The New York Islanders Cinderella season continued in the first round of the playoffs. But the recent playoff series win turns to reflection regarding the Isles pending unrestricted free agents. It’s possible all of them could be resigned.
No one could have envisioned how the New York Islanders season has played out so far. The long-term questions were what would the Isles do regarding their own free agents come season’s end.
All of them have to be taken under serious consideration.
It would be shocking if Anders Lee was not back with the Islanders. The Minnesota native wants to stay and the Islanders want him here. That was made crystal clear when Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz decided Lee would be named team captain.
While Lee’s production declined this season from 40 goals to 28, a lot of that can be explained in terms of how the Isles are now playing under Trotz, as well as no longer playing alongside John Tavares.
The Lee contract talks are all about the term. His annual value will probably be between $6 – $6.5 million. The Isles probably want the deal to be for six years, while Lee’s camp is likely pushing for an eight-year max contract. A compromise will be found.
Not only has Brock Nelson had the best year of his career (25 goals, 53 points, +20) but he has been the Isles best forward this season. Also under Trotz, Nelson has been a consistent and reliable player. Brock was also stellar in round one of the playoffs versus Pittsburgh.
Finding an upgrade over Nelson won’t be an easy task. It’s hard to see a top-line center being available this off-season in the trade market. In addition, Matt Duchene is the only center one would rank higher in terms of this summer’s UFA class. Columbus will be desperate to resign Duchene and they are the only team that can offer him eight years.
Brock needs to and must be resigned.
With Lehner’s play and development this season he also has to be resigned. If Sorokin does come over to the NHL next season (has one more year to go on his KHL contract) the Isles could then trade Thomas Greiss. Greiss turns 34 next January and has only one year left on his deal.
When the Isles signed Valtteri Filppula to a one-year deal last July 1st, many hockey experts felt the veteran center was done. Val has proven this season that is not the case.
Filppula has played a solid two-way game, provided secondary scoring (17 goals in the regular season & four assists in round one of the playoffs), and has been a veteran leader on this team.
Filppula did turn 35 in March so we are talking about another one-year deal. But resigning Val would give prospect Otto Koivula the time he needs to develop before he takes over as the Isles third-line center role.
Jordan Eberle is the hardest one to figure out by far. He didn’t have a great season posting 19 goals, 37 points, and was a minus-six. Also, Eberle turns 29 next month.
However, Eberle found his scoring prowess late in the season and it has continued into the playoffs. Has Eberle figured out how to play under Trotz or is this just nothing more than a hot streak? That’s what Lou has to decide.
Since Eberle is approaching 30, term will be a big subject in terms of his next contract. If it requires more than a three-year deal the isles should pass. As is, Lou will most likely try and land an upgrade over Eberle even if he could sign Eberle to a contract on his terms.
Odds are all of the Isles key UFA’s will not be resigned. But one could envision most of them re-upping with the New York Islanders.