Islanders’ Adam Pelech finally becoming household name

We’ve entered day three of free agency and everything continues to be hush-hush in and around the Islanders.

G.M. Lou Lamoriello and his confidants have put on a masterful display to not have let anything be divulged about any possible new deals in place with their key restricted and unrestricted free agents. Sooner or later though, the dam is going to break and we will either be treated to one piece of news or several transactions all at once.

One of those deals “hopefully” soon to be finalized is the long-term extension for d-man Adam Pelech. And there’s been plenty of talk about him as his stock around the NHL continues to rise.

Sportsnet’s NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman was on the No Sleep Till Belmont podcast earlier this week with Islanders’ beat writer Arthur Staple to chat about the team when he was asked which player he’s watched from afar who has improved the most as during the organization’s success the last three years. His answer: Pelech.

“Pelech is the guy,” said Friedman. “I didn’t put him on my Norris ballot this year, but as I watched the playoffs more and more, I missed not putting him on.”

I had mentioned yesterday about Pelech evolving into a possible candidate to represent Canada at next year’s Winter Olympics. But this? How can you not say wow. That’s some extremely high praise coming from one of the most well-respected journalists and analysts in the sport whose word is gold. For Friedman to also mention Pelech and the Norris Trophy in the same light is incredible considering the 26-year-old’s place was on this team not even just four seasons ago.

It’s funny that expansion draft took place last week, because it was just that scenario four years ago where former general manager Garth Snow made the bold move to protect Pelech. Snow was berated by Isles fans for his decision, which now might have turned out to be the smartest thing he did during his tenure. The proof has been there for some time now the Islanders are not complete without his presence.

“I just think he’s a heck of player,” Friedman continued. “He’s a typical Trotz-Lamoriello low-maintenance, understated guy who just plays and plays hard. I’ve become a huge fan of his game.”

Pelech’s ascent to being one of the premier d-men in the league has been on a steady pace for a while now. Already the clear-cut No. 1 d-man on the Isles, he’s finally becoming the household name everyone needs to recognize.

While the silence has been defeaning on Long Island in terms of moves, a few miles away the Rangers have been very loud in the revamp of their squad under new general manager Chris Drury. The latest move being the acquisition of enforcer Ryan Reaves from Vegas last night.

The Islanders bullied the Rangers at the end of the regular season last year, and with Reaves now the newest Blueshirt, the rivalry between the two clubs just added some extra spice.

The Isles have history Reaves from the team’s past encounters in Vegas. Now they get to see him six times a year? Should make for some entertaining contests.

 

 

 

 

A quiet first day of free agency for the Islanders shouldn’t surprise anyone by now

Day one of NHL Free Agency yesterday ended without a sound from the Islanders.

While every other club was announcing deals left and right, the Isles remained radio silent on all fronts. There were reports hours before the opening bell rang at noon that the team had signed free agent forward Zach Parise and re-signed forward Kyle Palmieri. Those deals weren’t filed with the league nor were there any announcements made. They could be made today.

Beyond those, nothing. Nada.

All day long, nothing leaked about who the Islanders might be targeting either. Even the insiders were stumped about what g.m. Lou Lamoriello and Co. were up to. The best probably came from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen who tweeted, “Does anybody know what Lou Lamoriello is doing? Does anybody ever know? The Islanders have been very Lou-like quiet today. Doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything. Linked with Parise, Palmieri, Cizikas. We’ll see.”

To say Islanders fans were frustrated with this would be an understatement. This summer has already seen the departures of Nick Leddy, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd. The difference was, two of the three transactions — which came fast and furious — was surprising to be frank.

Now, no news coming out yesterday could be received as either a positive or negative depending on your preference.  But this method of silence shouldn’t be seen as something entirely new based on how Lamoriello has operated since taking things over. Under his watch, the Islanders have always kept all their handlings under wraps for the sole purpose of not giving any indication to other clubs what they might be doing.

It’s what’s become to be known as “Lou’s cone of silence”. Nobody says or leaks anything to anybody. Lamoriello has used this model everywhere he’s been in his career. This is particularly seen most during free agency.

Going through each of the past summers, the Islanders have always been late to the party when announcing their key acquisitions. In 2018 the team didn’t make the signings of Leo Komarov and Valterri Filppula official till at night on the day free agency started. There had been nothing of note from anybody that day regarding who the Isles were looking at. It did come out around the time those two deals were completed the Isles were talking with the Sabres to possibly acquire center Ryan O’Reilly, which ultimately never fell through. They also didn’t announce goalie Robin Lehner’s deal till the second day with the market open for business.

A year later, the re-signing of captain Anders Lee and deal struck with free agent goalie Semyon Varlamov also came several hours after most of the teams in the league made signings.

