Yesterday news broke that another one of the bigger players has the New York Islanders on his wish list. Joining Vladimir Tarasenko, Gabriel Landeskog, the veteran winger, is the latest hockey superstar to name Long Island as a preferred destination to possibly come play.
Isles fans should be excited. This is unfamiliar territory — big names and top free agents want to be donning the Islander crest.
If they actually become one is another story, but the fact Long Island is becoming a sought-after destination for some of the league’s top names is a testament to the job general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz have done since they arrived three years ago.
Is Landeskog to the Island realistic? It is a bit far-fetched, but not entirely out of the question.
The first domino to fall would be the left winger actually leaving Colorado. He was drafted by the Avalanche second overall back in 2011 and has been their captain since 2012. He is also a great talent.
The belief is he will draw an average annual value of around $9M-plus iff he hits the open market. It’s also been reported he is willing to stay in Colorado at a hometown discount.
So, off the bat it seems likely that the Avs will eventually raise their offer and retain their captain.
But what if they don’t?
Then comes the harsh reality that is the Islanders’ salary cap woes. Even with the move made last night of Nick Leddy being shipped to Detroit, the Isles still have a ton of work ahead of them — getting RFA’s Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, Ilya Sorokin signed; trying to bring back UFA Casey Cizikas — before they even make trying to sign Landeskog a priority.
The Landeskog wish list named the following teams; Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and the Florida Panthers alongside the Islanders. Of those teams only the Lightning are in a worse cap situation than the Isles as of today. The Blues by comparison have the most cap space of the bunch with $17.4M projected. That would be almost four times as much space as the Isles projection.
But Lamoriello is one of the best general managers in hockey and a future Hall of Famer for a reason. So, fast forward to after the expansion draft and whatever other moves unfold…now the Isles have created enough space to make affording Landeskog a reality.
Should the Islanders actually pursue him? This may be the most important yet easiest question. Emphatically, yes!
Landeskog would make the Islanders offense immensely better. He has spent ten seasons in the NHL. Over that span he has scored 20+ goals eight times. One of the two seasons he failed to reach 20, he played only 36 games. He has six seasons with 50+ points, including this past season tallying 52 points in only 54 games.
One of the Islanders’ glaring weaknesses is their power play. Of his 218 career goals, 61 of them have come with the man advantage. Similarly, 74 of his 294 assists have been on the power play. This would be a massive improvement to maybe the team’s biggest weakness.
The Stockholm native is still only 28-years-old. This will allow whoever does sign him the flexibility to offer a long-term deal without much hesitation. Maybe even most importantly to the likes of Lamoriello and Trotz: he is a strong leader. Something you can never have too many of on a team.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun summed it up well regarding the Landeskog Avalanche situation: “I never thought this would be a tough one. The Avs captain means a lot to this teams’ on ice success… Rival front offices are drooling at the idea he might actually go to free agency.”
We don’t know if Landeskog will be an Islander, but we do know that if he hits the open market, he should absolutely be Lamoriello’s top unrestricted free agent target.
While we wait to see the drama to enfold in Colorado, the blue and orange faithful can sit back and day dream about a top line of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Landeskog because, boy would that line be fun to watch.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryandunni