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.

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