Lamoriello has always acknowledged that if you have time, you use it. And it’s clear that he uses every single second he has based on what’s stated in the graf above.

As frustrating as that method may seem, it’s usually benefitted the Islanders for the most part.

The value they’ve gotten out of the names listed above by waiting things out has led to tremendous success both in the regular season and the postseason. So obviously Lamoriello’s got a plan and lets things be as they may until he decides to execute it.

There’s still plenty of work to be done by the Lou and his cohorts — re-signing Casey Cizikas, getting new deals done for Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin — but all of it not coming the first day of free agency shouldn’t have people worrying. For a good amount of time, they’ve been about easing their way into that crucial phase of the offseason. It’s why things were so quiet yesterday and it’s something that should be thought of as normal now when it comes to the organization.

Go back a few years prior and ask anybody associated with or outside the Islanders whether Adam Pelech be considered an option to represent Team Canada in any Olympic scenario, and that person might look at you like you had three heads.

Now? They might praise you for such forward thinking.

During TSN’s Free Agent Frenzy yesterday, some of those on the panel took a minute to give their projected lineups for both Canada and the USA if the NHL does have its players participate in next year’s Winter Games in China. Analyst Mike Johnson put out his lineup with Pelech actually being one of the two Islanders on Canada along with Mathew Barzal.

Pelech over the past few seasons has been recognized as one of the league’s best defensive d-man. It’s a long shot he gets the nod to go play for his country, but the fact he’s even mentioned as a possibility shows how far he’s come in such a short period of time.

 

 

 

The end has finally come for Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang with the Islanders

The end has finally come for the Islanders with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang.

Yesterday reports came out that neither player was on the list of players to receive qualifying offers thus marking the end of both their tenures with the organization.

Ho-Sang and Dal Colle had their moments with the Islanders but neither lived up to the expectations that came with where they were drafted. Dal Colle only appeared in 111 games with the Isles over four seasons and produced 29 points. Ho-Sang played in just 53 games over two seasons, resulting in seven goals and 17 assists.

Both players being left to find new homes marks the conclusion of two of the biggest “what ifs” for the Islanders in recent memory. Particularly, Ho-Sang. From the moment he first donned an Islander jersey, it was marred by controversy.

When Ho-Sang was drafted, Islanders general manager Garth Snow sat at the dais with the TSN crew at the NHL Draft to discuss the organization’s pick of him. What came next took everyone by surprise. “He’ll fit right in, they shit on me too,” Snow said when asked about his decision to draft Ho-Sang.

That one moment was a coup for Snow — well mostly from his club’s lone fanbase — with the consensus being Ho-Sang was a potential steal for how he ended up falling into the Isles’ lap. Going into the draft, the Toronto native was considered an elite talent and might have gone in the top ten if not for some — how should we put this lightly — “attitude problems”.

We would learn over time those concerns were warranted, as Ho-Sang lacked the maturity it took to make it in the NHL. There were plenty of incidents — some public, some not — that just made things untenable and earned him a rough reputation in and outside the organization. The last three years alone, Ho-Sang only got to play in ten games and the organization even loaned him to Europe for this past season after leaving him off the roster to begin training camp.

Then there’s Dal Colle, Snow’s selection before Ho-Sang — although this one in the top-five — which had more importance and less backlash. Dal Colle was selected by the Islanders with the fifth pick and was projected to be the scoring winger the franchise had been yearning for to skate alongside franchise center John Tavares.

Unfortunately, the latter never occurred. Dal Colle took much longer to develop in the minors than many had hoped and never showed that offensive power he did in juniors at the pro level. He did find some success as a bottom-six forward under head coach Barry Trotz in recent years but never adding anything more in terms of value.

Dal Colle’s departure does open the door for a few other players — Kieffer Bellows, Anatoli Golyshev (both qualified) — to fight for a regular role for next season. That being said, he and Ho-Sang now can get a fresh start somewhere else. They’re each still young (25) and talented enough to carve out NHL careers.

Dal Colle and Ho-Sang not panning out with the Isles after how much was expected of them when they were drafted is sad. A lot of people were rooting for them to succeed. But things just never moved past a certain level for either of them. And now they’re both gone.

 

Islanders might finally be getting the national spotlight they deserve

The Islanders have continued to make tremendous strides as a franchise the past three years, and now they might finally be getting rewarded for it with the national spotlight.

The NHL released its 2021-22 regular season schedule yesterday along with all of its 32 teams. Strolling through the Isles’ slate of games, there was something that was different about their slate of home dates for their inaugural season at UBS Arena — they are scheduled to play eight Sunday games.

