New York Islanders: Tom Kuhnhackl signs a PTO

New York Islanders, Tom Kuhnhackl

The New York Islanders have successfully retained another one of their free agents not named Mat Barzal. Yesterday, it was reported that Tom Kuhnhackl was on the training camp roster. But, just like his teammate Mat Barzal, Kuhnhackl did not take the ice. This was either due to the fact that he didn’t sign a contract yet or his shoulder wasn’t ready to go.

It seems as if it was the second reason as the Islanders announced that Kuhnhackl signed a PTO. What is a PTO? It’s basically a professional tryout, it’s what Mike Hoffman signed last week with the St. Louis Blues. In the case of the Isles, Kuhnhackl signed a PTO because they need to sign Barzal first. Then they will use the rest of their money to sign Kuhnhackl. What does Kuhnhackl bring to the Islanders?

Great Forechecking

Tom Kuhnhackl never played better Hockey than when the Isles played the Panthers in the play-in round. His forechecking was outstanding, the third line was the best line in that series for this reason. They gave the opposition absolutely no time to get settled and set up a play. Kuhnhackl created a couple of goals based on his board play in the offensive zone. Kuhnhackl always gives his all in every single game, and this team needs more of that effort. I believe that Kuhnhackl could definitely take that Left-Wing spot on the third line once again.

Leadership

The Islanders don’t need more veterans who can teach the young guns, but that’s what Kuhnhackl is. Kuhnhackl is a winner, he won 2 Stanley Cups in back to back years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact, Kuhnhackl has never missed the playoffs in his NHL career. Kuhnhackl brings a winning mentality and knows how to get it done in the playoffs.

New York Islanders: Training camp roster announced

New York Islanders

New York Islanders‘ training camp officially hit the ice this morning. And just before the team hit the ice, general manager Lou Lamoriello released the official training camp roster. There were 34 skaters and 4 goalies on this roster, and it managed to answer so many questions. Without any further stalling or build-up, who made it to the 2021 Islanders’ training camp?

Forwards

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Mat Barzal is on the training camp roster, but he did not take the ice today. This means Barzal has taken a physical and can get on the ice the second he signs his next contract. Another surprise was forward, Tom Kuhnhackl. This offseason, it looked as if Kuhnhackl was forgotten, but I guess Lamoriello had another trick up his sleeve. Kuhnhackl also didn’t take the ice today, it’s either he doesn’t have a contract yet, or because of his shoulder. Dmytro Timashov was on the ice, and that means he did receive an official contract, so that’s one less person to sign. Also, Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom made a few good defensive plays today. Finally, Josh Ho-Sang has still not been invited to camp, and his time with the Islanders has gotten even more toxic than my last relationship.

Defense

The Islanders invited 12 defensemen to training camp, and only half of them will be playing on opening night. Honestly, I don’t see a single top 6 spot up for grabs right now. There are 6 defensemen competing to be the next man up if an injury occurs. This is the case unless Andy Greene just totally forgets what Hockey is. I think either Sebastian Aho or Grant Hutton will receive the honor of being called the 7th defenseman.

Goalies

Four goalies received an invite to Islanders’ training camp this year. Take a guess who got invited. Obviously, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin would get an invite. And there literally is no one else behind them other than Corey Schneider and Jakub Skarek. No shockers here. This is the full training camp roster. The Isles are in for another successful season if they can develop their young guns properly.

New York Islanders: Why the Islanders missed out on top free agents

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders yet again missed out on another top tier free agent for what seems like the 20th year in a row. This time, it’s not because of poor team success or lack of an actual home stadium. No, this time there was a different reason for why the Isles couldn’t sign a top guy.

Mike Hoffman would’ve helped out the Islanders scoring situation tremendously. The same goes for Anthony Duclair and even Andreas Athanasiou. But, there’s no reason to look at the past and say who the Isles should’ve signed. There is one key reason why the Islanders couldn’t sign anyone of importance. It was a waiting game, and the season was announced before a key person was signed.

Mat Barzal

The Islanders couldn’t make a single move until their top guy actually re-signed. And as everyone knows, Mat Barzal still doesn’t have a contract. The Islanders weren’t going to make a move that took up a bunch of cap space until Barzal signed.

