The New York Islander recently signed pending RFA Casey Cizikas to a five-year $16.75 million deal. But since the signing all has gone quiet in Brooklyn. Sometimes no news isn’t good news.
Along with Cizikas, the New York Islanders have a number of pending RFA’s and UFA’s. Three fairly important players immediately come to mind: Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin.
All three are pending unrestricted free agents, and contract talks between the three and the franchise have not progressed according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple.
Kyle Okposo is coach Jack Capuano’s first choice right-wing while Frans Nielsen is the Islanders second line center. They both rank high in the organization’s depth chart in their respective positions. Martin is important in his own right for the work he’s done to make the Islander’s fourth line as effective as it was. His talents remain as a fourth line player.
Losing any of these players would leave a significant gap in the team’s roster. And with the teams recent behavior it seems like all three might just be on the way out.
Finding someone to replace each player will happen. There’s no question there. There are enough hockey players in the world that their voids will be filled. The question becomes are the Islanders and GM Garth Snow, able to find quality replacements?
Yesterday we proposed that the Islanders seek to trade for Jordan Eberle as a replacement for Kyle Okposo at right-wing. The 26-year-old Eberle has a better point return than Okposo does and is a bigger goal threat that Okposo is. The caveat to such a move would be salary and the ask from Edmonton.
Eberle would be a capable replacement for the likely departing Okposo. The only downside for the Isles is the $6 million cap hit that Eberle would bring with him. It seems that Isles management doesn’t want to pay the $5-$5.5 million Okposo might be asking, would $6 million for more offense deter them?
For Nielsen the replacement is already in the system, he just needs faith.
Ryan Strome is coming off a subpar year by any standard. The young center and fifth overall draft pick had a blowout season in 2014-15 with 50 points but fell off the wagon this year posting just 28 and finding himself assigned to AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers for a stint this season.
Giving him an injection of confidence by assigning him second line center duties would go a long way to restoring his play back to 2014-15 levels.
But who takes his place at third line center? Enter Mathew Barzal. He might be a little young at 19-years-old but the Islanders have a history of giving their young talented prospects a shot in the big league, see Ryan Strome’s path if you want an example.
Lastly is the position of Matt Martin. The league leader in terms of hits over the last two season. His spot on the fourth line and the chemistry he has built playing with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas has served the team very well to pin their opposition to playing in the defensive zone.
The Task is Achievable
Leaving would absolutely absolve whatever chemistry was there. But what was once built can always be replicated. The Islanders just need to find the right catalyst to do so. Finding a player that hits as much will be difficult, if impossible.
Just recently the Islanders signed a number of players to two-way contracts. Perhaps one of these career AHL players can make a run at filling Martin’s role on the fourth line. Clutterbuck can show whoever fills the void how to his.
Filling the void of three UFA’s leaving will be a big task for the Islanders to achieve. They have to add through subtraction to fill Okposo’s spot, have faith in Nielsen’s replacement, and try to find a diamond in the rough amongst their AHL system. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s absolutely achievable.