This caught my eye. The reason being for the last 16 years, it was that day of the week that the league and NBC, NBCSN would have its so-called “Game of the Week”. ESPN and TNT — the league’s new television homes — have already acknowledged Wednesday and Sunday games will be in front of a nationally televised audience. There’s also the fact the Islanders have always been more of the traditional Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday format. Some of the opponents for those games as well — Maple Leafs twice, Blackhawks, Golden Knights, Lightning — all boast star power and national appeal you’d want for said telecasts.

I’m not one to speculate, but this could mean the Isles and their new home will get plenty of attention. If that’s the case, it’s been a long time coming.

For years the thought of the Islanders being featured prominently was only shot down every time the league would announce its national TV schedule. You’d look at the games picked and they’d maybe have one game, two if they were lucky. It’s stayed that way even as Islanders have sustained success and been a perennial playoff contender over the last three seasons. But this past postseason they showed they can be a national draw.

Newsday’s Neil Best reported back in late June — during the team’s semifinal appearance — that the Isles’ lone game on NBC during their series against Tampa Bay averaged 2.27% of New York-area homes, which was a 49% increase over the their one conference final game on NBC the previous postseason. The four games that were seen on NBCSN or USA Network averaged 1.91% of area homes, also up  from 1.78 when the teams met last year in the conference finals. Then factor in how the country got to witness how wonderful, passionate fanbase the Islanders have. The amount praise around the league they received for the show the fans put on for three rounds was seen as very special.

Now with a sparkling new building to show off and a winning team, the Isles should be seen in a more glamorous light. That should excite the fanbase and the organization. And sure, I might be the only one who cares about it, but it wasn’t too long ago, the franchise was looked at as a skidmark and a the butt of jokes around the league.

Things are different now and times have changed. The Islanders seem to be gaining traction from a national perspective and all things indicate it will be on display plenty next season.

Outside of the possible national exposure, the Isles’ schedule release revealed some juicy parts to it.

The ridiculous 13-game roadie to start the season is one thing, but once that’s concluded the first week four games at UBS Arena are going to be a real treat. They include the Flames (home opener), Maple Leafs (Tavares’ first visit to the new building), Rangers (first-ever matchup at the new building), and Penguins (a rematch of the first round from this past postseason).

There’s also the returns to Long Island of Nick Leddy and Thomas Greiss (Dec. 29), Jordan Eberle’s return (Jan. 29), and Robin Lehner (Dec. 19). Connor McDavid and the Oilers on New Year’s Day. First trip to Seattle on January 4th. And the first rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning in mid-November.

J.G. Pageau’s hand seems to finally be healed after he broke it during the second-round against the Bruins. The Isles forward was seen without a cast on social media as he and his wife Camille were announced they had bought a penthouse for their new home just outside of Ottawa.

Pageau had been wearing the cast after having undergone successful surgery days after the season ended.

Josh Bailey deserved to see things through with the Islanders

The expansion draft has come and gone, and the Islanders didn’t come out of it too worse for the wear.

Jordan Eberle is no longer an Islander after he wound up being the odd man out.  He was selected by the Kraken after multiple reports surfaced yesterday morning he was their pick.

The loss of him will sting. The Isles are now down a top-six forward and one of their more valuable skill players.

Eberle did record 169 points in 272 games for the organization — add on to that 34 points in the postseason — and formed fantastic chemistry with star forward Mathew Barzal. The two had been linked together since Barzal’s rookie season when they were paired on the first line following the 31-year-old being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the offseason in exchange for Ryan Strome.

Eberle being taken did come as a bit of a surprise. There was chatter and speculation — and let me tell you there was plenty among the pundits — leading up to the draft with Kraken plucking Josh Bailey instead of him. Both forwards were left off the  Islanders’ protected list on Sunday, with Bailey being a bigger shocker than Eberle.

It was a bit of a gamble on g.m. Lou Lamoriello’s part which obviously paid off, albeit a scary one. Reports came out today that the Kraken were mulling hard between whether to choose Bailey over Eberle and vice versa.

Things might get a lot clearer about whether Lamoriello and Seattle g.m. Ron Francis had agreed to a side deal to maybe steer the Kraken away from Bailey once the roster freeze is over this afternoon.

But the fact of the matter remains, Bailey is still an Islander. And there’s no question, he deserved to still be here if and when the Islanders finally win it all.

I shouldn’t have to tell you how much losing Bailey would have been a slap in the face to not just the player, but the team. Nothing against Eberle, but Bailey’s contributions to the franchise warrant him being here for the long-haul. And they go beyond the ice.

Bailey has been in blue and orange for the past 13 years — he was drafted 9th overall back in 2008 — and has stuck with the organization through all the trials and tribulations. He’s never complained. Never thrown his teammates under the bus. And always lead by example. It’s a reason he wears an “A” on his sweater.

