There is one month remaining to see if John Tavares, amongst others, will remain with the Islanders or test free agency. Instead of giving you guys a lot more speculation about whether or not Tavares stays or leaves like we have been getting, I’m going to simply talk about what happens if he leaves, and what that will look like for the rest of summer and going into next season. Because of this topic for May’s report, June I will mostly review the draft, and July I will mostly review free agency.
It is July 1st, Tavares has not resigned, and now other teams look to dramatically change their team with one of the best players to ever hit the free agent market at this point in his career. If you are the Islanders here, it would be dumb not to at least make an offer before another team steals him away. This should have already happened, but unfortunately the Islanders have just not taken the initiative on resigning him. Assuming he signs with another team, the Islanders are now even worse off than they were last year. This will put the front office on the hot seat even more than they are already… and that seat is already on fire from a fans perspective.
Now with Tavares gone, the Islanders need to find a way to fill the void. Barzal will probably be the heir to the number one center role, but then someone needs to fill his spot on line two. This is where the Islanders need to sign a decent center to fill that gap. That leaves the Islanders offense in an okay spot considering the circumstances. Even with Tavares gone, offense is still not the team’s problem.
The next step for the Islanders will be to find a goaltender. Unfortunately, this will be much easier said than done. There aren’t many free agent goaltenders available this summer, and Jaroslav Halak will be a free agent himself. This leaves Thomas Greiss and Linus Soderstrom as the team’s only two options. The Islanders may have to use one of their first round picks in this year’s NHL draft to possibly acquire a goaltender for the upcoming season. In my eyes, if we are going to trade a pick, it needs to be on a goaltender because things will not get better unless their goaltending issues are fixed.
Lastly, but probably the most important, is defense. The Islanders are going to need to add at least one top four defenseman to attempt and solidify their defensive corps for next season. The goaltending was subpar this past season, but the poor defensive play made it that much worse. If the Islanders expect to even have a shot at the Playoffs without Tavares, then they better bring in some extra help, and even that may not be enough to propel them into a spot.
In addition to all these additions the Islanders will need, they should also attempt to get rid of some of their bad contracts if at all possible. Losing Tavares will free up a lot of cap space, but the more players with bad contracts they can get rid of, the better off they will be when approaching the free agent market. Along with the bad contracts, maybe the Islanders will even decide to get rid of the awful coaching that was the Weight coaching staff. Compared to when Weight took over as the interim after Capuano, he did a terrible job this past season in managing the team. Therefore, it would also benefit the Islanders to find a new coaching staff before the beginning of next season.
In conclusion, a new look for the Islanders may actually not be a bad thing. They have some players in the farm system that can come up and help the team next year, and if you add some free agents to go with it, the team may not be as bad as we may think without Tavares. Even though it is very possible, if not even likely that Tavares will re-sign, I have personally already prepared myself for Tavares’ departure, and I think the rest of the fans would be wise to do so as well.