I’ve seen a bunch of people call for Lou Lamoriello’s head because he couldn’t sign Duclair for $1 million dollars. The Islanders aren’t loaded with cap space, every dollar counts for this team. The Isles only have around $9.5 million in cap space left, and their franchise guy hasn’t even signed yet.

Also, they still have deals for Matt Martin, Corey Schneider, and Andy Greene that still have to be made official. So, it’s not like the Islanders can just sign anyone they feel like. This isn’t NHL 21 connected franchise mode, there’s no option to play without a salary cap.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Samuel Bolduc for the 2021 season

The New York Islanders drafted defenseman Samuel Bolduc in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, the 6’4 defenseman has been tearing up the QMJHL. Bolduc played in 61 games last year and recorded 11 goals and 32 assists for a total of 43 points. His +/- was great too, coming in at a +13, that stat doesn’t really matter, though.

Bolduc, who is now 20 years old, will have a shot to prove his worth in the minors. And I believe that he will surprise many and become the next “guy” for the Islanders. What are the expectations for Samuel Bolduc for the upcoming season?

Role

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bolduc will be on the top pairing in Bridgeport by the end of the year. Brent Thompson might be a terrible coach, but it’s hard to misjudge a guy like Bolduc. Samuel Bolduc is a big defender, and that’s exactly what the Islanders need. But there’s no way Bolduc gets pulled up this year. He’s not beating out Noah Dobson, Nick Leddy, Andy Greene, or Sebastian Aho.

Islander fans will have to wait at least two more years for him to be truly ready. I still think Bolduc plays well in his first year at Bridgeport. The kid has been pretty much dominant at every level so far. I have high hopes for the Islanders’ 2019 second-round draft pick.

Scouting Report

All I’ve done so far is praise Samuel Bolduc, but I’ve stated no evidence to back this praise up. Bolduc has an absolute cannon of a slapshot, and he relies on it a lot. It’s nowhere close to what Ryan Pulock does, but it’s still a heat-seeking missile. Bolduc should use his wrist shot a bit more often, it would confuse defenders for sure. Sometimes Bolduc is really great with his breakout passes, sometimes he’s a mess. That’s something that has to be cleaned up, you can’t play at the next level and make those mistakes. I think Bolduc could use his body a bit more, he’s a big guy, and he needs to throw his weight around. His skating could also be better and his decision making. Most of these unwanted qualities will be fixed before Bolduc hits the NHL ice. Mark my words, Samuel Bolduc will become a top 4 defenseman.

New York Islanders: Making the case for Max Pacioretty

Islanders, Max Pacioretty

The New York Islanders have two sizable problems going into the 2020-2021 season. One problem is that they don’t have a winger who can score at will. The other problem is that they don’t have the cap space to make a move to get one. But, luckily for them, the Islanders still have two second-round picks laying around from the Devon Toews trade.

What if I told you that there’s a way to kill two birds with one stone? That the Islanders can resign all their guys and still get a top 6 forward. Enter Max Pacioretty.

Scouting Report

Max Pacioretty was just an average top 6 forward who was declining with age when he was shipped to the Vegas Golden Knights. Then the 2019-2020 season hit, and Max Pacioretty broke out for the second time. It’s almost like he was reborn when he went to Vegas.

Well, there are two reasons for this. “Patches” got back to powerlifting, the thing that gave him his famous speed, and he had something to prove. Max Pacioretty turned back the clock 6 years. He played like a 26-year-old but had the experience of a 32-year-old. Max Pacioretty is exactly what Mat Barzal needs.

The Trade

Speaking of Mat Barzal, how can the Islanders retain his salary and take on Patches’? It’s actually a lot easier than you think. Barzal signs a bridge deal, 3 years $7 million. This deal works for both sides, Barzal gets a good amount of money, and the Isles still have cap space. Then, Matt Martin and Andy Greene both get $1.25 million for 1 year. Now, Andrew Ladd must be sent to LTIR, this deal doesn’t work without that. Next, Thomas Hickey, Leo Komarov, and Ross Johnston get sent down to the AHL. Finally, the Islanders trade both second-round picks and Robin Salo to Vegas in exchange for Max Pacioretty. The deal is done, the Islanders get everything they want, and the Island is happy.

