Isles Fans Ask, What's Next?
It has been five days since the August 1st referendum failed. The vote was tallied at 9 PM after the day concluded in a dramatic fashion. Many Islanders fans and Nassau County residents who went out to vote yes did so in the later part of the afternoon, just as thunderstorms began to cloud the Island. Although it is unlikely that mother nature is to blame for the loss, many voters were stuck on trains that were delayed and didn't make it home in time for the vote.
But at the end of the day, the turn out, as expected was incredibly low. Despite that being the goal, hoping to get many of Long Island's younger voters to push this referendum through, the new arena plan was rejected with about 57% of voters saying no, and the other 43 % saying yes.
There are many, many Islanders fans and Nassau County residents who deserve to be applauded for all that they did to try to get this to pass. I take great pride in knowing that some of my readers cited my previous blog as an inspiration to go out and vote yes, that it reminded them of what the New York Islanders meant to them. I must have texted nearly 50-60 people the day before and the day of the vote. Seeing that so many other people were saying the same thing on Twitter, were posting similar blogs and were doing everything they could to reach out to people and convince them that the proposal was worth the vote, was simply incredible. It may have been a corny slogan from the start, but the motto of "We're All Islanders" couldn't have been more true that night. But unfortunately it wasn't enough to get the job done.
So now we wait. Again. Politics will continue to battle over what is next for the Islanders and the aging Coliseum. Charles Wang has now been rejected by the residents of Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. Kate Murray did everything she could to shut down the Lighthouse Project as Wang received barely any help from the local Democrats, who said they supported the plan. Now Murray showed her support at the first press conference for Ed Mangano's deal that was put to vote but was never seen anywhere after that day. A majority of Democrats did what they could to get their supporters to go out and vote no, and they were able to take the day. Wang now is caught in the middle as both sides do not want to lose the Islanders and the revenue that the Coliseum brings to the County, but neither can work something out.
This can come down to a last minute deal in 2015 when the lease expires, but Wang might want to start seriously exploring other options. Queens has been ready and waiting to take the Islanders organization and put them in Willets Point, right next to the New York Mets and Citi Field. Public transportation is easily accessible and all of the zoning and environmental issues that Murray used to block the Lighthouse Project have already been approved. There is plenty of land that can be used to create a top notch sports facility and create thousands of jobs just a little further west of the current Coliseum. The only problem is that Wang is committed to Nassau County and wants to create those jobs and that arena for the people who have been following this team and living here for the past 40 years. If I were him, I would start to scare the politicians, who do not believe he will ever leave despite the millions upon millions of dollars that make up his losses, and publicly display that you are looking into moving the team. Maybe only then will the Town of Hempstead and the politicians that make up Nassau County will realize that this is the harsh reality that everyone may face.
From a hockey stand point, things may just continue to get worse. Free agency hasn't been kind to the Islanders in recent years because of the aging facility. Now, with an uncertainty of what is to come over the next four years, free agency will only get worse. Frans Nielsen is an impending UFA this summer and is arguably the best two-way center on this team. It's hard to imagine him turning down a deal with the Islanders, but it's something that fans and the organization has to be prepared for as players look ahead to their future. John Tavares, who is the center piece of this team and at the core of the rebuild, will be looking for a new contract as his ELD will be expiring. He will be 21 years old and the Islanders would love to lock him up long-term, but don't expect it to happen. The team can give him another three year deal to keep him here until the end of the lease and make him an RFA once that expires as well, but it's hard to imagine that any player would want to sign a contract that would keep him with an organization that could be relocating after 2015. This isn't a knock on Tavares or Nielsen. This is just the way it is.
Blake Comeau recently signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million for next season. He told me in an interview at the start of the summer that he was hoping to stay long-term:
"I want to be part of Long Island for a long time to come. Like I’ve said, I’m very excited for the amount of young talent we have on the Island and the good group of leadership that we have with guys like Hunter, Eaton and Mottau and Streit. I just feel like we have such a bright future. I’ve been there since ’04 when I was drafted and I’ve been in that organization for, I don’t even know what it is now, years now so, obviously I want to make Long Island the place where I play for many years to come. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. Obviously I want to get something done and I am very confident that we’ll get something done as well."
Well they got something done, but just for one year. Rumor has it that there was a bigger trade that was planned after the Rolston/Hunter swap. A trade that all Islanders fans would be excited about. There was talk that Comeau was part of the deal as well. But the August 1st vote was rejected and the deal seems to have been washed out and Comeau has been signed only for one more season. He may be someone that is used as trade bait down the stretch. If not, he will be an RFA again next summer with the Islanders holding his negotiating rights.
This is why you can add spending only to the cap floor for the next four seasons to the harsh reality that is Islanders hockey. Wang was willing to spend and open the wallet on key players that could push the team forward. But that could change if he might be selling this team in a few years. One can argue that if he is still truly committed to the County, that he will spend money on the right players and make his team competitive each year, fighting for a playoff spot. There's no doubt that having a quality product on the ice will help his chances of getting this team a new arena. It all will depend on how the Islanders owner is planning to go about with his hockey club.
In other news, the Islanders are going to be releasing a third jersey this season. It appears that the jersey is going to be black, blue and orange. A prototype was released and picked up by Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy and can be seen here. The user who posted the picture (roblgraphicd) on Flickr has already deleted his account since he is a graphic designer for the Islanders. Feel free to share your thoughts on this as if it were to be the Islanders third jersey. However, as to what the jersey will actually be will remain to be seen until the season starts.
As for the roster, I think fans can expect to see GM Garth Snow continue to make a few tinkerings. There is no question that a top-four defenseman still would be crucial for this team to make the playoffs. But with Josh Bailey likely to get his next contract soon, Comeau's raise and Rolston's expensive deal, there probably won't be a need to change the roster for salary purposes.
So like the uncertain fate of the Islanders and their arena, we will just have sit and wonder what's next.
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