An independent blog on the New York Islanders, the NHL and AHL by a guy from New York.

Friday, June 30, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: 2017 Free Agency Preview

Noon ET on July 1st is the start of the NHL free agency period. So tomorrow afternoon, our Islanders are on the clock to see if they make any more moves. Arthur Staple mentioned that Snow would probably not be doing too much tomorrow. “The Islanders’ eventful expansion and NHL Draft week has turned to a quiet week after. Don’t expect much to change when the opening bell on NHL free agency rings Saturday at noon.” I think the biggest question on adding a free agent would be the worth the roster spot over a Barzal, Ho-Sang or Pulock as well as the cost of a free agent acquisition against the Cap. One could also argue that the Isles need to win this year and go past the 1st round to keep a Tavares in play and that would mean a prospect should not be relied upon due to risk. A second liner and veteran D are all the buzz.

After the moves made at the expansion draft and the signing of Jordan Eberle, Snow has around $9.4M (Cap Friendly) remaining under the Cap. That doesn’t include the qualifying offers extended to Adam Pelech & Calvin de Haan (Connor Jones, Christopher Gibson.) What that means, is that Staple is probably more right than not. It also means the Isles will need to make a trade or two to free up more cap space if they want to add a “top 6” forward or veteran D-man after the bell rings tomorrow. Rumors are present and names have been dropped, but the Isles could do absolutely nothing until the season gets closer. Wouldn’t the fans love that. They could wait until the right deal finds them or they can simply announce contracts they need to fill before the season starts and ride out the wave into the start of the 2017-18 season.

The John Tavares announcement is rumored to be tied with a new arena in Belmont Park. It’s also possible that JT waits to see a little more than just the Eberle addition to commit long term. The Impending $13M McDavid extension rumor may add fuel to JT’s salary fire, or Tavares may take his earlier report $8-10M rumored deal and work with the organization to add more pieces than pad his pocket. A home-town discount similar to what Steven Stamkos did in his last negotiation with Tampa Bay. Only time will tell.

But IF the Islanders do make a trade or two, adding a piece or two they feel will help the Tavares signing and strengthen the team beyond its current incarnation, the right fit in skill, personality and price is necessary. Not knowing, I can only speculate on what is in Snows head. It’s safe to assume, the Duchene saga is all but over, unless time will weaken Sakic’s resolve with an unhappy distraction in his line up for Colorado. If that happens for the Isles, it must be a deal without Barzal in play. With harmonic gone, I agree with the experts, it’s a very unlikely probability Duchene becomes an Islander. Especially with other teams actively in the mix as we speak. And with Hamonic gone to Calgary, it’s even more unlikely. 

This just in per Brian Lawton:

“Working on 2 rumours involving @EdmontonOilers Draisaitl @Avalanche trade for Duchene & @SanJoseSharks interest in him. Lot of moving parts!” 

So there’s that.

That leaves a select list in my mind. Valuable, lower cost, skilled players that will add without taking too much back in return. That cannot be an easy deal to pull off with a GM not named Peter Chiarelli. For me, only a few players would help the Isles more than the players they already have without breaking the talent pool or salary cap bank. Rumors of Isles showing interest in Justin Williams and Andrei Markov are known, but what will they or anyone else cost them?

My unlikely, but fun to speculate dark horses could be an aging 35 yr old Joe Throton ($6.7M) or 45 yr old Jaromir Jagr ($4M) if they somehow agree to a greatly reduced, cap friendly, 1 year deal. Both are older, but have the experience and could still produce in the short term. Thorton (7 & 43 for 50pts in 79 games) & Jagr (16 & 30 for 46 pts in 82 games) have the size and hands to still get points. Radim Vrbata has always on my want list, but at 36, can he still (20 & 30 for 55 pts in 81 games last season and a -18 rating with ARZ) be a fit with NY? Thomas Vanek scored 48 points with Florida last season, but former Isles chemistry aside, it’s just not worth the distraction and drama in my opinion.

Defensively, my addition would be 38 yr old, All-Star and Cup winner, Brian Campbell. Campbell (5 & 12 for 17 pts in 80 games with a +12) could be a stop gap on defense, currently with a $1.5M cap hit. If a 1 year deal could be worked out, he should be able to help the defensive scheme. I’ve always like Ron Hainsey, but at a $2.8M hit last season, the 37 yr old isn’t as much of a value with 4 & 13 for 17 pts in 72 games with a -8 rating.

If trades are made for cap space and the Isles want to add from outside the organization, the following guys make the most sense to me, if they could get them signed away in such a high-priced market:

#5 Minesota’s 6’6, 226# Martin Hanzal. At 30, Hanzal had a career high in goals (20) and 39 pts (Arizona & Minnesota.) Hanzal is hard to move off the puck and excels in the faceoff circle. An area in which the Isles are desperate to improve. Hanzal had a $3.1M cap hit last season.