New York Islanders: Breaking down the possible division realignment

New York Islanders

The National Hockey League has taken giant steps to get a 2020-2021 season on the way. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that the season will start on January 13th. Only a couple of hours later, the NHL announces there will be a division realignment due to COVID-19.

The New York Islanders are in the “USA 1” division. This is just my name holder for the division, so don’t look so far into this. This division has a bunch of good teams and a few terrible teams. I think it’s the most well-rounded division out of the four. Let’s see who will be the Islanders’ toughest task in this new 56 game season.

Boston Bruins

There’s something about Boston. I don’t know if it’s in the drinking water or the clam chowder, but every year one Boston team is great. The Bruins have been great for so unbelievably long, and they show no signs of slowing down. Their true top line is the scariest line in the league. Along with forwards like Jake Debrusk, Craig Smith, and Charlie Coyle, their forward core is deep.

On the other hand, their defense got much worse during the offseason. They lost two key defenders in Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. The speedy Islander forwards shouldn’t have much trouble navigating through the new defense.

Washington Capitals

I love and hate the Washington Capitals. They’re such a good team, and I love their top line, but man, they need to go away. People call the Islanders pesky, but what about the Washington Capitals? They keep getting more and more talented as the years go on. Yes, they lost Braden Holtby. But, they gained Daniel Sprong, Justin Schultz, and Henrik Lundqvist. I fully expect the Capitals to make another run at the Stanley Cup with their newly improved roster.

New York Islanders: Making the case for Otto Koivula

Otto Koivula, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have some big decisions to make before the expansion draft next year. One of these decisions is if they should protect Casey Cizikas. The talent and the attitude he brings to the team makes it obvious to protect him. But, there are other players on the team that has priority over him. Especially with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin nearing their final days on the Island, it’s more of a reason why Cizikas will be in Seattle. That’s probably one of the worst-case scenarios for Islander fans. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say Cizikas heads to Seattle. Who can try to replace him?

Otto Koivula

Otto Koivula is one of the more puzzling prospects in the Islanders pool. He’s obviously improving every year since he was drafted, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. In 69 games with Bridgeport last year, Koivula recorded 21 goals and 25 assists. He also had 2 assists in 5 playoff games.

I think Koivula can replace Cizikas, just off his playing style. It’s very similar and very different at the same time. Having a guy like Casey Cizikas on the 4th line is energizing and exciting. Having a guy like Otto Koivula promises responsible yet boring Hockey. It’s not like Koivula can dangle and skate past anyone, he’s more of a grinder who gets in the corners and uses his shoulders well.

Scouting Report

Otto Koivula is a nice power forward who has some dangles and can score consistently. But, he lacks the creativity to really make an impact in an NHL game. With the right coaching, this will change, luckily the Islanders only have Barry Trotz. Sometimes it feels like he’s really only out there skating. In 12 NHL games last year, he logged nothing but ice time and hits. Koivula has time to fix his game, as he probably won’t be needed this year, but he has to be ready soon.

New York Islanders: It’s time to give pp on Jakub Skarek

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders drafted goaltender Jakub Skarek with the 72nd pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Normally third-round picks don’t pan out for a couple of years, but I think it’s time to call it on Skarek. He was an average goalie coming out of Czechoslovakia.

Now, Skarek is one of the worst goalies I’ve ever seen. Jakub Skarek was loaned out to Mestis in order to hone in on his skills before returning to Bridgeport. Skarek hasn’t won a game, and he’s started all four games. He currently has a GAA of 4.44 and a save percentage of .833%. There are multiple reasons why it’s time to give up on Jakub Skarek.

Depth

I view Jakub Skarek as the 5th goalie in the Islanders’ system. Obviously, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin are numbers 1 and 2. Cory Schneider is number 3 just off his veteran experience.

Then, I say Henrik Tikkanen is the 4th goalie in the depth chart. I base this off of what he’s currently doing in Finland. In 9 games at Mestis, he’s rocking a 2.55 GAA, and a .901 save percentage. These two goalies are in the same league, and one is way better than the other one. Despite Skarek having 30 games of experience in North America, I’m giving this one to Henrik Tikkanen.

