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Islanders Have Work To Do After Things Don’t Go As Planned

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders (r) celebrates his goal at 18:10 of the third period against the Calgary Flames along with Frans Nielsen #51 (l) at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders shut out the Flames 4-0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

I want to be optimistic like many of you. I want to believe Garth has something else in the works. That this is unfolding just the way he expected it to. I want to believe that it was time to move on from Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin – three longtime, homegrown Islanders that played during the darkest days and survived to see the franchise emerge to relevance.

Maybe they had taken this team as far as they could. If you feel that way, I can’t disagree with you. I may never understand Snow’s complete dismissal of re-signing Kyle Okposo as an option, but you couldn’t go into 2016-17 with the same roster, only more expensive than in previous years.

But I am skeptical, highly skeptical that this team will be substantially better when they take the ice in October than they were when they shook hands in Tampa Bay.

We all like the signing of Andrew Ladd, a 2 time Stanley Cup winner and former Captain of the Jets. Yes the 7 year deal is a tad too long for a player that will be 31 in December, but he’s a strong two way winger that should see an uptick in offensive production when put on a line with John Tavares.

As for Jason Chimera, he’s a fast and fit 37 year old that scored 20 goals with the Capitals last season. At $2.5 million AAV over 2 years, it a short term deal compared to the 4 years Martin was seeking and his scoring ability will be needed to chip in and replace the goals the team lost on Friday.

If he takes Martin’s spot on “The Best Fourth Line Ever” it will be done without the hits and possession Martin added to the trio. For an analytical deep dive comparing the two players, Lighthouse Hockey explains why the Chimera/Martin will be a downgrade defensively.

These are two good signings, but let’s be honest here – things did not go as the Islanders planned on July 1st. 

The Evidence

The Islanders were in on Taylor Hall.

The Islanders wanted Taylor Hall, they  just were not willing to part with Travis Hamonic for Taylor Hall.  You can argue whether or not Garth Snow should have pulled the trigger on a deal that would have finally brought an elite winger to John Tavares win – it’s highly debatable.

It would have been extremely difficult for Snow to move Hamonic after rescinding his trade request at end of last season’s final playoff game. He’s beloved by his teammates, has a very team friendly contract and it’s not easy to find defenseman that can log 20+ minutes at a high level night in and night out.

But Taylor Hall is good – real good. Hall is arguably a top-5 winger in the game right now, and consistently produced on a team that is struggling to find prolonged success. With 4 years remaining on a very reasonable 7 year, $42 million, is a Taylor Hall harder to find than a Travis Hamonic? Maybe.

The Islanders planned to make Steven Stamkos a substantial offer.

As Arthur Staple reported in Newsday, the Islanders reached out to Stamkos’ representatives during the free-agent contact period. New majority owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin wanted to make a big splash and were prepared to make Stamkos a competitive offer to play with longtime friend and fellow #91 John Tavares.

Thanks to no state income tax and the fact that Tampa Bay has superior weather with a superior roster, they never got the chance. The 26 year-old Stamkos signed an 8 year deal worth $8.5 million a year to remain with the Lightning before the Isles and other teams could make their pitch.

Still, the idea that the Islanders, the once salary cap basement Islanders, were even considering making a monster offer to a star player was a very positive sign to me.

The Islanders offered Frans Nielsen more money and more years than Detroit

This was stunning – it really was.

It was long thought that Nielsen was the most likely of the three UFAs that would return. There was mutual interest, a mutual desire to make a deal work – or so we thought.

The Islanders held up their side, offering Nielsen $5.5AAV over  7 years, more money and more years than the $5.25 AAV for 6 years he would sign for to play in Detroit.

“I just feel that I’ve been through this rebuild with all these guys and we finally have a team here,” Nielsen told The Post last season. “For me, my first choice is to stay here and to keep building this team toward a Stanley Cup. You don’t know what’s out there, you don’t know what teams have interest. Do you want to go through another rebuild?

“So there is a lot of stuff like that. I feel like I’m in a good spot here, we have a good team and hopefully we can work it out here. That, for sure, would be my first choice.”

Ultimately, his last and final choice was to not spend his entire career with one team. He wanted a new city, new coaches, new teammates, new challenges and he took less money to do so.

The Aftermath

It is my belief that it was the Islanders hope they would at worst end July 1 with Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and Frans Nielsen. Even the biggest Okposo and Martin fans couldn’t deny that the team would have added toughness, leadership and some intangibles that could help the Islanders take the next step.

Some, but not all of that happened.

Now Garth Snow is faced with the tough task of trading for a top six forward and having to part with a young core forward, a top prospect and maybe more to do so. The Islanders have assets and there may be cap stricken suitors out there but the price will be steep. As much as Islanders fans are eager to know what that next move will be, it’s a move that is going to sting a bit.

It’s a move they wouldn’t be forced to make if things had gone according to plan.

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