#4 Pittsburgh’s 6’1, 196# Nick Bonino. Bonino had 18 & 19 for 37 pts last season and at 29, is still ready to add to his game. He is a face off and PP specialist. Wouldn’t that be a nice addition. But after coming off back-to-back Cup wins, Bonino may be looking to also add to his $1.9M cap hit from last season.

#3 Columbus’ 5’11, 200# Sam Gagner, 27 had a career high 18 & 32 for 50 pts in 81 games last season. Gagner is a solid two-way player with an offensive flair. He will most likely be looking for a big raise after his $650K pay day last season and probably won’t want to leave CBJ if they want him back.

#2 Washington’s 6’1, 188# Justin Williams is a 3-time champion, known for his secondary scoring touch and clutch play-off acumen. He had 24 & 24 for 48 pts last season in 80 games with a +14 rating. Williams, 35 had a $3.25M cap hit last season. B.D. Gallof reminds us, “Both Ladd & Weight played for Carolina in 2005-2006 with Justin Williams. Chimera and Williams played on Caps 2015-16.”

#1 Montreal’s 6’1, 210# Alex Galchenyuk is 23 years old and had an off year last season, going 17 & 27 for 44 pts in 61 games. Prior to that, he tallied 56 points and with Montreal looking towards Markov and Radulov, there could be a way to land Galchenyuk, who had a $2.8M cap hit last season. And New York is a big sports market, but it’s not Montreal.

Let’s see what the next few days bring.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: 2017 Blue & White Scrimmage

Tonight, our New York Islanders had their Blue & White scrimmage at the Norwell Health Ice Center Isles practice facility in Eisenhower Park. It was a fitting culmination of the team’s mini-camp, where prospects and invitees (and Islanders’ Ice Girls) take the ice for an inter-squad game to showcase the possible future of the organization. Everyone obviously anxious to see names like Ho-Sang, Beauvillier, Barzal, Dal Colle, D. Toews, Bellows, McAdam & Soderstrom take the ice. Arthur Staple said Isles goaltending prospect, Ilya Sorokin was not attending prospect camp and is still slated to play his last season in the KHL this year.

For this year’s Islanders training camp, I would expect the highly talented Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock have a shot to make this year’s team (along with Adam Pelech & Scott Mayfield) and help offensively, and on the blueline and special teams right from the start. Anthony Beauvillier, Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle are forwards that will work hard to make an impression. Brian Compton was quoted “… he (Bellows) plans on playing one season in Portland. Wants to play in NHL in 2018-19.” BST Goaltender, Eamon McAdam was also involved in the tournament. He went 15-8 in Bridgeport last season with a 2.90 gaa and an .897 Sv%.

AHL, All-Rookie Defensemen, Devon Toews and SHL, title winning goaltender for HV71, Sweden, Linus Soderstrom were the reported standouts from this week’s camp. Toews showed blistering speed, a complete defensive game and league leading 41 assists last season with the Sound Tigers. He may be closer than some people think for a call up to the NHL if he keeps playing at the level he did last season. “He’s played himself into a great conversation,” Weight said of Toews. “We have some great depth on D and it allows you to do some things like we saw last week. Confident kid, great skater, puck mover. When you play like that you’re going to get a look for sure.”

6’4, Linus Soderstrom gets a chance to take center stage with Sorokin not at camp and Isles fans should be excited about the talent he may bring to the Isles net for the future. Soderstrom had the best goals-against average in the Champions HL, with a 1.34 over 22 games. “He started as a backup goalie with his club team and by Christmas he was the starting goalie, which I actually thought would happen,” Isles head scout Vellu Kautonen said of Soderstrom. “He’s getting better every week, every month, every time I see him. His focus has always been there, he competes. They won the club championship and he was a big part of it. His numbers were great. One more year in Sweden and I think we have an NHL goalie." Soderstrom was excited to be a part of camp. "The Islanders are a great organization. Everything is first class and I'm just loving every second of it here."

Last year’s late-season difference maker, Josh Ho-Sang also made news early this year, for all the right reasons. Ho-Sang embraced a leadership role early on, sharing his BST and Isles on-ice experience with the other guys at camp. He also looked ahead to making the Islanders for the upcoming season, promising that he will do all he can to impress the coaches and earn a spot. “I want to be one of the best players at camp. For me it's about coming in and being an exceptional player on both sides of the puck.” Ho-Sang also showed his excitement for the acquisition of Jordan Eberle, calling him “a top right-wing in the league.”

Most of this seasons' draft picks are in attendance, most notably D, Robin Salo, the Isles 46th pick overall. It should also be noted that Alex Vukota, son of former Islanders enforcer and soul player Mick Vukota, was invited to camp to showcase his defensive abilities. 

Tonight’s event would feature 3 different games. In game 1, its Blue Team vs White Team, in game 2, its Team Blue vs Team, Blue-White and the White Team vs the Blue & White Team in game 3. Rosters could be found here thanks to Cory Wright.


