Puck77 Interview: Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles

Last night, Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles (New York Islanders blog site on FanSided) and I spoke regarding the Islanders farm system and their off-season plans.

I asked O’Leary several questions in regards to the Islanders. We talked about Jordan Eberle‘s contract extension, the possibility of adding Artemi Panarin, the goaltender of the future and more.

Let’s take a look at what O’Leary had to say.

Interview

Josh: What are your general thoughts on the Jordan Eberle contract extension? 

Matt: I think this is a very fair deal for Jordan Eberle. Obviously, he is coming off a down year but with how he finished the regular season and performed in the playoffs it’s hard not to assume that he will return to form and be the 50+ point player that he’s been throughout his career. If he does go back to putting up the numbers that we’re used to $5.5 million seems like a steal. You also can’t go without mentioning the fact that he wanted to extend with this team, which speaks volumes to Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz’s impact.

Josh: With the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers making quite a bit of noise so far, how do you believe that the Islanders will counteract. Do you believe that Lou Lamoriello might make a big splash and add a free agent like Artemi Panarin or do you believe he’ll look at doing a blockbuster trade?

Matt: He definitely has to do something to the top-six. Even if they bring back Anders Lee they should look to add someone like Artemi Panarin. The competition for him is sure to be steep but at the end of the day, Lou might have to pony up to get him. If the Isles miss out on him, then I could absolutely see them looking to move Nick Leddy in hopes for some forward help up front.

Josh: Do you believe that Anders Lee is in the Islanders’ long-term plans? If no, who do you believe might captain the Islanders after Lee?

Matt: I think at the end of the day Anders re-signs here. The Tavares situation from last year leaves a sour taste in our mouths but that’s honestly such a unique situation. I think the Islanders are looking for a shorter term deal while Lee is looking for more year. Ultimately a five or six year deal with a $7 million AAV should get it done.

Josh: Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss split time in net this year. Given the success that Lehner and Greiss had, do you believe that there will roughly a 50-50 split next season as well?

Matt: Assuming that Lou re-signs Robin Lehner, which he should, yes I think it will be a similar split with Robin getting the slight edge. It worked out so well last year it’s hard not to go back to the same formula. Lehner became a fan favorite last year with not only his play on the ice but his off the ice story and his openness on mental health. It’d be in the best interest of everyone to make sure Lehner is in blue and orange next year.

Josh: While Ilya Sorokin has looked outstanding in the KHL, the Islanders also have Linus Söderström in their system. Based on what you’ve seen from both goalies, who do you believe will be the next number one goalie for the Islanders?

Matt: I think Ilya Sorokin is the better of the two it’s just a matter of if he ever comes over from the KHL. His deal expires after this year so there’s a chance that he could come over but would he if Robin Lehner is under contract for the foreseeable future? With Linus Söderström it’s hard to judge, he missed all of this year with an injury, but from looking at his SHL numbers he’s been fairly solid and is an intriguing prospect.

Josh: Michael Dal Colle has taken a while to develop. Do you have any concern in regards to Dal Colle?

Matt: Michael Dal Colle is never going to be the player they drafted him to be in the top-five. At this point, if you can get him to be a solid third line winger I think you sign up for it but it seems like that’s his ceiling which is obviously a huge letdown considering where you took him in the draft.

Josh: Josh Ho-Sang had a great season in Bridgeport last year. Given how many pending free agents the Islanders have, do you believe that Ho Sang could have a full-time role at the NHL level next season? Or, does Ho Sang need more time in the AHL?

Matt: For Ho-Sang, I would love to see him get time in the NHL. For whatever reason, the Islanders and Ho-Sang just can’t seem to figure out what the issue is. They want him to be more defensive minded and cut down on turnovers but he’s at his best when he has the puck and is trying to make plays. In limited sample sizes, he’s shown that he can be a pretty solid playmaker, I just don’t know if it will ever work out here considering the Islanders also have Oliver Wahlstrom and Keiffer Bellows who are pretty close to being ready to make the jump to the NHL. 

Josh: Mathew Barzal is entering his contract season and will be a pending RFA on July 1, 2020. Given the contracts that we’ve seen Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and other sign, how much do you predict that Barzal will earn in his next deal?

Matt: I really think it depends on what he does this year. Is he giving you 60-70 points again like he did this past year, or is he going back to a point per game player? Right now, I’ll give an $8 million – $10 million AAV range depending on what he does this year. If it’s another 60 point season look for it to be closer to $8 million. If he’s back to his ways from his Calder season it’ll be closer to $10 million.

