Editorials

New York Islanders Biggest Needs Going Into Draft

By Matthew Collins
May 6, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) and New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) and New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) stand for the national anthem before the first period of game four of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) and New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) and New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) stand for the national anthem before the first period of game four of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the draft and free agency approaching, the New York Islanders’ next few weeks are set to be hectic as the team scrambles to address chinks in their armor.

Since their elimination from round two, there has only been speculation as to who the team will sign and how they will be shaped. To get a feel for what the next few weeks will hold here is a peek at the Islanders’ biggest needs that must be addressed for a successful season.

First Line Winger

This was a given. Since GM Garth Snow’s farewell to Okposo on Sirius XM’s NHL radio, it has become apparent he is as good as gone. The question now becomes; who will the Islanders sign to replace the winger?

Many of the Islanders faithful are clawing at Stamkos, begging he will arrive in a golden chariot tossing flowers to all. But in reality, this is unlikely to happen.

The Islanders best option is through trade. The Edmonton Oilers have an abundance of talented forwards and a lack of skilled defenders , and the Isles are looking for a top winger.

It’s like a match made in heaven.

Rumors have circulated about Taylor Hall being shipped out to the Island. And the Isles have much to offer, such as Travis Hamonic (who wanted to be traded to a western Canada team earlier in the year) and Jaroslav Halak (whom the Isles hinted may soon be on his way out).

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  • Whether or not this trade actually happens is beyond anyone’s knowledge, as this exact speculation has occurred once in the past. All that is for certain is the Isles have an empty position to address.

    Defensive Depth

    The Islanders prospect pool looks rather impressive from a distance but upon closer inspection, it appears a key ingredient is missing. Defense.

    Not that their NHL core has room right now, but in the coming seasons who knows who may leave. Never hurts to have insurance for the future right?

    With Mayfield, Pulock and Pelech appearing poised to make an impact for the Isles, their field of defensive prospects seems rather barren.

    Unfortunately, the Islanders don’t have plenty of picks to utilize in the draft. Targets to try to grab in this draft are Dante Fabbro, who would make a solid replacement for Boychuk in the future. Other defensive prospects to track are Logan Stanley and Charlie McAvoy, both of whom can contribute in the future as well and may fall around 19th in the draft.

    Frans Nielsen

    So this one is a bit of a stretch but hear me out. Frans Nielsen is 110% irreplaceable for the Islanders no matter where they look.

    Sure David Backes is a great two-way forward, but how much are the Isles willing to spend? Sure you can trade for a player to replace him, but at what cost and talent level?

    Frans Nielsen is undoubtedly one of the most underrated faces in the NHL. Some Islanders fans don’t even realize his importance. He checks off so many boxes in a team’s strategy it’s unreal.

    The Great Dane is elite in shootouts, plays first line powerplay and penalty kill minutes, has consistently scored .5 points per game since 2008, brings needed depth and leadership, and wins more defensive zone faceoffs than any other Islander. All this for a cheaper price tag than other talented centers the Isles may seek.

    The Islanders cannot afford to let him walk. It may be even harder to find a replacement for him than Okposo, considering all of the roles Nielsen fills.

    Cap Space

    Ah yes. The dreaded limitation that forces teams to diminish their armed forces in exchange for breathing room. See Chicago for a first-hand recount of this tale.

    This modern marvel that was implemented into the league has become an  influential factor in the way teams are constructed. GM’s now plan years ahead to ensure that they will be able to pay specific players in the future. And this strategy is what Garth Snow has stated he embraces.

    With only $15,220,000 worth of cap space and key players to resign or replace, the Islanders may have to carefully count their coin.

    Tavares’ team friendly cap hit of just $5.5 million a season is destined to meet its demise, in which the franchise player will come and ask for his franchise pay. And other talents of the Isles core will soon join him. Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolai Kulemin and Ryan Pulock will soon be asking for raises in the next couple of seasons.

    This, of course, means the Isles may have to embark on the classic strategy of salary dumping. The best option for this is likely Mikhail Grabovski whose pay ranks fourth highest on the Islanders, and production falls far below the worth. Jaroslav Halak is also an option since Thomas Greiss cemented his position as a potential starter.

    Next: Time To Go All In

    With both of these talents shipped away, the Islanders could see their cap space increase tremendously. This will give them enough money to go on a shopping spree in this year’s open market and also have a little cash for the not-too-distant future.

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