All New York Islanders fans have been talking about is whether or not Islanders captain John Tavares will re-sign this off-season. Sure, this situation is a big deal, and is certainly one for fans to obsess about. But the team also has many other free agents that are important to the team. So here are some other off-season priorities.
The goaltending situation is yet again a topic of conversation this off-season. Jaroslav Halak is set to become a free agent on July 1st, and will turn 33 in May. Halak played 54 games this season, his fourth as an Islander, recording a 20-26-6 record, with a .908 SV% and one shutout. He has had many ups and downs over his four seasons with the Islanders including a stint in the AHL in the 16-17 season. Halak has always stated that he likes being an Islander, but after a lot of mistreatment by the management, it is highly unlikely that Halak will be back, which by the way, is a shame that one of the greatest goalie’s in team history was treated like such dog shit by management. Christopher Gibson is a restricted free agent this off-season, which leaves Thomas Greiss as the only goaltender under contract this off-season. It seems likely that the team will re-sign Gibson, but they have other options. Linus Soderstrom, who is playing overseas, signed a an entry level contract before the season started. The Islanders could also make a trade for a goaltender, especially with teams that have a two goalies that are capable starters like the Devils, and Capitals. Also, Carter Hutton of the Blues, is a free agent and could be looking for a starters job. The Islanders need a goaltender that can be a starter because as proven, Greiss can’t last a full season as the starter.
Bottom Six Forwards
The Islanders bottom six forwards mostly is a group of penalty killers, that chip in offensively in some situations. This group includes Nikolay Kulemin, Chris Wagner, and Brock Nelson. What do these three have in common? They are all free agents. Kulemin, who was injured for most of the season, and has been the team’s best penalty killer for the four seasons he has been here. The Russian forward probably knows that he will not make anywhere near the over 4 million dollars he made over the last four seasons. If the Islanders offer him a good contract, they should be able to retain Kulemin.
Brock Nelson is an RFA and will probably hold out, just like he did three seasons ago. Nelson finished the season with 19 goals, and 16 assists. It has been a down year for Nelson, who made 2.5 million over the last three seasons, and it seems that he will demand a raise. The team needs to re-sign Nelson to retain the depth at center. Speaking of center, Chris Wagner is a UFA who made 636K this year, would be a nice depth piece for the Islanders at a low salary.
Aside from Brock Nelson and Chris Gibson, there are many other RFA’s that the team needs to sign. One of them is defensman Ryan Pulock. In this first full season with the Islanders, Pulock came into his own, becoming a power play threat. He scored 10 goals and had 22 assists this season, and is going to be a major signing for the Islanders this off-season. He is likely looking for a long term deal, worth anywhere between 4-5 million dollars. With all the money coming off the books, it is possible that the team can lock up Pulcok. Another RFA is Brandon Davidson, who was acquired before this years trade deadline. The Islanders can use as much depth on the back end as they can get. And Davidson, who has lots of potential, and played solid defense this season, will be easy to sign and will be a good bottom pair option. Other RFA’s include Devon Toews, who is the team’s top defensive prospect, and Ross Johnston, who proved to be the next Matt Martin, but can actually provide offense.
Lastly, UFA Calvin deHaan is a huge priority this off-season to get signed. Last season, Garth Snow gave deHaan a one year deal, for 3.3 million dollars. DeHaan demanded 5 million, but he settled for 3.3. Now that deHaan has proven to the team last he is very valuable, and his injury was likely the reason why the Islanders did not make the playoffs, he will demand a big sum of money. It seems 50/50 on whether he will be back or not, but it seems that the Islanders would be the only team that would give him a lot of money, where as most teams probably deHaan is just an average defensman. Aside from Tavares, Calvin deHaan is the top priority this off-season.