Thank You

Thank you Matt for taking the time to speak with me. Looking forward to interviewing you again in the future.

 
player profiles – hockey-reference.com
Puck77

Top 10 Bounce Back Candidates for the 2019/20 NHL Season

Which players in line for a bounce back season?

Every season there is always a couple great players that have a bad season where you go, “What Happened??” (Looks at the career of Scott Gomez and cringes).

Now sometimes it is because of injury, some because of going to a new team and some just get old. Point is these players can’t always have perfect seasons unless you’re Nicklas Lidstrom and your nickname is the “Perfect Human.” So I am here today to give these players and you some optimism for some players that I think can have a bounce-back season!

For this list, I won’t be including Rookies, because they have just one season on record, or players over 35 because of the likelihood they bounce back is very low. Also will not include goalers because guessing what goalie is going to be “good and bad” from season to season is like trying to find Brad Marchand‘s tears on the ice after game 7. (Too soon?) Anyway let’s get into it

10. Ondrej Palat (28 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 64 Games Played, 8 Goals, 26 Assists, 34 points, +4

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Remember the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015 when they had that cute triplet line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat? It looked like all three would be the new cornerstones of the team. Since then the Lightning has seen Kucherov become a perennial candidate for the Art Ross Trophy, Johnson hasn’t had over 50 points since that 2015 season and Ondrej Palat just hasn’t been healthy. Over the last 3 seasons Palat has only played 195 possible games out of 246 and prior to that hasn’t played a”full season” since the 16/17 season when he only missed 7 games. I am choosing him as a bounce-back candidate because the Lightning are going to need him to step up with the possible shedding of players following the rapture that was the sweep in this year’s playoffs and the likelihood of Brayden Point sitting out looming because of a contract dispute. Palat will get every chance on Tampa to get back over 60 points only if he stays healthy.

9. Derick Brassard (31 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 70 Games played, 14 G, 9 Assists, 23 Points, -19

When you get traded 2 times during one season usually that isn’t a good sign. A decent 3rd/ 2nd line center that can get you 40-50 points regularly Brassard had a rough time last year getting traded twice from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Florida Panthers after only getting 15 points up to the trade, then finished his season with the Colorado Avalanche with a combined 8 points during his time with the Panthers and the Avs’. So safe to say he had a rough year. As a UFA this summer he could end up being a great addition for a team looking for center depth and could surprise a lot of people after what was one of the worst seasons of his career.

8. Ryan Getzlaf (34 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 67 Games Played, 14 Goals, 34 Assists, 48 Points, -19

With only playing 67 games and 56 the season prior, combined with the team around him eroding quickly, the Anaheim Ducks Captain has been under some tough times. Being very close to my age cut off for players it made choosing Getzlaf a somewhat difficult choice but seeing now that he has a new head coach and a whole summer for him and his teammates to get healthy (The Ducks only had one player play the full 82 games last season) this could be a season that sees not only Getzlaf get high point totals but the Ducks team as a whole could rebound.

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7. Rickard Rakell (26 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 69 Games Played, 18 Goals, 25 Assists, 43 Points, -13

This is the only time I will be putting two players from the same team on this but it had to be said. As one of my favorite players in the NHL, watching Rakell struggle with injuries and just look tired last season sucked for me as a fan. Maybe it was the factor a lot more stress was put on him with Getzlaf and Perry being out for major stretches of the season or even him dealing with his own injuries it just didn’t look like the Rakell I was used to seeing the last couple seasons and I believe with a strong healthy season out of him and his teammates he will be back over 60 points next season.

6. Alexander Wennberg (24 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 75 Games Played, 2 Goals, 23 Assists, 25 Points, -1

Prior to the 2017/18 season, it looked like Wennberg was going to be a core member of the up and coming Jackets core having come off of 59 point season and had just signed a 6 year, 29 Million Dollar deal. This deal looked like a steal because he was going to get 60-70 points the rest of this contract and was going to be the 1st line center that they needed due to them trading Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones. Fast forward 2 seasons, 141 games, healthy scratches and only 60 points combined later it looks like a contract the Jackets want to get rid of. I believe that next season is a make or break season for Wennberg with the Jackets not signing Matt Duchene the 2nd line Center position is his to take. If he continues to struggle though he will find himself on another team pretty quick.

5. Max Pacioretty (30 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 66 Games Played, 22 Goals, 18 Assists, 40 Points, -13

How quickly people forget a player’s struggles if they have a great playoff. During the playoffs having only played 7 games he scored 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points and all was forgiven. I was one of those people until I looked at his point outputs the last 2 seasons. During his last season with the Montreal Canadiens, he had only 17 goals along with 37 points (a full 30 point drop from the season prior) and had only played 64 games. He was then traded to Vegas the following summer and was promptly signed to a 4 year 28 Million dollar (7 Mil Average) contract not even playing a game yet with the team. This season he got over 20 goals again but had only 40 points and was injured. He started to get going later on in the season having gotten used to his linemates (Was often Paul Stastny who was also injured)  and it looked good and thus lead up to his playoff performance. Now, this season lets see if he can put it all together and get back to his 35-40 goal self having had a full season in a new system and hopefully better injury luck.

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4. Drew Doughty (29 y/o)

2018/19 Stats – 82 Games Played, 8 Goals, 37 Assists, 45 Points, -34

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to do any defensemen! For most defenders, this stat line wouldn’t be terrible (Besides the +/-) but for Drew Doughty who is considered one of the best of his kind, this was not a great year for him or the Kings. Having only been a minus player twice in his career this -34 stat sticks out. The point totals were there but the play all around seemed to lack. For Doughty, it isn’t like he just forgot how to play hockey but his level of play was not of that of his Norris Caliber of a couple year ago. When Doughty plays like one of the best D’s in the league the Kings do well. And while it may be a long shot for the Kings to get back into playoff contention a Bounce back year from Doughty will bring them that much closer.

3. Jordan Eberle (29 y/o)

Season Stats 2018/19 – 78 Games Played, 19 Goals, 18 Assists, 37 Points, -6

If you’re Canadian you’ll remember Jordan Eberle’s run in the world Juniors 2009 where he was an absolute monster. (Go look up his highlights from then you won’t be disappointed) If you’re anybody else then you will remember him being a cog of a very broken Edmonton Oilers team that traded him after one bad playoff performance. Which was his only playoff experience considering the team hadn’t made the postseason since 2006. Flash forward to now and you have a player who just signed a 5-year deal after having a great playoff. Eberle can get you 25-30 goals and 50-60 points. Last season didn’t go well for him and I expect after signing a nice deal, having a great playoff (9 Points in 8 games) and having gotten used to playing under Barry Trots, Ebs’ will be back as one of the leading scorers on this New York Islanders squad.

2. William Nylander (23 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 54 Games Played, 7 Goals, 20 Assists, 27 Points, -4

The most hated, evil Villain Toronto has ever seen. As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan who is on Twitter, I can say for certain that if you like the Leafs and you’re on Twitter you either A.) Hate Nylander and want him off the team B.) Really LOVE Nylander and will defend him till death. There is no middle ground on Twitter. In real life, I believe in Willy and think that having a summer of training with the Leafs, a training camp and preseason with the Leafs and starting the Season with…. the…. LEAFS…. will do him better than chilling in Switzerland wondering if he getting a contract till December and not playing or practicing with NHLers.

1. Jaden Schwartz (26 y/o)

2018/19 Season Stats – 69 Games played, 11 Goals, 25 assists, 36 points, -6

So you see those 11 goals he scored in 69 games up there? Yea he scored 12 in the playoffs on his way to winning the Stanley Cup and nobody says one thing about the season he had. I don’t blame them. When you’re an integral part of a team that won a Cup you don’t talk about the horrible season he had but heading into these playoffs that were the question. Prior to this season, you could have guaranteed that Schwartz would give you 55-60 points a season when healthy. During the 2017/18 season prior to getting hurt, he was on pace for a career year in points with 59 in 62 games and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t break it this season. In saying that all the Blues had very bad seasons prior to the beginning of January to it is safe to say with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a reinvigorated sense of accomplishment, Schwartz is one the main guys I  believe will have a huge comeback season.

 

 

 

Talking About The New York Islanders With Andy Graziano Of WFAN

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Andy Graziano (@AndyGraz_WFAN) of WFAN about the New York Islanders.

Graziano is a columnist for WFAN660 in New York City. He specifically covers the New York Islanders and recently he’s written quite a few posts on the team’s farm system and their off-season plans

In my interview with Graziano, we talked about both (the farm system and the off-season). He talked about Jordan Eberle’s new contract, who will general manager Lou Lamoriello look to re-sign, who will the Islanders target in free agency and how their farm system is doing.

The Interview

Josh: Earlier today, Jordan Eberle signed an extension with the Islanders. Are you surprised that Eberle didn’t try to test the market? In addition, what are your general thoughts on the deal?

