This impending offseason could determine the future of the Islanders. Many big names such as John Tavares, Josh Bailey, James Neal, Evander Kane, etc are due for new contracts in 2018 free agency. For the Isles, Tavares, Bailey, Jaroslav Halak, Jason Chimera, Calvin de Haan, Stephen Gionta, Nikolay Kulemin, Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg, and Seth Helgeson will test the market this summer. With so many free agents, it is virtually impossible to retain them all, but who should stay and who should go?
Who Should Go: Nikolay Kulemin, Dennis Seidenberg, Jaroslav Halak, Jason Chimera, and Seth Helgeson (AHL)
Nikolay Kulemin: 1 goal, 2 assists, 13 games
Kulemin played for the Islanders for four seasons as a third or fourth liner that does the dirty work and is a great penalty killer. The NHL is leaning towards fast and finesse, not grueling physicality. There are many players in the organization that can be consistent on the special teams unit such as Stephen Gionta or Steve Bernier. Nikolay Kulemin was paid over 16 million dollars in four seasons, and his contract is expiring this offseason. He was highly overpaid and deserved anywhere from one-to-two million dollars. I enjoyed watching Kulemin play over the past four years, yet the Islanders could have gotten a player of his skill for half the price. His contract cost the Islanders some salary cap issues over the past couple of years. I wish Nikolay the best of luck with the rest of his playing career, but it will not be in orange and blue (unless he plays for the Edmonton Oilers).
Dennis Seidenberg: 3 assists, 14 games
Dennis Seidenberg has been an Islander for two seasons. He provided a veteran presence and is a reliable eighth defenseman. Seidenberg has done what was asked of him, yet it is time for him to retire. His glory days as a Boston Bruin is over, and while Dennis had a successful NHL career, it is time to hang up his skates. There are many players in the league that can give the Islanders the same role Seidenberg filled, and it is time to look at different options.
Jaroslav Halak: 24 games, 11-10, 3.15 GAA, .905 SV%
Jaroslav Halak played for the Islanders for four seasons, and he will forever be in the record book for most wins by a single goaltender in one season in Islanders history. Sadly, his stats have quickly gone down ever since 2015. Halak is 32, an old age for NHL standards. The Islanders can afford to resign Jaro, but it must come at the right price. Like Seidenberg and Kulemin, his best years are behind him. The organization will be able to see whether or not Halak should remain an Islander throughout the remainder of the season. It is probable that Halak will ask for approximately two million dollars per year, due to the fact that no team attempted to sign him last season when he was waived by the Islanders. It is likely Halak will not be on the team next year because the Isles are searching for a long-term answer and Thomas Greiss is signed for the upcoming season.
Jason Chimera: 2 goals, 6 assists, 37 games
Jason Chimera was an Islander for two seasons. He gave the team a veteran presence and was a fill in for the loss of Matt Martin. Chimera played a similar role to that of Seidenberg, except with the forwards. For most of his career, Chimera was a Washington Capital and was an Islander killer. He switched sides and had a sufficient season last year, accumulating 20 goals. This year, father time has caught up to the 38-year-old. Rumors of retirement have started to surface because of Chimera’s decline in play. There is a strong likelihood that Chimera is no longer an Islander once the offseason ends.
Who should stay: John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, and Stephen Gionta (AHL)
John Tavares: 21 goals, 28 assists, 38 games
The past two seasons have been headlined by the possibility of John Tavares leaving. It is no surprise the Islanders organization and their fans are clamoring to sign their captain to a lucrative contract. John Tavares is the heart and soul of the New York Islanders franchise, and without him, they would be lucky to squeak into the playoffs. The recent announcement of Belmont Park as the future home for the Isles has certainly helped sway Tavares’ decision. It is known around the league that Tavares can be the centerpiece of a Stanley Cup winner, thus there will be plenty of suitors this offseason. The Islanders must sign or trade Tavares by the trade deadline; they cannot risk having to start from virtually ground zero. If our captain leaves, the team needs something to show for it. Hopefully, John Tavares will not keep the fans waiting and sign on the dotted line.
Josh Bailey: 11 goals, 38 assists, 38 games
Surprisingly, Josh Bailey has turned himself into an All-Star right winger, allowing for a controversial negotiation process. Bailey’s numbers show that he should be paid like an All-Star, yet he has only played at this elite level for this season (and a large portion of last). Projections have shown that Josh Bailey will be paid in the 5.5-to-7 million dollar range for four years or so. It is important the Islanders do not overpay for Bailey because they have so many impending free agents this year. I expect to see a situation close to that of Frans Nielsen’s where the negotiations go down to the wire (except Bailey will stay on Long Island). Many teams will be after Josh Bailey, and the Isles cannot afford to let him go (as long as it is at the right price).
Calvin de Haan: 1 goal, 11 assists, 33 games
Ever since the NHL Draft last June, Calvin De Haan has been considered a goner in free agency. Sadly, a season-ending shoulder injury has derailed De Haan’s hopes for a large payday. The New York Islanders can use this injury to get a steal and have the option of re-signing Calvin De Haan. Whenever a player has a season-ending injury and is set to face free agency, they will always lose money in negotiations. It would be smart of Garth Snow to communicate with De Haan and his team about what he is looking for in a new deal. If Snow can maneuver a 3-year deal worth 10.5 million or so, he should pull the trigger. He can also try to snag him for a one-year deal for less term.
Thomas Hickey: 1 goal, 4 assists, 25 games
Hickey is a safer option than de Haan considering he is not coming off of a major shoulder injury, but De Haan has more upside. Personally, I think the team should go after De Haan over Hickey, but they can also re-sign Hickey as a seventh defenseman. The team cannot go wrong with this decision. Thomas Hickey has proved to a clutch player, scoring the game-winning goal in game three against the Florida Panthers in 2016. Hickey has seemed to be comfortable in the orange and blue, he was able to find a mainstay spot with the Islanders after his disappointing tenure with the Los Angeles Kings. It is likely he asks for around 2.5 million dollars annually for four years, which would be a lot for the Islanders to pay, so they should definitely try to get him for much less on less term.
It is crucial the New York Islanders play their cards right and make smart decisions this offseason. It is up to Garth Snow and his front office staff to bring the club one step closer to winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.