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

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: 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