Islanders Have Tough Off-Season Decisions to Make

With the New York Islanders heading into another off-season without a playoff berth, the team will look to solidify its young core through the NHL draft, trades, and signings of free agents. (Robert Kowal/Flickr)

While the Isles might not be fortunate enough to land Nail Yakupov in this year's NHL Entry Draft, the team should focus on trying to scout the best defenseman out of this year's draft. Names like Trouba, Dumba, Rielly, Murray, and Reinhart are headlining the list of premier d-men that will be available to the Islanders come draft day in June.
Drafting a young defenseman will probably be the right choice for the Isles, but one can't simply ignore that New York has holes to fill for the 2012-2013 NHL Season. Mike Mottau, Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton, and Steve Staios tried to do their jobs as veteran rearguards, but it was painfully obvious on certain nights that the Islanders' d-men were simply outmatched. If the Islanders want to stay in contention in a highly competitive Atlantic Division, then General Manager Garth Snow must exhaust all of his resources toward signing or acquiring a top 4 defenseman.
Players such as Matt Carle, Ryan Suter, Johnny Oduya, Dennis Wideman, and Brad Stuart stand out as some of the best options for free agent d-men, but what are the chances that such players will want to continue their career on Long Island? Garth Snow and Charles B. Wang definitely have enough money to sign one of the aforementioned players, but it will ultimately be up to those d-men to decide if they want to commit to a developing Islanders team.
However, other options such as Bryan Allen, Pavel Kubina, and Hall Gill will also be available. While Kubina and Gill might be past their prime and coming toward the twilight of their careers, the two defensemen would definitely be upgrades over Eaton, Jurcina, and Staios. Bryan Allen managed to collect 14 points for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011-2012, but the defenseman also dishes out his fair share of hits and is more than capable of blocking shots. The Islanders could use a d-man such as Allen, but signing a top tier blueliner such as Suter or Carle would be exactly what the Isles would need in order to strengthen their defensive presence.
Of course, Garth Snow's first priority will probably be to re-sign P.A Parenteau, but it is yet to be seen if Parenteau wants the type of money that Snow and Wang aren't willing to shell out. If Parenteau and the Islanders are unable to come to a deal, then it might be interesting to see if New York pursues other right wingers such as Shane Doan, Jaromir Jagr, and Milan Hejduk. Wingers such as Alexander Semin, Zach Parise, and Ray Whitney will also be available to pursue and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility if Snow offered one of the wingers a contract as the Isles need to bolster their offense.
Olli Jokinen, Paul Gaustad, and Jiri Hudler will be available at center and it would be wise if Snow went after a centreman such as Gaustad. Gaustad can possibly fill the void left behind by Zenon Konopka as the gritty center isn't afraid to stand up for his teammates and is quite adept at taking and winning face-offs. It is unlikely that Snow would try to bring back Jokinen for his second tour as an Islander, but stranger things have happened before. Hudler would be a great help to the Islanders as he is a playmaking center that can bring some stability to the Isles' second line and add some much needed scoring depth at the same time.
Whatever route Snow and Wang decide to take, the pressure will be on management when it comes to improving the product on the ice. This season illustrated that the Islanders still have a long way to go before they are considered a finished product. The team needs a top pair d-man and some more offensive depth before they can truly compete in a tightly packed Atlantic Division. If Garth Snow can find the right fits for the Isles, then he must pursue those players with great vigor as the Islanders would be a drastically improved product if they added the right d-man and forward.
-Anatoliy Metter
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