On Thursday, the Bloomberg network reported that the Islanders were entertaining a possible move to Queens. Personally, when compared to some of the rumors I’ve heard in the last year, hearing that the Isles organization was talking with the Mets organization for possible arena development opportunities near Citi Field, it wasn’t as ridiculous a notion. I usually roll my eyes and scroll past any anti-Barclays or “Isles to move” stories I see around the net, but because of the reporting source and the building momentum of the story, I looked into it.
I know Jon Ledecky was adamant on the Islanders and the Barclays Center partnership when he spoke to the press as an official co-majority owner of the franchise and to a recent “town hall” style meeting with season ticket holders. "Barclays Center is our home," Ledecky said. "There's all sorts of things out there about playing games [at the Coliseum]. The NHL has a pretty a strict rule that they set the schedule, not us. We have to make Barclays the new home of the Islanders and make it the best experience.”
Now, I am sure that while the organization plans on improving their team and fan experience for their 2nd season in Brooklyn, it makes perfect sense to not acknowledge the rumors for a Queens relocation, but at the same time, it’s beneficial in an off-the-board kind of way for the team to use that press to their PR advantage. It would address the current non-hockey centric layout and environment at the Barc and suggest a possible relocation that is closer to the former, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum site, that they called home for 43 years. Not to mention, Brooklyn and the Barclays Center are sure to take notice of any buzz or reaction by the media and fans about the amplified shortcomings (view, seats, ice, security, etc.) there.
The Islanders and Barclays Center would have an opt-out clause from their 25 year lease agreement after season number four, but that would mean the organization would lose their $53M per season deal to surrender control of business (ticket and mktg.) operations while playing at the Barclays Center unless a similar kind of deal could be struck with a new suitor.
Yesterday, the story gained even more attention after a mention of another possible site for the “project”, rumored to be at a vacant, 28 acre Belmont Park location in Elmont of Nassau County. Neither the Islanders or the New York Racing Association would comment on a scenario involving this rumor even with a Newsday source saying they have met several times to discuss options on the agreement, despite the fact that other groups (including NY Cosmos) have already submitted bids to develop the same property.
B.D. Gallof posted a few things on Twitter regarding the rumors based on the comments of an Isles source, “Go back to worrying about when/if a trade will be made. This is a non-story." Another said, “The ice blows at Barclays & every free agent knows it ‘was quoted to me from source who paraphrased former Isles player,” and even another, “IF team ownership decides to leave Brooklyn, being sold to outside interests (eg Quebec, Seattle, etc) WAY more likely.” So I guess it’s understood that the Brooklyn challenge is on the clock for the Islanders and the team is focused on making improvements and addressing the task at hand, there.
As long as this team is not where the die-hards want them to be in the hockey world, these kinds of rumors will continue to surface. But some of them may start to lose their steam, especially as the reign of the new ownership progresses with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin at the helm. They have impressed me so far with their commentary and a willingness to be available to fans and season ticket holders, even on the arena concourse. To this point, they have given me no reason to doubt what they have claimed in official statements.
Eric Boulton agrees to a one year, two way deal with the Islanders Organization. Arthur Staple reported, “Boulton gets $575,000/$150,000 with a guarantee of $200,000.” Boulton’s character is well known and his locker room presence is said to be valued by his team mates and therefore, by GM, Garth Snow. That is a good reason to see this seemingly strange move for Boulton, who will be 40 this summer and played in only 6 games for New York Last season. But not when you consider it as one to keep him in the organizational fold until an advisory or coaching position could be made available when Boulton retires, similar to Matt Carker.
RFA, Ryan Strome didn’t get resigned yet and isn’t arbitration eligible. Strome found himself in a bit of a struggle last season with 8 and 20 for 28 pts in 71 games with a -9 rating after scoring an impressive 50 points the season before. He tallied 1 and 4 for 5 points in 8 playoff games. Despite being sent to Bridgeport last season and being scratched in the playoffs, Strome’s 2015-16 season was a learning experience for him and he kept a strong public appearance when he spoke to the media about his situation. "It's only going to make you a better player and a better person." He never spoke negatively about the organization and kept putting the pressure back on himself whenever he had a microphone or recorder in front of him. Strome is young and still coming into to his own. I feel he is getting stronger and more experienced with each season, so the Islanders are more likely to keep working with the 5th overall, 2011 pick in the mix unless a major trade, with a very good return, can be engineered for his services. Even last week, a Strome for Kucherov package trade was rumored to have been discussed, but the Isles and Lightning were too far apart of the final details of the deal to come to an agreement. It’s all about perceived return for what they are giving up.
Lastly, I asked my followers on Twitter for what they wanted most from the Islanders in the 2016-17 season. Aside from the “winning the Stanley Cup” answer, they were pretty consistent on their very attainable desires for the team. Between the tweets and direct messages, the major things were a more intense and stronger effort throughout the season and into the post season. They demand bigger results from players like Strome, Nelson, Lee and Boychuk and almost all came down to a more consistent team that can legitimately push further in the playoffs.
All of these points are valid and quite expected, but I think that most fans of this team take the time to pay attention to what they bring each and every game and fully invest themselves into what follows each and every final score. And I am not saying their aren’t those who are quick to panic or those who fly off the handle way too early and often, but their passion and deep appreciation for the crest makes them an attentive, excitable, but long suffering fan base. Let’s hope the new direction in ownership and continued focus to build a winning team gets us all closer to our expectations of where we want them to be next season. And I wouldn’t mind another surprise or two this summer.
The Islanders will be on NBC for six games next season after a record year from NHL broadcasts on the network last season.
Sound Tigers Notes:
Sound Tigers agree to terms on contracts with F Connor Jones and D Patrick Cullity and Kane Lafranchise.