As all of you know this is a forum where we talk about Fantasy Baseball for NL Leagues. If you follow me on twitter you realize I am a very passionate New York Islanders fan. I am going to use today's article to write about the Islanders. This is a one time only deal for this season. Tomorrow morning there will be a new NL King article up talking about the possible trade candidates in the NL during this season. For those of you who read my articles and are a New York Islander Fan I hope you enjoy this.
Season In Review:
Going into this shortened 48 game season the Hockey News picked the New York Islanders to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference. In fact most publications or websites who made such proclamations had the Islanders finishing no better than 3rd worst in the Eastern Conference and probably heading to the draft with another top 5 or top 6 pick. The Isles the first 60% of the season were very competitive but had trouble putting together wins. Every time the Isles got close to .500 then would slip to 3 games under or so. Losing 3rd period leads was a big problem early in the season. It wasn't like the Islanders were getting blown out in fact I believe in the 48 game season the Isles were something like in 41 or 42 of their regular season games they headed into the 3rd period either tied or ahead. So the Isles were in pretty much in every game to say the least. But then from mid March on everything came together for this young team as the finished on an incredible run and made the playoffs for the 1st time since 2007. They of course drew the Penguins in the first round and they were an incredible underdog. After getting embarrassed and blown out in Game 1 the Islanders showed their talent, their resilience, their toughness both physically and mentally and played a great series. However they came up short by losing last night in Game 6 in OT after some bad luck on the tying goal by Paul Martin late in the 3rd deflecting off Frans Nielsen stick. While if you had asked any Islander before the season this is how this season would play out would you sign up for that, I would say 99% would not only sign up for it but be thrilled. I know I would've, however having said that last nights loss was a hit to the solar plexus and while I am extremely disappointed and this will stay with me for a couple of weeks I am extremely proud of the team and know really good days are ahead.
Okay I am going to break down the big factors for the Isles going forward starting with this off-season.
It was clear early on this season that DiPietro could not compete at the NHL level. The Isles sent down DiPietro to Bridgeport to try and find his game. DiPietro in 18 games went 9-9 with a 2.93 GAA & .893 Save Percentage. While not horrible this is minor league hockey. He is a great kid and he does everything he can to be the best he can be but DiPietro due to a gigantic list of injuries is done. With the last lockout every team is given up to 2 Amnesty Buyouts to use between the beginning of this past season until the end of next season before July 1st. From a pure financial perspective I can not see how the New York Islanders and specifically owner Charles Wang does not buy out DiPietro. If the Isles do not use the Amnesty on DiPietro he is owed 36 million dollars over the next 8 years (4.5 Million per year) and of course it counts against the cap. If the Islanders use their Amnesty Buyout on DiPietro they owe him 24 million dollars over the next 15 years (1.6 Million per year) and it does not count against the cap. Cap situations aside from a pure financial perspective you have to use the buyout. An athlete that is finished that you can pay either 36 million over 8 years or 24 million over15 years what would you do?
The Isles have an excellent core of young forwards lead of course by Taveras (22), Bailey (23), Cizikas (22), Grabner (25), Martin (24), Okposo (25). The veterans of the Isles forwards are all still under 30 in C.McDonald (28), Moulson & Nielsen (29). The Isles have locked up long term Taveras, Grabner, Martin, Okposo & Nielsen. Josh Bailey is an RFA and everything really came together for him in the 2nd half of the season. Remember he missed the beginning of the season due to an injury from playing in the lockout. I believe it would make a lot of sense for Snow to lock up Bailey in a long term deal that works well for both the club and the player just like he did with Grabner, Okposo & Nielsen. I expect Brock Nelson (21), Anders Lee (22) & David Ullstrom (24) to be a part of the Isles 3rd and 4th lines giving them incredible depth. UFA forwards for the Isles are Reasoner, Aucoin, Boulton and these were stop gap guys until the young forwards were truly ready so I doubt they will be back. That leaves Brad Boyes (31) and while he was a really good player for the Isles and a great pickup by Snow to replace Parenteau (Boyes signed 1 year deal for 1 million) the Isles have two top notch kid forwards ready to break through in Nino Niedereiter and Ryan Strome. Even if one of these guys are used in a trade I don't see the room for Boyes.