Game 1: Josh Ho-Sang, Dalton Hunter, Ryan Hitchcock and Micah Miller (ENG) scored for Team Blue in game 1. Eamon McAdam looked solid in net for the Blue squad. Brett Macrones made it 4-1 and Kieffer Bellows scored in the final seconds for Team White. Team Blue took the win by a 4-2 score.

Ho-Sang, Barzal, Miller and McAdam played well for Team Blue. Bellows had some nice moves for Team White.

Game 2: Ho-Sang, Kubiak, Jordan, Hitchcock scored for Team Blue in game 2. Wotherspoon scored for Team Blue-White. Team Blue won by a 4-1 final.

Ho-Sang, Hitchcock played well for Team Blue again. Wotherspoon was impressive for Team Blue-White.

Game 3:
Eansor scores 2 in the game for Team White. Marnell scored for Team Blue-White with the goalie pulled. Team Blue won by a 2-1 score.

Soderstrom played a good game in net, especially late in the game and Eansor was very good for Team White. Meyers and Wotherspoon were impressive for Blue-White.

Skills Competition:


Ho-Sang denied by Mitens, Barzal denied by Soderstrom, Bellows stopped by Mitens, Dal Colle stopped by Soderstrom, Vande Sompel denied by Mitens, Beauvillier flubs against Soderstrom.

Hardest Shot

Bellows – 63mph, 61mph & 91mph, 96mph (off net), Quennville – 71mph, 91mph, Jordan – 91mph, 87mph, Toews – 96mph, 96mph (off net), Hanson -91mph, 99mph, Salo – 86mph, 85mph. Apparently, gun was off net and Bellows was permitted to reshoot.

Breakaway (Mundinger and Jaillet-Goalies)

Contest was way too fast to track. Apparently, White made a comeback and outscored Blue, 5-1 to win the night.

Standouts on the night:

OK, it wasn’t an easy scrimmage to follow with a raw broadcast, bad audio and video drops, but I did my best. There were several players who did a lot of things well, but a few really made me notice them. Josh Ho-Sang had 4 points on the night and contributed in the skills competition, dominating as expected. Mathew Barzal played exactly as advertised. He was good in both zones and made things happen on the ice. Ryan Hitchcock looked at ease and played a big role for team Blue’s successes.

Kieffer Bellows looked much stronger this time around. Scott Eansor looked solid in game 3, scoring both goals for his team. Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle and Devon Toews made some noise as well.

Parker Wotherspoon was everywhere and really got noticed on defense and in the offensive zone. Remember his name.

Eamon McAdam and Linus Soderstrom stood out among the goaltenders, making big saves and looking positionally sound. As expected.

Prospects looked good, especially when you have a mix of juniors, college, elite, premiere and high school players all holding their own. And they played an entertaining game that was fun to watch.

Free agency opens on Saturday and Arthur Staple just mentioned Garth Snow is not expected to be major player in free agency. It needs to be all about winning and keeping JT happy in a Post-McDavid, extension era. We could hear of JT's contract extension and an Arena deal announced soon, as previously discussed. Opportunity may come for something bigger than expected in the market or on the trade front. Barzal and Pulock may indeed fit the immediate plan while Nelson and Pelech are relied upon to step up, but there needs to be another move or two coming for the Islanders.

Per Arthur Staple, “#Isles have reached out to pending UFA Justin Williams, according to his agent. Long list of suitors, would be an interesting fit.”

Per Andy Graziano, “Told #isles had a 'conversation' with Radulov reps, more focused on trade front right now.”

Onto Saturday and into the rest of the summer. Let’s see where this goes. It’s been fun so far. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Isles Notes:

The Islanders extended qualifying offers to Connor Jones, Adam Pelech, Calvin de Haan and Christopher Gibson.

Per Staple, “Just catching up, believe #Isles did not make qualifying offers to D Loic Leduc, D Jesse Graham, D Matt Finn and G Stephon Williams.”

Per Arthur Staple, “Kelly Buchberger is at #Isles prospect camp, announcement of his hiring to come later this week.”

“Greg Cronin is also there is his new role as associate head coach. Still an important staffer for Doug Weight.”

“And former NHL goaltender Fred Brathwaite is at camp observing and consulting. No word yet on whether he'll have a more permanent role.”

Per B.D. Gallof, "I just flat-out asked on Friday whether or not (JVR) was offered ... message that I got back from #isles was no."

BST Coach, Brett Thompson’s son, Tyce invited to NYR mini-camp in Greenberg, N.Y.

NHL Notes:

Per NHL Rumors, “Sources tell me Ilya Kovalchuk has put in a trade request to NYR and CBJ only. Those are 2 teams he would accept deal to... more to follow.”

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: The Islanders 2017 NHL Entry Draft Review

Our New York Islanders had no action on day 1 of the NHL Entry Draft after they traded the 15th overall to VGK a few days ago for “protection” in the Expansion Draft. They entered day 2 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft with 4 picks and a desire to add talent to their system. Per Erick Hornick, “#Isles currently have 4 picks in this weekend's draft: 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th (all their own). Fewest picks NYI ever made is 5 – 2007.”

