles have to get better. And for the first time, there's urgency to look outside the organization to do so. With the Ledecky-Malkin era officially underway, and John Tavares seven years deep into his career, the franchise wants a viable Cup contender in a hurry.

The Isles relied solely on the assumption that progression from their young forwards would be enough to supply Tavares with the firepower he needed. And, in fairness to Snow, it resulted in a 100-point season and a playoff series win, even while Ryan Strome took a few hearty steps backward and the team regressed from the possession monster they were in 2014-15.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to think the Isles could be okay just by sprinkling in Nielsen and another piece, relying on their young talent again, and staying financially flexible.

But like I said, the goalposts have moved, and the Isles seem to be aiming to a roster shuffle similar to the Penguins' last summer that ultimately resulted in the most prized possession in hockey returning to Pittsburgh.

So where do they go for help outside the UFA pool? Maybe to the team that ended their Stanley Cup dream just two months ago. Newsday's Art Staple mentioned the Lightning by name is his most recent piece, saying their cap situation, with their mounting UFA and RFA problems, makes them possible trade partners. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin are all RFAs next year, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov this year, and Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman hit UFA status next offseason.

"Snow may also be scouring the trade market as teams add free agents and have to wrestle with salary-cap issues," Staple wrote. "The Lightning is now tighter to the cap and has some attractive forwards who could be moved, Alex Killorn among them."

That's an intriguing possibility, and maybe it will give Isles fans something else to pine for in the coming days. But as it stands right now, I'm worried that the renovations Snow had in mind might not come to fruition, which could make New York very susceptible to a significant regression this coming season.

Tags: Frans Nielsen , John Tavares , Kyle Okposo , Ryan Strome , Brian Erni

 (Charles LeClaire)
(Charles LeClaire)

Steven Stamkos has reportedly agreed to an eight-year deal to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The contract, first reported by TSN and confirmed by ESPN, carries a $8.5 million AAV.

The Islanders were rumored to a dark horse as a potential landing spot for Stamkos if he reached free agency.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Right after the news broke, our own Brian Compton tweeted that he heard the Isles' interest in Stamkos was legitimate, and it sure seemed that way from reading the tea leaves. But it's obviously that Stamkos was happy where he was, and wants to see things through with the Lightning.

Now that Stamkos is off the board, and Taylor Hall is going to the Devils for Adam Larsson, it's full blown panic among Isles fans. And frankly, I'm sort of starting to worry, too. Where do the Isles turn from here for an impact offseason? Re-sign Frans and go hard after Andrew Ladd? Many would consider that a lateral move. Can the Isles find a taker for one of their d-men and upgrade their offense that way? I suppose, but that may prove harder than it seems, because Garth isn't parting with Ryan Pulock, Travis Hamonic, or Nick Leddy, and after Johnny Boychuk's struggled this season, his value has never been lower.

Garth is going to have his work cut out for him. Friday can't come soon enough…

Tags: Brian Erni

Anaheim Ducks left wing David Perron (57) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Honda Center. The Ducks defeated the Kings 4-2. (Kirby Lee)
Anaheim Ducks left wing David Perron (57) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Honda Center. The Ducks defeated the Kings 4-2. (Kirby Lee)

Steven Stamkos and Andrew Ladd are the sexy names on the market that could fill the Islanders' needs, but what other directions could they turn to in free agency?

ESPN put together a free agent buyer's guide for the Eastern Conference. They list the Isles' needs as a short-term, top-six winger, and have a name in mind that could fit the bill: David Perron

"The Isles have prospects and young players such as Ryan Strome and Michael Dal Colle, who might be able to take the spot of departing Kyle Okposo but are unlikely to be ready for that significant a role just yet," Matthew Coller writes. "Perron was not a fit in Pittsburgh, but he proved in Anaheim that he can be productive when given a good opportunity."

Perron, 28, scored 12 goals and tallied 24 assists with a 52.6 Corsi For Percentage in 71 games between the Pens and Ducks last season.

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Perron is two seasons removed from his 28-goal campaign, and has been traded twice in the last couple of years, so I'm not going to beat up on him too much for the low goal total in 15-16. If he can regain that scoring touch at some point, he could be a much more affordable option than guys like Kyle Okposo and Andrew Ladd that could thrive on John Tavares' wing. But there's some risk there.