Andy: I am surprised, yes. I felt that of all the Islanders free agents, Eberle would be the one to go. But Lou Lamoriello had other ideas and meant what he said when he commented at the end of the season, ‘We would like to bring all our free agents back’. Eberle represents a winger who would have been in high demand had he made it to the open market, averaging 25 goals per season over his career with incredible consistency. Last year, he suffered, as many teammates did, as New York switched to a more defensive system under Barry Trotz. But in the playoffs showed everyone what he was capable of. I feel he would have commanded many offers on July 1 from teams looking to add punch to their lineups. What’s most important about the signing is that it shows that Long Island is quickly becoming a desirable destination. Players around the league notice those things and talk to each other all the time, especially when deciding where to commit their futures. When was the last time a player took a pay-cut on a multi-year deal weeks before becoming a free agent? To stay with the Islanders? I can’t remember. 

Josh: Do you believe that the Islanders will look to re-sign Anders Lee, Tom Kühnhackl and/or Valtteri Filppula? If they don’t, who do you believe that they will target?

Andy: I think Anders Lee gets signed and all indications from people I’ve spoken with believe the same. It’s term that they are trying to work through, but Lamoriello and Neil Sheehy will get it done. I can’t see Kuhnhackl coming back as he was just a spare part anyway and the Islanders have to start making some room for the likes of Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang (should he remain with the club), Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom. With New York weak down the middle, I can see Filppula coming back on another one-year deal to play C3, but that will have to be on Lou’s terms and Lou’s terms only. He had a strong season and is perfect for Trotz’s system. All sources are pointing to a full court press on Artemi Panarin. That will cost a ton, certainly north of $10 million AAV, but the Islanders know what they need – a bonafide sniper. However, I don’t see them getting it this year. I’m sticking with the Rangers and Florida as the most likely destinations for him.

Josh: What are your thoughts on Arnaud Durandeau? 

Andy: I’ve never seen him play, but what I heard is that he is a flashy offensive player with an ‘agitating’ aspect to his game. His speed and stickhandling is most often mentioned in all scouting reports. Others say that his overall skill level is not up to snuff and he’s best suited for a 3/4 line role. Time will tell, maybe the Islanders have another Anthony Beauvillier on their hands, at worst its a risk that didn’t cost them much.

Josh: With Robin Lehner hitting the market and Ilya Sorokin looking like the goalie of the future, do you believe that the Islanders will bridge Lehner until Ilya Sorokin is ready?

The problem here is similar to Lee and that’s how long do you go in term on the contract? I am not one of those who believe that KHL success is a precursor to NHL success. There are few strong teams in the KHL and almost all goaltenders have terrific statistics. That being said, everyone in the organization is excited and frothing at the mouth to get him over here, so the jury is still out. I hope he turns into everything people are projecting him to be, as that will benefit a team that has been looking for stability in goal for a long time. Lehner is an interesting case. He had his ups and downs with Buffalo, then comes here under Trotz and shares the Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss along with earning a Vezina nod. That’s quite the season on a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal. We shall see if he shares the same mindset as Eberle. Keep in mind, he has a little leverage also over Lamoriello, who knows he doesn’t have a suitable replacement in the pipeline in the short-term. Market is very weak on goaltending this summer outside of Sergei Bobrovsky and he’s not an Islanders target at the moment.

Josh: The Islanders defense was outstanding last season, but do you believe that an upgrade is still needed? 

Andy: On defense, no. Offensively for sure. With Noah Dobson and Bode Wilde coming along with the maturation of Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, they are in very good shape on the blueline for a long time. Not to mention adequate second and third pair guys as well in David Quenneville and Sebastian Aho. It’s one of the main reasons Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey are on the trade block with at least one of them expecting to be moved at the draft.

Josh: Kieffer Bellows seemed to have a rough season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Is there any reason to be concerned about his development?

Andy: Not at the moment no. It’s a huge leap for some to the professional level and Bellows is a proven enough shooter that I have not heard of any concerns regarding his development. He might be best served with another year at Bridgeport to ensure he builds his confidence level before coming to the Islanders.

Josh: Do you believe that Oliver Wahlstrom has a shot to make the Islanders opening night roster?

Andy: A chance, sure. Likely? I’m not so sure. Lamoriello is on record as stating that he doesn’t like to rush prospects and holds a certain affinity for veterans to get him through the grind of an 82-game season and playoffs. We saw it this year in the way Ho-Sang was handled as well as Michael Dal Colle. I would much rather see Wahlstrom playing big minutes under Brent Thompson than third or fourth line under Trotz. I don’t think that benefits his development at all. That being said, if the Islanders strike out in the trade market and free agency, all bets might be off. His chances of breaking camp will be dramatically increased.

