WILMINGTON, DE- So as we enter the 2013 offseason there are quite a few questions surrounding the Islanders as far as personnel is concerned. One of the such looming questions bounced around here at EOI and you reading at home is what do we do this summer at the forward position.
It ‘s quite clear that Brad Boyes is not the long term solution, for a top-line winger is needed to play alongside John Tavares. Boyes hasn’t been able to reclaim the swagger he had back during the ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
In the ’07-’08 season Boyes was tied for the team lead in points and was also the leading Sabre scorer with 43 G. The following year he led the Sabres in PTS (72), G (33) and A (39). Since those two magical seasons, Boyes hasn’t eclipsed the 20 goal plateau, and there isn’t any indication to believe he ever will again.
So this leads me to propose a question to all of you: “Who would be better winger next to #91?” Do we stay on the reservation and hope that Ryan Strome is the answer, or go shopping for talent? Let’s first take a look at the top wingers available via the free agency market:
- Jarome Iginla- Future Hall of Famer who has not scored less than 31 goals since 2000 and in that same time frame hasn’t had less than 67 points. He scored 23 points in 22 games for Pittsburgh this year and has 12 points thus far in the postseason. With that being said, Iginla will be 36 in July.
- David Clarkson- The 29 yr old Devil is in the prime of his career having only missed 3 games in his six-year career, playing in 419 of 422 for New Jersey. In the strike shortened 2012-’13 season, he tallied 15 goals and 9 assists after amassing 30 goals during the 2011-’12 NHL season.
- Nathan Horton- Playing in 46 games due to concussion-related symptoms, the 28 yr old former first rounder had 17 goals and 15 assists during the 2011-’12 season, and pretty much matched those numbers in almost the same amount of games, playing in 43 games this season and scoring 13 goals and 9 assists. The big forward has had an enormously productive postseason thus far accumulating 6 goals and 9 assists for his Boston Bruins.
- Michael Ryder-The 33 yr old Montreal Canadien had 16 goals and 19 assists this season and was a big factor in getting the Canadiens into the playoffs in 2013. During the 2011-’12 season playing for the Dallas Stars he collected 35 goals and 27 assists in all 82 games. Not only is Ryder a skilled playmaker, but a main fixture on the power play as well.
- Pascal Dupuis- Another Penguin on the list who amassed 20 goals and 18 assists in 48 games this season. During the 2011-’12 season he tallied a career high 25 goals. The 34 yr old Dupuis has always been known as a great defensive two-way forward, and his offensive outburst the past couple years will make him a very interesting free agent.
All the guys listed above would be a huge upgrade on the top-line playing alongside Tavares, but which one would you rather have?
The one factor that keeps showing up when going through the list of top wingers available is age.
For example, Iginla and Dupuis will be 36 and 35 respectively by the time the 2013-’14 season comes to a close.
I could have listed three or four more solid wingers above who also are getting up there in age and also in seasons played. Will these guys still be able to play at a high level over the life of a new contract? That’s the big question. I’m personally a fan of trying to grab one of the younger more productive guys such as Clarkson or Horton, but then again I’m not Garth Snow.
Another intriguing possibility is trading during the draft for a top-line guy. For the first time in years the Isles aren’t a lottery pick and have a little bit of flexibility drafting in the 15th spot.
Would Snow be willing to make a draft day trade with the Sabres, sending the pick and a prospect to Buffalo for let’s say Thomas Vanek? Considering Vanek’s numbers over his seven year career and the fact he is 29 years old and hitting the prime of his career I would welcome him to Long Island with open arms. Just some food for thought as I like to say, and something for you all to think about as well.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, there’s always the alternative of promoting from within for that top-line winger spot, and then maybe signing a lesser named player to bolster one of the remaining lines. There has been talk in some circles that maybe Ryan Strome is ready to step right in and take over next to Tavares. He is listed as a center, but did play some wing for the Sound Tigers this year, so maybe upper management is leaning towards pairing him with JT and seeing what type of havoc both may wreak together.
As exciting as all the aforementioned may be, it’s only conjecture at this point, and we will get a better sense as the offseason progresses and the draft approaches at the end of June.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Islanders approach the forward position, and as much as we don’t want to hear it, maybe in the Islanders’ eyes resigning Boyes could be the answer for the 2013-’14 season.
Hold your collective breath Islander fans, it’s only just getting started!!!