With the 46th pick, the Islanders selected D, Robin Salo. The 6’, 185# left shooting defensemen from Vaasan Sport (SM-Liiga) is known for the solid skill set showcased in the Finnish Elite league. There, Salo was a top pairing, shut down D-Man with an offensive upside. He has even played the role of forward when called upon and was awarded the league’s the top scoring rookie title. He has been called a position-ally sound defensemen that starts and joins the rush well, but needs work on his skating and footwork.

The Islanders chose D Benjamin Mirageas from Chicago Steel of the USHL with the 77th selection. Mirageas is a 6’1, 174#, left shooting D that helped Chicago turn the tide, en-route to its first ever 2016-17 Clark Cup Championship. Noted as a good pass making D-man, Mirageas has play making ability and works hard. It is noted that he has been improving in his on-ice decision making and working at refining his overall play.

D, Sebastian Aho from Skelleftea AIK of the Chamions HL joins the Islanders system after being selected 139th. The 5’10, 176# left shooting, mobile defensemen with high hockey IQ and ability to read the opposition well. He is a strong skater who moves the puck and can be relied on in any scenario. Per Arthur Staple, “Kautonen said 5th-round D Sebastian Aho, who is already 21 and just finished his fourth pro year in Sweden, could play in BPT next season.”

The LA Kings traded the 165th pick to Isles for a 6th rounder in 2018. With it, the Isles selected 5’11, 181#, Halifax LW Arneaud Durandeau. Durandeau is noted for his speed and having a good shot to go along with his feisty, agitating style of play. He’s a PP specialist who possesses strong stick skills and passing ability. He moves the puck well and is always ready to jump into the play. He tends to be a little undisciplined and his active stick racks up PIMs.

With the 201st pick, the Isles select LW Logan Cockerill of USNTDP. Cockerill is small at 5’9, 163#, but the quick, hardworking winger works hard in a 3 zones and checks hard. Is known for strong two-way game and PK skills and good vision of the ice. He needs work on puck skills and scoring touch.

The Islanders must be happy with their goal-depth and went with what they felt was most needed in the system based on their faith in Sorokyn and Soderstrom and the low number of picks. Per Arthur Staple, “Asked #Isles head scout Vellu Kautonen about G Linus Soderstrom: ‘One more year in Sweden and I think we have an NHL goaltender’ … Also asked Kautonen about G Ilya Sorokin. Still hopeful Sorokin will come to North America after next season/Olympics, but not a sure thing.”

The Draft seemed a little low key, based on anticipation of a “big” Travis Hamonic trade, but we can finally look ahead to free agency.

I feel the need for a top forward is still a thing the Isles need to address to stay relevant in the eyes of John Tavares and the race to be better. Time will tell if a deal for a Matt Duchene or Alex Galchenyuk type of player is possible, but the cost seems to be too high. There will be short term UFA options open as well. Hanzal, Gagner or even Jagr could make sense if the opportunity is there and the need arises. Whatever happens, something solid needs to be done to shure up the Isles forwards until prospects like Barzal are ready to make noise. The Metro is a tough division and the teams around the Isles are getting better. The Isles need to keep up.

“This was a situation that we felt we could capitalize on bringing in some assets, whether we use those in the future in the draft or use them as a currency in a future player transaction,” per Garth Snow. “I don’t envision anything happening here in the next two days but that can always change,” he said. “We feel like we have a good hockey team. We have a team that’s built for now and for the future. You look at our prospects and the draft picks and we also have the ability to use some of those assets to bring in a player that can improve our club in the near-term.

Per Arthur Staple on the stalled deal for Duchene, “Two league sources said Pat Brisson, Duchene’s agent (also the agent for John Tavares), is seriously unhappy with Sakic’s foot-dragging on a deal. That could lead to a reduced price tag later on should Snow still be interested.”

Snow is “100% inclined” to use any available assets to improve the Islanders for next season. Hopefully, other GM’s will be as inclined.

Isles Notes:

Jordan Eberle will wear #7 for the Islanders.

Per Kevin Dexter, “24 #NHL players have scored 20 or more goals in each of the last 4 seasons. #Isles now have 3 of them - Tavares, Ladd & Eberle.”

The Isles 2017-18 schedule has been announced.

Jack Capuano has been named an associate coach by the Florida Panthers

Saturday, June 24, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Islanders Trade Travis Hamonic to Calgary Flames for Picks

The event of the week was the impending trade of Travis Hamonic. Since the deadline, Matt Duchene was the number 1 target on the Isles list. The price was said to be too high, so it didnt happen. Rumors had Sakic turning down Hamonic, MDC (assuming) and a 2018 1st for Duchene as late as yesterday, so the Isles would look elsewhere. Toronto and Calgary were very interested in Hamonic at the open of NHL Entry Draft, day 2. Talks of a deal with Toronto was rumored to lose traction when JVR was apparently not willing to waive his no-trade and talk extension. Around 11 a.m., Elliotte Friedman mentioned Calgary had made a deal with New York. Hamonic said he wanted to play in western Canada last year and now he will. The news came out that Hamonic's Mother is not doing well once again and the need to relocate was probably behind his trade. Travis Hamonic on Garth Snow, "Garth is probably one of the most loyal, if not the most loyal, people I've met in my lifetime so far." A post trade interview can be found here.