Thank You

Thank you Andy for taking the time to speak with me. Look forward to interview you again in the future!

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

 

New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Breaking Down The Eberle Extension

Per Pierre LeBrun of TSN, the New York Islanders and forward Jordan Eberle agreed to a five-year, 27.5 million dollar contract ($5.5 million AAV).

The 29 year old forward recorded 19 goals and 18 assists in 78 games last season. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect more from Eberle. During his days with the Edmonton Oilers, he had outstanding seasons. But, over the years, we’ve seen a slight drop in production. However, he hasn’t had a season like this. This was a poor season.

The Trade With The Edmonton Oilers

Before talking about his production this season in comparison to other seasons, let’s look back on how the Islanders landed up with Eberle.

Eberle was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the New York Islanders on June 22, 2017 for forward Ryan Strome. Not a bad trade for the Islanders if I’m being honest. At the time of the trade, Eberle was coming off of a 51 point season, and his fourth consecutive twenty goal season. On the flip side, Strome didn’t have much luck with the Edmonton Oilers and would end up being traded to the New York Rangers.

Comparing Last Season Production To Previous Seasons

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Like mentioned earlier, Eberle only scored 19 goals last season. Certainly not a bad year out of a top nine guy, but disappointing considering his six million dollar cap hit. Eberle only recorded 37 points last season. The first time since the lockout shortened season that he tallied under fourth points. He also recorded 22 less points than the season prior, while only playing in 3 less games.

Eberle didn’t miss time to a major injury. Plus, the New York Islanders made the playoffs last season and were one of the best teams in the NHL, so I’ve failed to come up with a logical explanation for the decline in production. Like I mentioned earlier, he’s only 29, so it’s hard to imagine that he would have a major decline as he’s still relatively young.

After looking at Eberle’s consistent production in his previous seasons, I’m willing to chalk it up to a bad season. Eberle took a five hundred thousand dollar per season pay cut, and if he returns to his 20 goal and 30 assist production, that’s very good value. I think those numbers are worth five million a season. So yes, I do feel he was slightly overpaid before. That has been addressed and even though it’s not much less, it’s still closer to the value Jordan Eberle can provide.

On the other hand, my main concern for the Islanders is that last season he wasn’t the Jordan Eberle that we’ve been used to seeing. While I’m willing to accept it as an off year, I’m going to keep an eye on him next season. Reason being the upcoming season is going to decide if this contract is bad or not. If he returns to form, then it’s a good contract. If he has another disappointing season while turning 30, it’s incredibly likely that his best days are behind him. And if that’s the case, it would making that 5.5 million cap hit an awful contract. 

But, Eberle’s level of consistency isn’t a fluke. He should bounce back and the Islanders will have a good top nine winger for the next five years. Just keep a close eye on him Islander fans, because there is always the possibility it goes south. Of course, I hope that’s not the case.

stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com

research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Barry And Lou’s Recipe For Success

The New York Islanders Surprised Everyone This Year. But Change Is Coming, And With It Likely A Step Backwards

 

Nobody seen this coming. 

After the loss of former captain John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs through free agency last July, experts and pundits all unanimously agreed that the New York Islanders were destined to finish in the bottom third of the overall National Hockey League standings for the 2018-19 campaign. 

Even with the addition of general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz, both Stanley Cup winners, one look at the roster showed that it was simply going to take some time and patience to get the Islander ship pointed in the right direction again. 

But the Islanders fan base was beyond hungry. It had been years since they really had anything to get excited about with this team. So Lamoriello and Trotz got in the kitchen, put the aprons on and went to work. 

It started with an ounce of structure. They added a dash of overachievement. Of course a pinch of luck was needed, and then with it a heapin’ helping of pride and suddenly by January of this year the Islanders had baked a cake that all of New York wanted a piece of.

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A 23-point improvement over the previous season brought renewed hope to the Islander faithful. And they gobbled it up. Anyone associated with the royal blue, orange and white rallied around the loss of Tavares and proved to the entire league that hockey is the ultimate team sport, and the loss of a franchise player can be tackled. 

Long Layoff Didn’t Payoff

After a succesful first-round sweep of the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins to start the NHL playoffs, the Islanders were forced to wait 10 days between games before starting their second round against the Carolina Hurricanes.  

