The New York Islanders have a big dilemma coming soon. The more time that passes, the more questions and concerns arise, as the Islanders still have eight UFAs heading into the dreaded day of Jul. 1. The group of eight players who do not have contracts headed into the 2019-2020 season are Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Valterri Filpula, Tom Kuhnhackhl, Luca Sbisa, Dennis Seidenberg and Robin Lehner.
The Islanders will enter Jul. 1 with a hefty total of $31,703,334 to work with. Having this large amount of money could help factor in potentially signing a superstar free agent such as Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene. The Islanders will still have to be somewhat cautious of the cap since Mat Barzal’s entry-level deal ends after the 2020 season, and he will almost get a major pay raise, as he rightfully deserves.
Here are my predictions for what the New York Islanders will do for all eight of the UFA’s.
There is no way the Islanders will not re-sign Anders Lee. They can’t name Anders the captain of the Islanders without having the idea that they would want to keep him to lead this team for many years to come. The fanbase adores the first year captain, as numerous times this year a “That’s Our Captain” chant has broken out showing love and appreciation for Anders.
Barry Trotz revealed this at the Islanders Season Ticket Holder chat that featured him and Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello last Tuesday. Seeing the players say this about Lee really shows his impact throughout the locker room and on the team. It was also reported by the New York Post that Anders’ agent has been in recent contact with Lou Lamoriello. I believe it’s almost guaranteed you can see the captain re-signing for five or six years before July 1st.
The Islanders acquired the twenty-eight year old two off-seasons ago for former fifth overall pick Ryan Strome. Eberle’s first season was spectacular with the Islanders, as he put up a total of fifty-nine points while playing alongside Mathew Barzal. This season has been much different for Eberle, as he’s been somewhat inconsistent offensively and has missed a few games due to injury. Despite a rough season compared to his 2017-18 season, he will certainly find him a team that will pay him upwards of $6 million this off-season. Eberle is certainly a skilled offensive player who is slick and nifty with his stick-handling, but most likely won’t be back with the Islanders next season.
The Islanders have a similar player to Eberle in their system already in Josh Ho-Sang, who is much cheaper and can potentially be more productive for a longer period of time. The Islanders also need roster spots for Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle in the upcoming years. Re-signing Eberle for a few years wouldn’t be terrible for the Islanders, as he’s still a skilled player but unless he takes a serious pay cut I wouldn’t except him back on the Islanders for the 2019-2020 season.
Brock has definitely has had the best season in his career so far, he really stepped up and became the first-line center of the team after the departure of John Tavares on Jul. 1. Nelson has developed into a great two-way player (credit is due to both him and Islanders head coach Barry Trotz). Nelson partakes on both the power-play and penalty kill, and has been very effective in both categories. He broke his season point total on Sunday, as he recorded two points and the OT goal in the win against his hometown Minnesota Wild.
Considering how successful Brock Nelson has been this season for the team, I believe the Islanders will sign him to a similar contract to Anders Lee. Brock is also a homegrown talent which helps his case a little bit more, as the Islanders drafted him 13th overall in the 2010 draft class.
The Islanders signed Filppula on Jul. 1 this off-season and he has been a big factor leading to the Islanders success. His skill on the penalty-kill was excepted for the thirty-four year old, but what wasn’t excepted was the fifteen goals scored this season. The Islanders could bring him back for another year realistically, as they still look for future center prospects to eventually replace him. I believe the Islanders will re-sign him for another year because of the success and chemistry this team has.
Not too much was thought of the decision to sign Kuhnhackl when it happened, as he was looked as a depth piece and a fill-in if guys got injured. He has been exactly that. He scored that one flashy goal from his knees against Vancouver in November, and other than that he’s been a good defensive player. One reason Kuhnhackl was brought in because of his playoff experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which helps bring a winning atmosphere into the locker room.
Kuhnhackl has appeared in 31 games so far for the New York Islanders, but next season I believe he won’t be back with the team. They need roster spots for guys like Dal Colle and Ho-Sang and they cannot play in the AHL forever.
The Islanders gave Sbisa a PTO coming into training camp of the 2018-19 season, and he eventually was given a one year contract. He was an alternate captain on Vegas during the 2017-18 season and had experiences in winning locker rooms before.
Sbisa has appeared in only nine games this season and it’s highly unlikely that the Islanders will look to re-sign him for the 2019-2020 season unless it’s a two-way contract.
The Islanders allowed Seidenberg to practice with the team at Northwell throughout the entire 2018-19 season, and the thirty-seven year old hasn’t appeared in a game for the New York Islanders this season.
If Seidenberg retires at the end of the season, hopefully the Islanders will give him a spot within the organization.
The New York Islanders signed Robin Lehner on Jul. 3 this off-season to a one year “Prove It” deal, and Lehner has surely proved his worth to the organization. Lehner has easily been one of the biggest reasons why the Islanders are in a playoff spot.
Lehner has stated multiple times that he has really enjoys playing for the Islanders and adores the fan base. Hopefully, the feeling is mutual between Lehner and the Islanders management.I predict that the Islanders will re-sign him to a two- or three-year deal after the season.
The Islanders have a while to go before having to fully consider the future of their upcoming free agents this off-season. But it is never too early to start thinking about it!
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