Will Garth Snow Improve The Islanders Roster For The 2013 Season?

Prior to the NHL lockout, the New York Islanders announced that the team will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn once the lease with Nassau County expires in 2015. Although this was good news for the local fans, this situation also provided a lot of work for team owner Charles Wang and General Manager Garth Snow. (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)

The Islanders need to be a team ready to compete by the time they enter their new home. A new arena means a new identity, and it cannot be the one that this team has maintained for the last few years.

A rebuild was absolutely necessary. Too many bad trades and poor decisions had been made over the years and the Islanders needed to replenish their farm system and build through the draft. Despite some decisions that have received criticism, Garth Snow has done just that.

What he hasn't been able to do is sign key free agents to help push this team forward. The old Nassau Coliseum has taken the brunt of the blame for this omission. But that cannot be an excuse for much longer. A promising, state of the art facility will soon be used as a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.

But probably not this year.

With an expected 48-game season, does Garth Snow start wheeling and dealing before the puck drops to make his team a contender? Or does he evaluate what he has in front of him before going into next year?

Mark Streit, Evgeni Nabokov, Josh Bailey, Brad Boyes, Jesse Joensuu, Marty Reasoner, Eric Boulton and Lubomir Visnovsky are in the final years of their contracts. The latter, who has proclaimed he wishes to stay with his KHL team, might not get his wish. According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly expects the KHL to honor their transfer agreement with the NHL that states all players that have existing contracts with the NHL have to return to their respective teams at the end of the lockout.

With that being said, there are several key players that will either need to be re-signed or traded at this year's deadline. Streit and Nabokov will arguably bring in the highest return if dealt, with Visnovsky possibly being a close follow-up.

From within the system, Nino Niederreiter will likely get a chance to prove himself as a top-six NHL forward after being extremely successful with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ryan Strome, who has been superb at the Junior level, deserves a look with the Isles as well. Matt Donovan appeared to be a lock for one of the defense spots this year as well, with Sound Tigers teammate Aaron Ness right behind him.

Calvin de Haan seemed almost certain to get a chance had he not been placed on the IR for the rest of the year.

There might not be room for a deal to be made with all these question marks surrounding the young guys. And if anyone has followed the Isles over the years, Garth Snow has always been about giving the kids time to play.

Developing Nino and Strome is vital for this team's future success. With a shortened season on the horizon, it appears unlikely for Snow to open the wallet and start looking for veteran pieces to improve his club.

With that being said, the clock is ticking between now and Brooklyn, and the Islanders have to be ready to contend for a playoff spot before the puck drops at the Barclays Center.

-Rob McGowan
F

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