When looking at the biggest needs for the Islanders, a dynamic offensive play is first on the list. Isles Twitter has agreed that Toronto darling (or maybe villain at this point) Mitch Marner is the Islanders number one target. Due to the cap issues the Leafs are having, they are as good a candidate to be offer sheeted as we have seen in years. With three other high-priced forwards (Mathews, Nylander, and Tavares) the Leafs might be forced to say goodbye to Marner, whom has not agreed to the team friendly deal many thought (or people in Toronto demanded) he would. The Islanders should push for a premium restricted free agent, due to the limited amount of unrestricted free agents available. The best RFA available is Patrik Laine not Mitch Marner.
Vengeance is the primary reason many want the Islanders to go after Marner. After the Leafs paid big money to Tavares, GM Kyle Dubas said that the Leafs would sign all four of their big players, Marner included. As someone who take joy in the misery of the Leafs, there are very few things that would bring more joy than that comment biting Toronto in the ass. Knowing that the Islanders would be the ones returning the hurt, would create a slight bit of satisfaction. We all know that is not actually a way to run an organization though. The player needs to fit the circumstances you are putting him in, unfortunately, if the Islanders are going to pay big money to a player Marner is not the best fit.
Mitch Marner has completed three full seasons in the NHL, and has proven to be a top player. During his first two season he topped 60 points (only Mat Barzal passed that mark this season, apples and oranges but still), this season he broke out with 94 points. A further breakdown of his number show that he scored about 20 goals his first two season and finished this year with 26. Marner is one of the premier passers in the league. The statistic that jumps of the page this year has been increasing his assists from 47 to 68. One can argue the biggest change has been the addition of Tavares. There is a list of guys who had their career years playing with Tavares and Marner is the latest on the list (yes, he is also the best player on this list). The Isles should not shoot their (probably) one shot at a pass first player who may never replicate the season he just had. With Barzal and Bailey already as the top two forwards currently on this team, a goal scorer is needed.
The dream scenario should be Patrik Laine from Winnipeg. There were reports from earlier in the off season that Laine was willing to move for the right deal. Laine is also far from a favorite on a talented Jets team. Laine has scored 30 goals in all three of his NHL seasons. He may end up as the best pure goal scorer of his generation. The knock on him are the limits to his game (many think he puts them there), he scores goals and that’s about it. Goals are expensive, the are also how you keep score, so they are critical. Remember, Alex Ovechkin had the same critics before Barry Trotz joined the Caps and turned Ovie from a minus player to a plus player with keeping his goal scoring up. The dreams of watching Barzal setting up Laine for years should be too much to ignore. The Isles should be more than willing to pay the four first rounder price or frankly almost any other price the Jets put on Laine. This includes Dobson.
When looking to sign a restricted free agent of this magnitude, there are costs that are associated. First and foremost, the original team (this case the Leafs or Jets) have the ability to match any offer sheet signed. If the team does not match the offer sheet, draft pick compensation goes to the original team. If the Annual Avarage Value (AAV) is between 8.4 and 10.56 million the new team needs to give up 2 firsts, a second and a third, and if the AAV is more than 10.56 the compensation is 4 firsts. Many people will look and say why not sign the guys for 10.5 million a year? That contract is much more likely to be matched than one for 10.6 million due to the extra picks in play. The power is with the original team, but the rewards for the Islanders may be worth the price.
The Isles will have only one shot at a dynamic player and that’s only if they are lucky. They may not get the opportunity to talk to either of these players (or Point or Panarin for that matter). This is truly big game hunting, and if you go for the big game, you better get the best piece available to the team. Marner is a great player, his skills are not what the Isles need, Laine’s are.
The Eberle contract raises some interesting questions. Do they expect Ladd back at all this year or is he expected to be on the Long-Term Injured Reserve? What does it say about prospects such as Ho-Sang and Bellows and how the team views them in the future? I don’t think this effects Lee.
Speaking of Lee, it would not be a terrible thing to see Lee sign a longer-term contract than many may be comfortable with. The bigger issue would be the wording in the contract. I would expect a No Move clause early in the contract, but they really need to stay away from signing bonuses late in the deal. That is the real killer with the Ladd deal. If it is a straight deal with a cap hit higher than the cash payout for the later years, the Isles could either trade him or buy him out during the undesirable years of that deal.