With the New York islanders eliminated from the 2016 playoffs, here’s a look at what could be ahead in the offseason.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance looks ahead at what could be a busy summer for New York Islanders GM Garth Snow. Topping the list is honoring defenseman Travis Hamonic’s request to be dealt to a Western-Canadian team. He thinks it wouldn’t be surprising if the Isles asked for blueliner Darnell Nurse from the Edmonton Oilers, who could instead counter with right wing Jordan Eberle. Given the likelihood of right wing Kyle Okposo’s departure via free agency, Eberle could have more appeal. He also speculates over a possible deal with the Winnipeg Jets for RFA blueliner Jacob Trouba, though a new contract for him could be expensive.
Snow will also have to replace Okposo if he departs as expected via free agency. That could come via a Hamonic trade or with promising young forwards like Michael Dal Colle or Josh Ho-Sang.
Custance believes the Isles should re-sign two-way center Frans Nielsen to a reasonable new deal.
Joe McDonald also wondered what the future holds for Travis Hamonic, who made his trade request last summer for family reasons. Following the Isles playoff elimination, Hamonic stated how much he loved being an Islander. He and head coach Jack Capuano were careful with their answers regarding his future with the club, with Capuano saying that’s up to Hamonic and Snow to discuss. The Isles coach said he wasn’t thinking about Hamonic not being with the club next season.
NEWSDAY: Steve Zipay reports pending UFAs Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin may have played their final games with the Islanders. None of them would discuss their future plans following the club’s elimination yesterday from the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the series against the Lightning, it was painfully obvious the Isles lacked skilled linemates for superstar center John Tavares, who was held scoreless after picking up two points in the series opener. The defense also needs improvement, as they struggled against the speedy Lightning forwards.
Entering the offseason, the Isles have just over $19 million in projected cap space for 2016-17. Of their key UFAs, I expect Nielsen will be re-signed to a three- or four-year deal worth around $5 million annually. Okposo won’t be back. According to reports, the two sides held only brief contract discussions last summer. The hard-hitting Martin is completing a four-year, $4 million contract and should be an affordable re-signing if they want to bring back the 27-year-old forward. RFAs include Casey Cizikas, Ryan Strome, Shane Prince and Alan Quine. All should be inexpensive to re-sign, though Strome’s inconsistency this season could put his future with the Isles into doubt.
Snow maintained throughout this season he wanted a comparable defenseman in return for Hamonic. However, he could change his mind and pursue a right wing, especially if he can find a reasonable replacement for Hamonic via a separate trade or free agency. That, of course, depends upon the willingness of the Isles new ownership to invest in the roster. If they’re willing to go up toward the cap, that’ll give Snow sufficient wiggle room to re-sign his key players and leave some room for other additions.