New York Islanders: 10 Questions After Day One of Free Agency
By Brian Wagner
The first day of free agency came and went, and it was a crazy few hours of news, signings and trades. Most fans were left with questions for the New York Islanders, and here are ten common ones.
New York Islanders fans lived the extreme high of possibly landing Artemi Panarin to finding out the extreme low that he was signing with the Rangers, of all teams, for the first day of free agency. The Robin Lehner saga was an unfortunate plot, but ultimately the league was reshaped over the past day.
So what are the ten most pressing questions for the Isles after day one of free agency? Here’s my take.
1. Do we still trust in Lou?
Lou swung and missed. I give him credit for giving it a go and not worrying about ‘looking bad’ when the players didn’t choose the Isles, which is what happened with Panarin. But you can’t let pride get in the way of making the right efforts, and I believe that’s what he was doing.
It’s not a great look how it went down with his own free agents, but it’s hard to question Lou Lamoriello and team based on how it went down yesterday.
2. Was Panarin ever considering the Isles?
Personally, I don’t think so. I think there was interest in Florida, following his friend and the tax breaks, but ultimately he had his eyes on MSG all along. I wouldn’t say the Isles got played, but I think there was always only a slim chance.
3. How big of a factor is the arena situation?
Would you want to have to look at the schedule online every night before knowing which arena to go to? I think it’s a bigger factor than most realize, and a bigger factor than management will ever have the self-awareness to admit.
4. Would committing to Anders Lee earlier in the season have saved the Isles 1-2 years of term?
Lee is where he belongs. Based on his audio after signing with reporters, his heart was on the Island and he always planned to get it done there. He got seven years because other teams were offering him that (and more money, reportedly), but he sounds like a guy that would have signed a JVR contract (5 years x $7million) during the season.
Problem is, Lou didn’t pony up with an offer he was willing to sign until he let Lee hit free agency. The shame is that Lou treated him like a girl he kind of likes, but is waiting to see if the better-looking one is interested before asking Lee to prom.
Poor form, but it got done, though likely for more term than Lou hoped for.
5. How confusing is the goalie market?
Something is going on with Robin Lehner. Even though he proved he was able to keep his life together off the ice and thrive on it, nobody was willing to commit to a long term deal. Yet somehow Lou was willing to give double the term to Varlamov, an older and inferior goalie.
I am thrilled the Isles didn’t go after Bobrovsky at the cost of seven years at $10 million because that is, in my opinion, absurd. He had a bad year and is exiting his prime, but yet got a $2+ million annual raise for the next seven years, somehow.
The NHL continues to confuse me with how they value, or don’t value, goalies.
6. Is there a better move this year than locking up Brock?
Looking back, the Islanders got great value on Brock Nelson (6 years x $6 million). Comparing to Matt Duchene (7 years x $8 million) and Kevin Hayes (7 years x $7.14 million), the value is incredible. You have to imagine Brock on the open market would have received either more money, more term, or both.
7. What’s the plan for the third-line center?
Personally, I’d love to see Cizikas get a crack, or move Beauvillier to his natural position, but this feels more like a Brian Boyle type of signing based on last year’s moves for guys like Filppula and Komarov.
8. Is there room for young talent on this roster now?
Filppula is gone to Detroit, Clutterbuck is recovering from back surgery and Matt Martin may be moving closer to a part-time player. This seems like the perfect time to ease in some young talent onto the roster in low-stress bottom-six minutes.
9. Are the Islanders worse than they were last week?
The Islanders may not be better than they were last week, but I don’t think they are worse either. Consider that many of the young talent is the core of the team now, and they are a year more seasoned, a year more mature and their confidence is growing.
When you have an inexperienced core like Barzal, Pulock, Toews, Pelech, Mayfield, Dal Colle, Beauvillier (like him or not) now a year more experienced, they are better players than they were last year.
10. Is Lou done making moves?
There are so many open items like Nick Leddy’s future with the Isles or signing a player or two, and the conservative approach will likely lead to more of those background moves than the big splashes.
Like it or not, this is likely the team we have going into next year. With a coach like Barry Trotz, I feel confident that this team can compete as well as they did last year.