Class Act and longtime Islanders D, Travis Hamonic goes to Calgary with Isles 4th round selection in ‘19, for Calgary’s 1st round pick in ‘18, and two 2nds. A 2nd in ’18 and a 2nd in’19 or ’20, conditions apply and an "exclusively future return," per Staple, while Flames also get a ’19 or ‘20 4th round pick back, conditions apply. It takes $4M off their cap ($9.5M cap space) to sign RFA de Haan and aid in their pursuit of an elite forward. It wasn’t exactly the 2 first round picks Snow wanted, but it was close. Hamonic (3 years left at $3.857 per) leaves the Islanders with 3 and 11 in 49 games last season. 26 goals and 120 assists in 444 career games.

I wasn’t OK with the trade if Snow only got a couple of picks for a tough, passionate and sound Hamonic, unless they were components for a part of a bigger trade to come to get that elusive top rung center. It’s also important to remember that Hamonic has had 2 rough years and may be on the decline.

The Isles blue line looks like this. Leddy, Boychuk, de Haan, Seidenberg & Hickey. Ryan Pulock now has a real opportunity to make the team out of camp and more will be expected of Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield for sure. Do not forget about Devon Toews, especially after the year he had with the BST.

We need to see how the rest of the day goes and remember the July 1st free agency is coming up. We need to see what comes out of it before initial judgement can be passed. 

That's not saying I don't think you have a right to be a little nervous or concerned. There is a lot at stake.

My full draft recap should be up by tomorrow. Thanks.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Islanders Acquire Eberle for Strome

Garth Snow made a few waves yesterday and he didnt stop today.  In the first major event of the day following the expansion draft, our New York Islanders acquired Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Ryan Strome. Eberle scored 51 points (20 & 31) in 82 games last season. It's his 4th straight season of scoring 20 goals or more (28, 24,25,20) and has tallied 382 points in his 7 seasons as an Oiler. The 27 year old Eberle comes to the Islanders with a $6M cap hit over Strome at $2.5M. This and any other moves to be made, made it necessary for Garth Snow to move Grabovski’s $5M out of New York’s cap. He also plays at a higher level and is strong on the power play. Something the Islanders desperately need.

"We're excited to add a proven offensive weapon like Jordan to our lineup," said Snow. "He brings speed and a knack for scoring not only consistently, but scoring big goals, in big games. Jordan brings leadership and experience into our room, qualities that will continue to help us build towards our goals of being a consistent playoff contender and winning the Stanley Cup."   

Jordan Eberle was Edmonton’s 22nd overall selection in the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft. As an alternate Captain for the Oil and a 2 time All-Star, Eberle should help the Islanders with the skill, leadership and depth they need in a player slotted as a top 6 forward. Internationally, Eberle won a Gold with John Tavares at the WJC tournament in 2009 and helped Canada to a Silver with an MVP performance in 2010.

We all know how good Ryan Strome can be. But the truth is that he has struggled with consistency and of the talented young forwards, would most likely be the one to be moved. Strome (Isles 5th overall pick in 2011) leaves the Islanders with 126 points in 4 NHL seasons. When the team needs to take the next step, its hard as a fan to see certain players move on, but it takes an asset to gain one. Eberle seems to be a better fit for the Islanders and if his chemistry meshes, should thrive on the 1st or 2nd line. It is well documented that Eberle and new Isles assistant coach, Kelly Buchberger have a not-so-rosy history, but that shouldn’t matter moving forward. Its Doug Weight’s team and Eberle can come to another top market and continue his career making a bigger name for himself in New York with long-time friend, John Tavares and revel in a change of scenery. He makes a difference on the ice and as it stands now, an upgrade offensively for the Islanders.

Eberle: "I'm super excited to be a part of the Islanders organization. Also grateful for the chance the Oilers gave me coming into the NHL ... The Islanders are a storied franchise, a lot of winning past. You want to bring that love of the game back to the fans … The Islanders are a tough team to play against and have a lot of potential. I'm excited to be part of that."

The rumors for Duchene, Galchenyuk, Neal and JVR continue to swirl. I like the trade, but is Snow done? 

Probably not.

Isles Notes:

Per Pierre LeBrun: "I don't sense any urgency, that they feel they have to move Travis Hamonic. But I think they'll do it for the right move."

Per Bob McKenzie: "There's word on the street that maybe the #Isles are asking for as much as two first-round picks" for Hamonic.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: Islanders and the Expansion Draft Results

The NHL expansion draft results were infused throughout the NHL awards tonight. Fans of all the NHL teams waited to see who was lost from their team and what trades went down. The first thing to consider was who was on your teams protected list. And who was not.