Regression

As I’ve said before, when the Islanders drafted Skarek, he was an average goalie from Czechoslovakia. Now, Skarek can’t save a volleyball from scoring. Jason Chimera, who has literal cataracts, could score easily on Jakub Skarek. Ever since 2018, when Skarek played in the International Juniors, he’s been a liability.

His stats in that tournament was a 6.75 GAA, and a .808 save percentage in 4 games. Then he went on to post a 3.27 GAA, and a .888 save percentage in Bridgeport. I like him as a person, but he needs to get out of his head ASAP.

New York Islanders: The Devon Toews trade was the right move

New York Islanders, Devon Toews

Everyone and their mother know that the New York Islanders had to trade Devon Toews because of cap space problems. Then all of a sudden, Johnny Boychuk retires and frees up a good amount of cap space. Now everyone is calling for Lou Lamoriello’s head because of this. This is interesting for many reasons, but a primary one is that no one knew how bad Boychuk’s eye was.

Boychuk was ready to play another season just two weeks ago, and now his illustrious career is over. I believe trading Devon Toews was the right move, and it’ll remain the right move.

Arbitration Hearing

Devon Toews was traded basically right before his court hearing. Lou Lamoriello has stated many times that he didn’t know how much they would award a player of his caliber. It’s not like Toews was being shopped the entire offseason like Boychuk was. But in the end, Toews got traded, and it’s the right move. I mean, let’s say we kept Toews and Boychuk still retired, those contracts almost cancel each other out, and the Isles still have no money to resign Mat Barzal.

Cap Space

The Islanders would have no room to sign Mat Barzal. Through my estimations, they would have around $6 million to sign him, Greene, Martin, and Schneider. This is not NHL 21; this is an unrealistic scenario. These players deserve money, and that’s what they’re going to get. How much Barzal wants remains a mystery.

Barzal could be asking for $9.5 million for all we know. I assume it’s lower than that based on what Ryan Pulock said when he resigned. But still, you could not keep Toews, Pulock, and Barzal on the Island if they re-signed Toews. The Isles chose the better two players, their franchise players stayed as they try to win a championship.

New York Islanders: Johnny Boychuk’s career is over, references eye injury as deciding factor

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

Longtime New York Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk’s career is officially over. It’s a really sad day for all Islander fans as one of the guys who changed the franchise around has to retire early.

Hearing the trade for Boychuk and Nick Leddy simultaneously, every NHL fan knew the Islanders were on the upswing. And that trade doesn’t feel so long ago, but that was 6 years in the past. Johnny Boychuk isn’t that elite 30-year-old with the booming slapshot anymore. He’s a great 36-year-old veteran who would give it his all 60 minutes a night.

Johnny Boychuk is being forced to retire due to his eye injury that happened back in March. His face was sliced by a skate while in front of the net. He currently has permanent nerve damage in his eye and bad peripheral vision. It’s a sad ending for a fan favorite.

What’s Next?

Johnny Boychuk will never step on the ice ever again for a professional Hockey team. As he said, “it’s not a decision, it was a life choice I guess.” Johnny Boychuk will take a behind the scenes role with some team. It’ll probably be the Islanders as he tries to win his second Stanley Cup, but this time he’ll win it off the ice. Lou Lamoriello loves to keep his guys around, so it wouldn’t shock anyone if Boychuk doesn’t leave the Island for good.

The Positives

In this sad situation, there are only two positives I can think of from this. One is that Johnny Boychuk will be safe, and we won’t have to worry about him on the ice. If his eye started going and he couldn’t see someone coming at him, yeah, that’s very bad. All Isles fans want the best for Johnny Rocket.

Another positive is the cap space. The Islanders gain back a good amount of cap space from this and should be able to sign Mat Barzal now. Also, they have those 2 second-round picks from the Toews trade lying around. All in all, I love you, Boychuk. It’s been a pleasure watching you for so many years, thank you for everything. It’s okay, you can go now, you did everything you could, the Islanders will be fine.