Isles RFA's: Who Will Stay?
The playoffs are well underway and every fan of the qualified teams have the pleasure for rooting for their respected clubs as they compete for a chance at hockey's greatest prize, the Stanley Cup. To the dismay of many, Islanders fans do not have this luxury and are forced to watch from the outside once again, most likely rooting for the Capitals, Lightning and Sabres, at least for the first round match-ups anyway.
Many Islanders are probably doing the same thing themselves. As a matter of fact, Matt Moulson tweeted this earlier today before the start of Game 3 between the Capitals and Rangers:
"@MMoulson: Guy tried to hand me a go Rangers towel...I laughed in his face"
You have to love the rivalry...but I digress.
Moulson was an impending UFA heading into this summer but inked a three-year contract extension with the Islanders before the end of the season. A lot of his teammates are RFA's that will be looking for a similar solution.
Kyle Okposo is one player that the Islanders might try to lock up long-term instead of just another one-year deal. The same can be said for Blake Comeau, who had an outstanding year by joining the 20-goal club and finishing with 46 points. It's possible that arbitration may be an option as well, but whatever the case may be, whether it's a short term deal or a long term deal, it's safe to assume that neither of these two will be going anywhere for a very long time.
Michael Grabner will be an interesting case since he is an RFA as well. It's doubtful that he would want to be anywhere else but with the Isles since they are the organization that gave him a chance to prove he is an NHL player after two other teams (the Canucks and Panthers) passed on him. He also just became a recent father; moving is probably the last thing on his mind. And let's face it, I doubt that Garth Snow has any intentions of parting ways with the potential Calder Trophy candidate. But the expectations will be higher for Grabner next year. He will have to prove that this season wasn't a fluke and that he can do it again, if not better next year. Snow did the same thing with Moulson and it worked out perfectly. So don't be surprised if you see that Grabner is only extended with a one-year deal before Snow decides how long Grabner will be kept with the team down the road.
Jesse Joensuu and Micheal Haley will probably get tendered their qualifying offers if not more so. Haley ended up as a mainstay with the club over the final quarter of the season and quickly became a fan-favorite and an intimidating enforcer. Joensuu started to show signs that he may be more than an AHL call-up and will generate competition heading into training camp at the very least.
On defense the Islanders have Ty Wishart, Dylan Reese, Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais as RFA's this summer. Wishart was acquired in the Roloson deal and will likely be kept for a look with the Sound Tigers next year. He's a big defenseman, young and has potential. Plus it would be foolish to let go of a player that was brought in for a guy like Roloson, who was arguably the best Islander at the time of his trade. Reese is a solid depth defenseman and may be kept as well, but that will all depend on how much room there will be in Bridgeport with Ness, Donovan, Katic and Wishart taking up spots. Calvin de Haan might be pressing for one as well; Reese might be a skater that Snow might not mind parting ways with.
Hillen and Gervais have been with the team for a few years now, the latter having been the longest. Gervais started with the Islanders since the 2005-2006 season after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Before joining the Isles on a full-time basis, Gervais put up 42 points in 55 games with the Sound Tigers in 2006 and was leading the AHL in scoring by a defenseman at one point as well. But overall he has struggled in the NHL, only putting up 68 points in 331 games with a combined -60. With that being said, I would be surprised if Gervais is seen wearing an Islanders jersey next year. Hillen has proved that he can be effective in the defensive zone and isn't afraid to join the rush. He has already shown more offensive capabilities in a shorter amount of time when compared to Gervais. With Jurcina, Streit, MacDonald, Hamonic, Mottau and Eaton already signed for next season, Hillen may be the safe bet to keep as the team's 7th defenseman.
But don't be surprised if Snow explores free agency or the trade route to insure his defensive corps a bit more after the amount of injuries this team has seen this year.
The only remaining RFA is Josh Bailey, the 9th overall pick of the 2008 draft where the Islanders dropped not once, but twice in order to select him. He has struggled since joining the team straight from the draft and was even sent down to Bridgeport for some extra conditioning to improve his game. He thrived with the Sound Tigers and came back to the NHL looking as if the move had helped him. But as the season continued on, Bailey's actions fell further and was hardly noticed on the ice at times, finishing with only 28 points in 70 games played.
However, I expect Bailey to be re-signed for at least one more year. He is still only 21 years old and was the second leading scorer from the OHL in his draft class behind Steve Stamkos. He's always been known as a play-maker and has lacked a veteran goal scorer to help him along his development. Although many want to see Tavares have a legitimate goal scorer on his wing next season, don't be surprised if Garth Snow targets Bailey's wing more than JT's. Basically, it would be way too early to give up on Bailey, and Snow knows how this team used to give up on developing players too quickly when Milbury was behind the desk. If Snow showed Jeff Tambellini years and years of patience, expect him to do so with Bailey, who has more upside and potential.
Follow me on Twitter!