The New York Islanders Protected list looked like this:

Ladd, Lee, Tavares, Boychuk, Hamonic, Leddy, Pelech, Pulock, Greiss. That’s 3 forwards, 5 D and a goalie not named Halak. As discussed, Vegas could select up to one player from each of the 30 NHL teams.

Isles Twitter went nuts after that list was released over the weekend. Pelech! Pelech over de Haan! But as the days passed, and rumors swelled, it seemed Garth Snow may come out of this week looking a little smooth with the moves he apparently put in motion. With so many fans ready to storm the gates already, it was something a lot of us needed to see and process going into next season. That included John Tavares I assume, who is now rumored to be willing to enter next season without an extension, to see how things really start to come together.

Back to those rumors starting last weekend:

Later on Saturday, Darren Dreger made it worse (or better), “…Snow is in a number of conversations, hoping to land a top 6 forward. Team to watch.”

“Montreal and the Islanders tell me they're done for the day. Potentially, two big players next week.”

Buzz of the Islanders in talks with Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk broke the surface prior to the trade freeze last Saturday at 3 p.m. Couple that with the ever-present Duchene, Eberle and even Landeskog rumors, and fans were calming down a little at the possibilities of adding this level of talent to the team. The fears of what it would cost the Islanders to land players of these calibers were also prominent. Players like Hamonic, Hickey, de Haan, Cizikas and Bailey were just a few being talked about. It was just a matter of time to see how all of these things started to shake out.

George McPhee and the Vegas Golden Knights were permitted to start dealing w teams during the freeze. In the expansion format, there was nothing keeping McPhee from taking “bribes” from the other 30 teams to “protect” and/or steer Vegas into selecting players of their choice in the Expansion Draft. I also expected teams could say, “Hey I like that guy from their unprotected list. If you were to select him, we’d give you X.” I also assumed the side deals would be many. Pierre LeBrun mentioned, “My understanding is that VGK have secured via trades about 10 draft picks spread out over 3 years. So far anyway. Plus there are deals for players and three-way trades VGK also involved in. Some revealed tonight. Others tomorrow.”

Rumors from all-over had Garth Snow and the Islanders giving up the 15th pick and a player/prospect to be named later to Vegas so they would select Nikolay Kulemin, and/or perhaps take on the remaining salary of injured, Mikhail Grabovski. It also sounded like it was intended to “protect” other exposed forwards from being selected. This would enable the Islanders to free up to a possible $9M of cap space to pursue “prime” target acquisitions in the coming weeks, protect valued assets and move players they felt were movable. McPhee has a history with Snow, being his first agent during his playing days and serving as an advisor prior to landing the GM role with Vegas. Don’t forget that the Cap range will go from $55.4M to a ceiling of $75M for next season.

The players protected or the bribes paid were most likely part of a master plan. Snow has a list of players to keep, shed and possibly dangle as the team tries to upgrade for next season. Those players kept away from the grasp of Vegas could be kept, or be put in-play for big trades to follow. And who really knows how many moving parts this plan really has until it reveals itself. Trade scenarios are often evolving, depending on who may come into and out of the market at the time of choosing. The trade dominos will start to fall on Thursday morning, but the real picture will Start to take shape after the first few days on free agency, starting July 1st.

Here’s what actually went down on Wednesday night at the expansion draft for the Islanders:

This afternoon, Bob McKenzie stated the Isles expansion deal with Vegas was the Isles 1st round pick this year (15th overall) AND often injured, Mikhail Grabovski ($5M hit for this season) to have Vegas select UFA, JF Berube as the player claimed from New York. The Isles will also send Vegas their 2nd round selection in 2019 and D prospect Jake Bischoff. A price well worth the extra that Snow paid for the Isles to look ahead to the NHL Entry Draft and open to Free Agency.

Garth Snow did some maneuvering to free up significant cap space held by Grabovski and to off load JF Berube, an unrestricted free agent who was not getting resigned for the upcoming season anyway to Vegas. This is a great first step for Snow who is rumored to have more things drop over the next few days with most assets in tact. Isles country will be paying attention after the trade freeze is lifted at 8 a.m. tomorrow. That’s for sure.

The other news to come out of Vegas were the new Adidas Jersey reveal for all 31 teams next season. The New York Islanders kept their traditional look mostly intact. The only differences I saw were a more ornate collar on each version and a blue ring around the logo on the white jersey. They look pretty nice.

Isles Notes:

The Islanders will strt off in Columbus on October 6th with their 2017-18 home opener is against the Buffalo Sabers on Saturday, October 7th at 7 p.m. Full schedule will be released tomorrow, 6/22.

Jack Capuano was rumored to be in line for an assistant coaching position with the Sabers. Stay tuned.

Travis Hamonic is the 2017 NHL Foundation Player Award winner.

