I am back from vacation and we are now a month away from NHL training camp.
In what could be the Islanders final season on Long Island, the Islanders will look to build on their playoff berth from last year.
We all know that the Islanders have the talent and the ability to go far in the playoffs but can such a young team take the next step forward and continue to stay a playoff contender? I think so.
Garth Snow, the general manager of the team, has added some nice young talent to the core this off-season. By adding Cal Clutterbuck, Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard the Islanders have assured themselves of being more physical and will continue to gain more respect around the league. Between Clutterbuck and Bouchard, they each have the potential to score 20 goals apiece. By acquiring Clutterbuck and signing Bouchard, the Islanders essentially took care of the lack of secondary scoring that plagued this team the last few years.
Peter Regin, also signed on the first day of free agency, is not a great scorer, however, his work ethic is great. Regins’ signing ended the Keith Aucoin experiment, which turned out to be a great addition to the team. Regin essentially takes Aucoins’ spot on the roster as the third line center.
Also on day one of free agency the Islanders re-signed goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a one year deal. Signing Nabokov for another year was a no-brainer. Nabokov practically willed the Islanders into the playoffs the final two months of the shortened season.
Now I’m sure you are saying what about John Taveras and Matt Moulson? They have been a vital to this team and they will be for years to come. Whether or not contract negotiations have started with Moulson, the odds of him either being traded or allowed to walk in free agency is absurd, JT and Moulson are the Islanders.
The Islanders also made some minor moves in re-signing restricted free agents Thomas Hickey who will likely be paired with Lubimor Visnovsky and re-signing Kevin Poulin to a new 1 year deal. Presumably Poulin will back up Nabokov this season. Unless the Islanders bring in a goalie to compete with Poulin in training camp, it is Poulins’ job to lose. The Islanders also moved to sign restricted free agents Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic to long term deals, five years and seven years respectfully.
Of course the biggest move this off-season was buying out goaltender Rick DiPietro of his awful contract that had hindered this team for the last couple of years. Now the Islanders can move forward and not have to worry about DP’s contract counting against the cap.
There is still plenty of talent left to be had in the free agent pool and with training camp around the corner don’t be surprised to see some invites from forwards to defensemen to goaltenders. This season will be a fun one and the Islanders will continue their strong play and make the playoffs.
My prediction: Islanders make playoffs as 6th or 7th seed.