Perron really enjoyed his move to Anaheim. He scored eight goals in 28 games (a pace that's likely to regress thanks to his 15.7 shot percentage). But his possession numbers also took a nice bump from the move out West. He posted a 55.3 Corsi For in 28 games with the Ducks, up from 51.2 with the Pens, and saw his Fenwick For jump from 50.9 to 55.7 as well. That's more in line with his career marks, as he's a pretty strong possession guy (interestingly, his worst possession season was his 28-goal year). So if the Isles decide Perron can fit in their system, he may be a solid play.

Still, I think the Isles have their sights set higher, at least initially. And Perron would benefit from waiting the market out and signing after guys like Okposo and Ladd. So if this becomes an option for New York, it probably won't be until the deck clears a little bit.


New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)
New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire)

And now, the conclusion of the 2016 summer report cards:

Thomas Greiss, 30, Goaltender

Contract: Signed through 2016-17 (UFA); $2.000M salary, 1.500M cap hit

Season stats: 41 GP; 38 GS, 2287 MIN, 38 W, 23 L, 4 T/O; 2.36 GAA, .925 SV%

Career stats: 130 GP; 107 GS, 7020 MIN, 59 W, 41 L, 15 T/O; 2.44 GAA, .917 SV%

Brian Erni, SNY.TV Twitter | Archive Posts

Greiss, the steal of the 2015 offseason, was probably the Islanders most valuable player this season.

Usually, a Jaro Halak injury would have been a doomsday scenario for the Islanders. It certainly would have been a year earlier, when the Isles were struggling to find anyone - from Chad Johnson to Michal Neuvirth - to turn in some respectable back up goaltending performances. But this summer, when the Isles watched Neuvirth sign with the Flyers, they acted quickly and brought in Greiss as the back up on a two-year, $3 million deal, and that bargain paid gigantic dividends.

With Halak on the shelf early, Greiss hit the ground running, turning in a 3-0-2 record in October with a 2.53 GAA and a .926 Save Percentage. I was willing to write it off to a small sample size, and figured Greiss would settle back into being a solid, yet unremarkable goaltender. That couldn't have been more off base. Greiss was even better in November, turning aside 170 of 184 shots for a 2.12 GAA. It was so important, because as the Isles struggled to put points on the board, Greiss was the cog that made it all keep running, and some early chatter started as to who was the real No. 1 goaltender in Brooklyn.

If it was possible, Greiss got even better in December, facing 202 shots and turning aside 193 for a .955 Save Percentage and a 1.49 GAA, including his lone shut out of the season: a 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils. Greiss' size and agility proved to be a huge advantage for the Isles. He put himself in remarkable position to make saves, and - when needed - was able to use his frame to scramble and make some stunning stops. If not for a blip in January, where he got just three starts, Greiss would have run away with the starter's job. As it was, he had given Jack Capuano a luxury every coach would enjoy: a legitimate one-two punch at the goalie position.

With Halak back and playing well, Greiss became the kind of back up the Isles had been dying for. But that changed suddenly on March 8 when Halak injured his groin in the Isles' win over the Penguins. Greiss came in to close the game out, and was tested with three huge chances from the eventual-Cup champs, but helped New York hold on. After the injury, Greiss was solid, posting a .913 Save Percentage from the rest of the season on. And on the whole, Greiss' 57.9 Quality Start Percentage and 11.92 Goals Saved Above Average gave Greiss one of the best goaltending seasons in recent Islanders memory.

And that was just the regular season.

In the playoffs, Greiss became a true No. 1. In the Isles' 11 games, he posted a 2.46 GAA and a .923 Save Percentage, standing on his head in both the Florida and Tampa series, bringing the team within shouting distance of their first Conference Final appearance in decades. His back-to-back 40+ save nights in Games 5 and 6 of the Florida series were the high-water marks, making 88 of 90 saves in those two games combined. As the Tampa series went on, Greiss allowed a few soft ones (most notable the Nikita Kucherov game-tying goal in Game 3), but the work he put in until this point more than justifies the highest grade possible.

Now the clear No. 1 heading into camp, let's see what the German can do for an encore.

IPB Grade: A+

Tags: Thomas Greiss , Brian Erni
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