Per Greg Wyshynski, “NHL says we'll have 24-26 teams with @adidas third jerseys for 2018-19 season. Some old designs, some completely new.”

The Belmont Park redevelopment will be on the agenda for a public hearing in July.

Per NY Post, “The owners of the New York Islanders have been trying to sell a minority stake in the NHL club for months — but have not had any luck, The Post has learned. The owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, are looking to sell a 15 percent stake at a $500 million valuation, three sources close to the situation said.”

Per B.D. Gallof, “minority investor story: All about cash infusion: if new arena materializes will need $ as revenue takes massive hit in Bridge years.”

Per Renaud Lavoie, “Alexei Yashin is in Vegas. Could get involved with the Golden Knights as a minority owner.”

Sound Tigers Notes:

Travis St. Denis will return on an AHL deal in 2017-18. 

Kyle Okposo could be ready for Sabres Camp.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New York Islanders Off-Season: KoC 2017 Entry & Expanison Draft Preview

John Tavares is willing to wait in order to sign with the New York Islanders. He likes it here and has always been a team guy, but he also wants to win. His agent, Pat Brisson, mentioned that he and his client like the way the off-season has gone so far for the organization based on the changes with the coaching staff. They are probably waiting to see how the roster will look as the July 1st open to the free agency period gets closer. Per Arthur Staple, “If -- and that's a big if -- the #Isles decide to trade Tavares, there's about a 0.0 percent chance they deal with a team in the division. Meanwhile, nothing has been decided with Tavares. Still hearing he's leaning towards staying.” B.D. Gallof adds, “I'll say it again ... according to #isles teammates, JT will re-sign. Take it for what it’s worth. (lot more than rumor du jour, I think).”

As many speculate, the Isles will probably trade/package their 1st round pick (15th overall) for an impact player. And for the first time in quite a while, several of the Isles 2017 picks could be traded to sweeten a deal or two for players they feel are ready to help them improve, right now. That doesn’t mean there is no chance they draft a prospect that is on their list, I’m just saying picks should be far less important this year because John Tavares, the ownership and the rest of Isles country want to win now.

Rumors swirling around Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from Edmonton and Isles favorite fan target, Matt Duchene from Colorado have been bouncing around since the season deadline came and went. At the time, it was said the price was too high for either player to be added to the Islanders roster. Will that change next week? I am more of a Duchene fan, but the cost should be steep. Per @NHLRumorsDaily, “From what I've been hearing, Avs and Isles talked centered around a Barzal and Hamonic for Duchene deal … Folks, im giving you what I hear and stand by what my sources tell me. NYI have an offer for Duchene and its just Hamonic as far as i know.” Gord Miller of TSN says the Isles are front runners. There also seems to be a cool-down on Eberle, “Hearing talks between NYI & EDM have cooled down. EDM not willing to give up RNH just yet, but NYI still keen on just Eberle.” And the Kovalchuk rumors have swirled about the metro-area since he announced he may want to play in the NHL again. Per Arthur Staple on Kovalchuk, “#Isles not interested either, from what I've heard.” That’s a good thing to me. And I'm sure there are a slew of targets off most of our collective radar.

The New York islanders have the 1st round/15th selection, 2nd/46th, 3rd/77th, 5th/139th, 7th/201st picks in the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago on Friday, 6/23 and Saturday, 6/24. Focusing on the first round, there are a few good options available for New York to replace a few likely-to-transition players like Josh Ho-Sang, Adam Pelech & Scott Mayfield, especially with expansion implications in-play.

My KoC list of possible players Isles can draft with the 15th pick:

1) Martin Necas, C, Kometa Brno (Czech), 6’0 – 169#
A strong, fast skater with good ability to open the ice and create scoring opportunities on net or to a team-mate. Captained the Czech Repulic at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, netting 6 points in the tourney.

2) Juuso Valimaki, LD, Tri-City (WHL), 6’2, 201#
Strong, two-way, dependable D-Man who can give big minutes and add an offensive threat to the rush. He is known for his vision and playmaking ability.

3) Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC), 6’3, 185#
A very smart and quick forward who can change the flow and tilt of a game instantly. Creates offensive opportunities out of nothing with strong skating and is hard to separate from the puck.

4) Nicholas Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL), 5’11, 183#
Smallish Center who is improving each season. A gifted passer, known for a combination of hockey IQ, skating prowess and calm under pressure. Known as an “underrated finisher.”

5) Lias Andersson, C-LW, HV71 (SWE), 5’11, 198#
A gritty, two-way forward, an excellent skater that is quick off the line and highly mobile. Good at creating chances and has good hands. Strong work ethic and natural leader.