For some teams, a break of this length does wonders. It can help heal some busted bodies, and give the players a chance to mentally reset for the next series. But for other teams, including the Islanders in this case, the long layoff proves to be costly. Some will argue that as professionals this shouldn’t be the case. But it’s the most logical explanation for a team that looked so dominant in the first round, only to look like a team that was simply behind a step while being swept by the Hurricanes. 

But after a few days to mourn, both the Islanders and their fans will look back on the 2018-19 season as beyond successful. Amassing 103 points in the regular season,  the most for the Islanders since 1984, was about 30 more points than anyone was pegging them for in pre-season predictions. No question that Trotz will win the Jack Adams Trophy as coach-of-the-year in the NHL after pulling this team out of his hat. 

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So, what now?  What can this franchise do for an encore?

Now The Hard Work Begins

The Islanders are in good shape when it comes to the salary cap. Going into the summer, the Islanders have just under $48M committed to 16 players next season. With the cap expected to rise to approximately $83M before puck drop next year, it leaves the Islanders roughly $35M under the cap. 

But the Islanders do have a bundle of free agents to deal with this off-season, both restricted and unrestricted. The biggest of all likely being goaltender Robin Lehner, who is free to hit the open market as of July 1st, the first day of the NHL free agent period. 

Lehner had a terrific season, posting 25 wins while fashioning a .930 save percentage and (rightfully so) being one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. The sense is that Lehner would love to stick around, as he seems to have final found some comfort, both personally and professionally, on Long Island. 

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And the Islanders should do whatever they can to keep him on board. Only 27-years-old, Lehner is young enough to help this Islanders team grow into its next pair of contending shoes, and along with Thomas Greiss has solidified the goaltending situation in New York. Those words have not been uttered in quite some time. 

Some Key Free Agents Need To Return

While it looks as though signing Lehner should not be an issue, there are a couple of other free agents the Islanders must really focus on and try to get back in the fold. 

Brock Nelson was a big part of the Islanders resurgence this season, putting up a career-high 53 points while averaging almost three minutes per game more ice-time over the year before. He seem to thrive in Trotz’s system and at only 26-years-old, more of the same should be expected from him for the next few seasons. There may even be a bit more upside in him yet.  An unrestricted free agent, numerous teams likely will be kicking tires on Nelson should the Islanders allow him to see the light of day on July 1st. 

Anthony Beauvillier is a restricted free agent this season, and the Islanders need to make his signing a priority. While taking a bit of a step back this past season offensively, there is no denying the speedy winger still has some untapped potential going forward. 

Playing under 15 minutes a night, Beauvillier still managed 18 goals while totaling more takeaways than giveaways for the second straight season. The left side is a bit of a weak spot for the Islanders, and his signing would help create some stability in a potentially altered islander line-up. 

So long, Long Island

One player that could very well be on the move is unrestricted winger Jordan Eberle. As streaky as they come, Eberle has always left fans breathless with his tantalizing soft hands and relentless drive. But as he did in his days with the Edmonton Oilers, Eberle also leaves those same fans with a feeling of wanting more, and for large stretches throughout the season, he simply doesn’t provide it. 

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Eberle turns 29 next week, and will certainly be seeking a long-term deal at no less than the $6M per year he was making previously. And he will likely get it, but realistically it won’t be from the Islanders. Eberle has proven that he can’t produce with Mat Barzal over a full season with first-line minutes, he’s simply too inconsistent. Expect the Islanders to keep that money and look for a bigger fish somewhere else to flank Barzal.

Anders Lee is another unrestricted free agent that will be looking for a significant raise before the start of next season. Though his numbers were down slightly this year, Lee still produced 28 goals after notching 40 and 34 respectively the previous two seasons. 

Like Eberle, Lee will also be 29-years-old by time training camp rolls around next year. With over 100 goals scored combined over the last three seasons, Lee will be seeking to nearly double his annual salary from last year of $3.75M, as well as something long-term.  And it’s very unlikely the Islanders will go for that.

If Lee does re-sign, expect to be closer to the start of training camp after no other team has agreed to his salary demands, and the Islanders can get him at a more team-friendly rate, in the range of 3-4 years. 

Michael Dal Colle is the only other restricted free agent under the Islanders umbrella this off-season, and he will likely re-up with the team. 

Other free agents that likely won’t return next year are Valtteri Flippula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Luca Sbisa and Dennis Seidenberg. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbradley2928

Statistics provided by hockey-reference and TheScore

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals