The New York Islanders are going to make a splash tomorrow, but it’s not shaping up to be the splash we were all hoping for.
Tomorrow free agency opens up. And the frenzy starts as teams can finally spend their hard earned dollars to overpay for free agents from across the league. But in Brooklyn, the story is a little different.
Not only are we set to potentially welcome some new additions, were going to have to officially say goodbye to some of our most beloved players.
We’ve known for a few weeks now that Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin were going to be leaving on July 1st. But it’s absolutely official tomorrow. And the closer we get to flipping the calendar page over, the closer we get to losing Frans Nielsen as well.
Martin, Nielsen, and Okposo. Those are some big shoes to fill, shoes we can’t immediately fill. Martin’s fourth line role might be the easiest to fill. But his place in the hearts and minds of Isles fans will be hard to replace.
Okposo is deserving of a pay raise and it’s one the Islanders evidently just don’t want to give him. Right or wrong. We have to look forward and try to replace his production on a team that slumped in the goal department.
The Isles lost a total of .22 goals per game between 2014-15 and 2015-16. That’s 18 goals and at most another 36 points to spread throughout the team. Losing a player like Okposo who’s scored an average of 61 points per season over the last three year is a big hole to fill.
And it seems that the Islanders feel like Andrew Ladd is the one to take that place. To be fair Ladd is a great player. He’s a few years older than Okposo but has proven he can still contribute. Over the last three seasons, Ladd has averaged 54 points in Winnipeg and Chicago.
He could effectively replace Okposo. But are his best years behind him? Statistically speaking they absolutely are. Forwards tend to peak at 25-26 years old, and at 30 Ladd is more likely to regress than progress.
But the big shame of free agency might just come in the shape of Frans Nielsen.
The Danish center is seemingly so close to signing with the team. But every minute that goes without an official announcement from the Islanders is a minute closer to him walking to the highest bidder. And the bidders are waiting.
Frans is a great player. He won’t make it to the Hall of Fame or anything, but he’s the type of player that every team needs. A player that can do just about everything.
Score goals? Yup, he’s scored an average of 20 over the past three season. Plays on the powerplay? Yup, just under three minutes of powerplay time per game and had 20 powerplay points to boot. How about short handed? Nielsen’s out there, averaging two minutes of short-handed time per game last season. [Special team stats taken from FOX Sports]
And there are other facets of Nielsen’s game that we can look at to draw a healthy picture of why we should keep him. Like his possession stats, or how his faceoff responsibilities.
A player that do everything Nielsen can do cannot be easily replaced. We’ve already said how we should keep Nielsen. The only thing that’s changed is the price limit for Nielsen.
A week ago I said that anything over $5 million would be an overpayment for a player like Nielsen. I’ve since walked down that ledge. Not to say that Snow should just give Nielsen a blank check, but certainly a deal upwards of $5.5 million edging close-to-but-south-of $6 million is fair.
Considering everything that Nielsen does and the likelihood that we cannot replace him put us in a bind. Are we so immediately willing to give Ryan Strome the second-line just yet? Didn’t think so.