The last time the New York Islanders were slotted at pick number fifteen, Snow picked Ryan Pulock at the 2013 Draft. I expect a possibility of moving some later picks along with prospects or rostered players over the next few weeks to make deals happen. I’m not saying they will trade all of them either. They usually always draft a goaltender and a defensemen to replenish the prospect pool in the system. OHL D-Man Lyle Brady could be a 2nd round target and Dylan Coghlan may still be available in the 3rd round when the Isles are scheduled to select. As far as goaltenders, I like OHL Memorial Cup winner, Michael DiPietro (not related) a lot, but I suspect he will be taken earlier than the Isles can select him. He was awarded the HAP EMMS Memorial Trophy as “Outstanding Goaltender” and also named to the Memorial Cup All-Star team. Stuart Skinner (WHL) might not be around either. That would be because the big, athletic, goal scoring netminder has been called one of the most exciting prospects since Carey Price. His disappointing performance at last spring’s U18 tournament might help him slide into the Islanders grasp and only add to the Isles already strong goaltending depth.

The NHL Expansion Draft will be on Wednesday, June 21st. The Vegas Golden Knights have the option to poach quality players from the other 30 teams in the league and they should be competitive right from the start. At least when they find their chemistry. Under the expansion selection rules, each of the 30 NHL teams will lose exactly one player to the Vegas Golden Knights. Some teams have asked lower claim-risk, older or higher paid players with a no-move clause in their contract, to wave them in order to protect other key, non-protected players, based on the risk they would be more likely claimed by Las Vegas. To my knowledge, the Isles didn’t ask any players waive their no-move clause. The Islanders went through a similar process when they came into the NHL in 1972.

Certain GM’s may already have a relationship with Golden Knights GM, George McPhee. Garth Snow and he know each other well, and Snow may be able to broker a deal that involves prospects or picks that might keep McPhee away from a rostered player that Snow may want to retain, or even trade for a more important team asset. Islanders defensemen, Calvin de Haan and to a lesser extent, Thomas Hickey have been the chosen targets of several analysists in the hockey world to be sought by the Vegas Golden Knights from the Islanders. I believe all teams can protect (seven forwards, three defensemen or eight skaters. I’d say based on value (and NMC), the Isles will protect players they expect would be taken based on overall value, skill, etc. A commonly seen and probable list of possibilities include John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic and Thomas Greiss is a most likely scenario for the Isles to protect. Injured NHL players, like Islanders forward, Mikhail Grabovski are exempt from upcoming Vegas expansion, per NHL Players Asscoaition Guidelines.

On defense, the Hamonic-de Haan protection debate is a valid one based on injury history, but NY probably values cornerstone, Travis Hamonic over a skilled Calvin de Haan, who has improved each season he has played with the Isles IMO. Per @incarceratedbob, “Underrated/underappreciated Dman Calvin de Haan has 5 teams chasing #Leafs #Sabres #Oilers leading charge #Vegas #Kings in it. Bad idea if Snow moves de Haan for draft pick.. real bad 26 years old, eats up minutes, stays healthy + improves yearly Don't do it.” The forwards Nelson-Strome debate is another point of contention to some fans. While both have been lights-out at times, they have also struggled. Strome is currently a bigger question mark than Nelson to me.

Other valuable players like Cal Clutterbuck or Jaroslav Halak probably wouldn’t be chosen based on age, salary, etc, but you never know. The Isles also have some blue chips (you already know the list) ready to jump off this season, which would make a second-tier loss, a seemingly more acceptable sacrifice in the eyes of the organization. And Matthew Barzal made a huge splash this summer after helping Seattle win their first ever WHL title while also being named playoff MVP.

Per Bob McKenzie, “For those asking, NHL trade/waiver freeze and signing moratorium runs from 3 pm ET Sat. June 17 until 8 am ET Thur June 22. EXCEPT... Beginning 10 am ET on Sun June 18, VGK can make deals with other clubs tho those 30 clubs can only make deals with VGK until freeze ends.”

The trades have already started last night and the Islanders should be looking to move some pieces around. We must wait and see if any are moved prior to the Draft or July 1st start of free agency or summer and into camp. Right now, Garth Snow has the wheel. 

Let’s hope he keeps the Islanders on course.

Isles Notes:

Per Islanders, Isles announce a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum on Sept. 17 vs. the Flyers, play Rangers in preseason games on 9/18 and then at the home of the BST on 9/22 at Webster Bank Arena.

6/8       Brian Compton, "Greg Cronin will remain on #Isles coaching staff next season."

6/14     According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, Kelly Buchberger to the Isles Coaching Staff is coming.

Steve Bernier has agreed to terms on a two-year, two-way (NHL/AHL) deal.

Brett Yormark: Won’t change Barclays Center to try to keep Islanders.

NY top court blocks Willets West mall near Citi Field.

Mike Bossy’s letter to his younger self from Player’s Tribute.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The #SoundTigers have signed Matt Gaudreau (F) for the 2017-18 season.

NHL Notes:

Per @CapFriendly, “NHL Buyout window is now officially open. Two players, Greene #Kings & Girardi #Rangers, have already been made aware they'll be bought out.”

SB Nation, “NHL salary cap could see unusually high rise in 2017-18, per report.”