This is where I want Snow to go out and make a big trade. I want a strong defenseman added to this group who is very defense minded, a leader and a physically player and someone who is in his prime age (late 20's). Snow has plenty of inventory to get a trade down it's just finding the right guy. I would be shocked if Mark Streit is not back. He is the captain of the team he has endured tough years here before this season and now the team is in position for big days ahead. Plus I hear he loves Long Island like most current and past players. Remember Streit has been here for the last 5 years. He wants a 3 year deal and the Isles and his agent have agreed on the years they are just a little bit off on the money from what I read. I expect common ground to be found well before free agency. In fact most of the NHL world both the other teams and NHL insiders expect this to happen. The Isles have resigned Visnovsky for the next 2 years and then they have a young core of Hamonic (also a RFA I can see Snow locking him up to a LT deal), Brain Strait & Andrew McDonald. They also have Matt Carkner signed for 2 more seasons and they have Thomas Hickey who is only 24. Radek Martinek is a free agent and will have to find work elsewhere. The Isles have talented defense prospects coming but the only one's who I think will be ready next year is Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield.
This is probably the most interesting area for Garth Snow. Does Snow believe between Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson & Mikko Koshinen are the Isles set in goal for years to come? Even if Snow really likes that trio but is not sure, he can sign a stop gap safety net goalie such as resigning Nabakov and having the youngsters split time with him and see where that goes or Snow can go the Free Agent market route or the trade route. Mike Smith of Phoenix is a UFA and with the ownership problems that team has it's doubtful they can afford him. Ray Emery of the Hawks is also a UFA and with their cap structure I can't see the Hawks being able to bring him back. A big name that will be very available in the trade market is Buffalo's Ryan Miller. Miller (32) is signed for 1 more year (6.25 Mil) and then becomes a UFA. Buffalo has made no secret they are in a full rebuild mode and both Ryan Miller & Thomas Vanek (also a UFA in 1 years time) have said they want no part of rebuild. So both will be shopped hard leading into the draft. Now in Miller's case you will have to trade a package of young players & picks and then sign him to a nice extension probably at least 3 years at 6+ plus million. I also hear that the Ducks who after signing their 2 big forwards preventing them from becoming UFA's this summer will move one of their two goalie's this off-season in either Hiller (31 and is a UFA after next season) & Fasta (30). Both had great regular seasons splitting time although Hiller has been the guy in the playoffs. These are some of the options.
Isles have a ton of cap space and that's before using their Amnesty Buyout on DiPietro. In UFA's the Isles have a little over 16 million in cap space between Reasoner, Boyes, Aucoin, Boulton, M.Streit, Martinek, Tim Thomas and Nabokov. I believe Mark Streit will be back close to 5 million a year for 3 years and maybe Nabokov but he might have to come back at a lesser rate than his 2.75 million number this season on a 1 year deal. Everyone else I expect to be gone.
Hockey Futures which is the place to go to read about NHL Prospects and and the upcoming draft within the last couple of weeks just redid their 30 team prospect rankings and the Islanders were ranked with the 5th best system. The highlight guy I did not mention was last years 1st round pick and 5th pick overall defenseman Griffin Reinhardt. Reinhardt is projected to be an all around top D-Man. However while not impossible for him to make the team next season I expect Reinhardt to get one more season in juniors before coming to the Islanders. Also the Isles while making the playoffs do have a nice 1st round draft pick with the 15th overall selection in the 1st round. This is a very deep draft so they will add another really good prospect to their staple and while the Isles do not have a 2nd round pick (Anaheim for Visnovsky) the Isles have their own pick in rounds 3 - 7 & Montreal's 4th round pick. In addition to the guys I mentioned above keep an eye out on the following prospects as well:
Forwards: Kabanov, Sundstrom
Defense: De Haan, Kichton, Pelech, Pokka, Reinhart
Islander fans really good days are ahead. The building situation is finally settled, the current young core team is really coming together, the Isles have a very deep strong farm system, they are in great position with the cap, they have most of their core players already locked up and I believe given all of this and this past seasons team success the Isles will be able to attract top free agents as well. Keep in mind Snow has gone after a number of the top free agents in recent years and in many cases offering more money but those players said no for a lot of reasons and went elsewhere. It's going to be harder to say no now. Great days are ahead my friends.
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