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Islanders Off-Season Preview: You Have One Job

You know that gif of the dumpster up in flames?

Well the Islanders are that dumpster doused in gasoline with the a match about a foot away.

GM Garth Snow was fired in favor of Lou Lamoriello, and coach Doug Weight was fired as well. Though fans rejoiced at Snow’s expense, it’s not a great position to be in when the face of your franchise is a month away from free agency. John Tavares pretty much holds the fate of the Islanders’ franchise, and Lou Lamoriello and crew need to do everything they can possibly do to keep him around.

If Tavares stays, the Isles aren’t in a bad spot. They’d have Tavares and Mat Barzal as their top 2 centers, and other solid forwards in Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Bailey to build around. Still work to do, but not a bad situation to build around. Without Tavares, the Islanders are screwed. It’s pretty much Mat Barzal, and the others, just worse without Tavares.

Whether it’s making a big acquisition, finally settling on a stable arena situation, or whatever else, the Islanders need to do everything in their power to keep him around.

 

UFAs

John Tavares

Nikolai Kulemin

Chris Wagner

Calvin de Haan

Thomas Hickey

Dennis Seidenberg

Jaroslav Halak

Kane LaFranchise

Connor Jones

Christopher Gibson

Stephen Gionta

Seth Helgeson

Kristers Gudlevskis

John. Tavares. He’s going to have every team calling him assuming he reaches the courting period prior to the opening of free agency, and he’s going to demand 8 years and $10-11+ per year. The Isles have the cap space, it’s just a matter of convincing him to stay. Not a big deal just 17 days to get the face of your franchise to stick around and keep your franchise a competitive one.

Nikolai Kulemin already reportedly signed in the NHL. The 31 year old had just 3 points in 13 games before having shoulder surgery.

Chris Wagner was acquired at the deadline for Jason Chimera, and contributed just one goal in 15 games. He’ll likely walk.

Calvin de Haan is an interesting case. He’s had a couple of good season as a borderline top 4 defenseman, but 2018 was a lost season for him due to injury. Some contract troubles last summer lead to a one year contract, and the belief that de Haan will likely hit free agency.

Thomas Hickey has been a solid bottom pairing defenseman for the Islanders for 5+ years, and if not with the Islanders, the former top pick will find a job somewhere, but he could be back with the lack of defensive depth.

Dennis Seidenberg was one of the worst defenseman in the league last year, and the former Bruins workhorse’s career could be over.

The Islanders will look elsewhere to solve their goaltending woes, but Jaro Halak will find backup duty somewhere in the league.

RFAs

Brock Nelson

Alan Quine

Shane Prince

Ross Johnston

Ryan Pulock

Brandon Davidson

Kyle Burroughs

Kyle Schempp

Devon Toews

Brock Nelson could bring back a solid haul if put on the trade market, but the Isles have a good middle 6 piece. He took a step back from his 45 points a year ago, but is still a good offensive contributor and two way forward. If Tavares stays, Nelson is a good piece to build around, but he could be trade bait if the Isles go the rebuild route.

Alan Quine served mostly as a spare forward when healthy, and will be back as a fringe NHLer next season.

Shane Prince had injury troubles last season, but will try and carve out a full time spot for himself next season.

Ryan Pulock’s first full NHL season was a positive with 32 points in 68 games, and looks to be a fixture on the Isles blue line in the future. Lamoriello will have to decide whether to give Pulock a short term bridge deal, or to lock up the blueliner long term.

Brandon Davidson was acquired at the deadline for cheap, and will likely serve as a bottom pairing D next season

Draft Picks

1st (11), 1st (CGY – 12), 2nd, 2nd (CGY), 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th

With back to back picks in the early-middle of the first round, the Isles have options. They can trade one to acquire an established NHLer in attempt to keep Tavares, or they can keep both and look toward the future. Center Joe Veleno, and Defensemen Ty Smith and Noah Dobson are those who could be first round options for the Isles. They’ll be getting a great talent and top prospect no matter who they pick.

Team Needs:

Depth Forwards, Top pairing defenseman, starting goalie.

Ross Johnston and Tanner Fritz played regular minutes last season. Not great. The Islanders need to fill 3-4 bottom 6 spots to keep from getting crushed in depth matchups. Think Tim Schaller, Mark Letestu, and Jay Beagle as the type of guys who could fill those spots. Josh Ho-Sang’s situation with the Islanders needs to be figured out. The first round talent is just 22, but off-ice issues have halted his path to the NHL. He’ll likely be traded, and is a trading asset.

Nick Leddy is an excellent defenseman, and the Isles need someone to accompany him. With Ryan Pulock being the only young defenseman who could realistically grow into that top pairing/top 4 role, the Isles need to draft well, and probably make a trade. They could look at one of Carolina’s available d-men in Justin Faulk or Noah Hanifin, or Florida’s Alex Petrovic as a fallback option.

The Islanders need a goalie if they’re going to do anything in the future. Rolling with a tandem of Thomas Greiss and Jaro Halak won’t work again. Washington’s Philipp Grubauer deserves a starting role, and seems like the obvious, even likely option for the Islanders. Others could be Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, or UFA Jonathan Bernier.

Follow me on Twitter @jIabruins

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