Even when he had a chance to test free agency back in 2018, Bailey took a team-friendly deal to keep him with organization for six more season.

Outside of captain Anders Lee, there might not be a more-respected player in the Islanders’ dressing room the past few years. The 31-year-old might be soft-spoken, but he’s always let his play speak for him. Ask head coach Barry Trotz, who over time has trusted Bailey in any situation. Beyond that, the playoffs have become his time to shine. No Islander forward has had more points in the postseason (39) than Bailey the past three years.

“With Bails, it’s all IQ,” Trotz has said in the past in his praise of the veteran forward. “He’s a cerebral player. He makes really intelligent reads and they’ll be some things, they’re more subtle. You’ve got to watch him closely. If you’re just looking for the wow factor, you probably don’t see that in Josh. What you do see is all the subtleties and sort of the thinking man’s player.”

Losing Bailey would have taken a large chunk out of what has turned the Islanders into the competitive squad they have become. Replacing him would have been a difficult task. Then think about filling that hole with how close the Isles are to within a title. That said, Bailey has earned the right to stick with the franchise till the end and see it all culminate in a Stanley Cup.

Seeing a teammate leave is never an easy thing. It’s a sad day for all involved. Just ask Mathew Barzal.

Barzal, Jordan Eberle’s fellow “Gary” — an inside joke the two teammates came up with that fans caught on to — bid farewell to him on social media in a heartfelt post.

This expansion draft is a whole new ballgame for Islanders from first one in 2017

The day of the expansion draft has finally arrived. For the first time since 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights were entering the league, several big names will leave their respective clubs to fill out the inaugural Seattle Kraken roster.

It should be a stressful day with plenty of intense moments in both the lead-up and when the selection are finally made. And these next 12 hours might just be that for the Islanders. Why?

Well, the last time the expansion draft had any significant meaning to them, the organization was completely different. They had just missed the playoffs for the first time in two years, Garth Snow was still running the team, and their roster wasn’t as deep as it is today. All you need to do is go look at Snow’s protection list, and you’ll realize how much has changed.

Snow also had made the bold decision to swing a deal with Vegas — which included Mikhail Grabovski, prospect Jake Bischoff (who?), a 2017 1st-rounder and 2019-second rounder — for them to stay away from d-man Adam Pelech.

At the time Pelech wasn’t even considered anything valuable, but has since become one of the best defenders in the league. That deal remains one of the two last salvos of Snow’s reign upstairs.

But back then there was never a feeling then the Isles had a chance to lose someone that could really hurt them. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

There is a nervousness among many that they could very well lose Josh Bailey. The longest-tenured forward on the Isles’ roster was surprisingly left unprotected when the team’s list was revealed this past Sunday. He along with Jordan Eberle — the player many are hoping/expecting the Kraken to take — have been acknowledged as primary candidates.

Reports from this morning indicated that the Kraken would be going with Eberle over Bailey, but that can only be confirmed once the draft happens tonight. Still, possibly losing either player will hurt.

Both have played a huge role in the Isles’ turnaround the past few seasons, which has resulted in back-to-back conference final/semifinal appearances.

Bailey is close to playing 1,000 games with the franchise and is already on some of the all-time lists among players who have worn the blue and orange. He is also one of the most-respected leaders in the locker room and someone head coach Barry Trotz has praised overwhelmingly since he took over behind the bench.

The Isles being a good team now means they have players who are attractive to be taken away. Times have definitely changed from where they were at this point from the previous expansion draft.

The Islanders should be sending the Bruins a thank you for the Carlo deal

The Islanders’ offseason is set to be a difficult one in a number of ways. One of the biggest obstacles will be getting RFA Adam Pelech extended.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello made it crystal clear a few weeks ago he had all the intention of getting his restricted free agents — Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin — re-signed, thus avoiding the situation he was forced into last offseason when he traded Devon Toews to Colorado.

Pelech is obviously the top priority on that list. He’s the Isles’ best defenseman and established himself as an elite defender in the NHL over the past three seasons. So there’s no doubt that he is going to get a lofty raise from the $1.6M he was making in this last contract.

With the news that came out of Boston yesterday — the Bruins announced they signed defenseman Brandon Carlo to a six-year, 24M deal — the parameters of what’s to be expected in Pelech’s new deal got a bit more clear. 

There had been a lot of speculation from the season till now that Pelech could end up in the $5.5-6M for his new contract. But seeing what he and Bruins agreed to, the Isles might be able to get him for a more affordable price.

For Carlo’s AAV to be only $4.1M, it’s a bit of a surprise if not even an underpayment. The 24-year-old has climbed the ranks of the Bruins’ backend for a few years now and is one of their top-four defenders.

Pelech has taken an identical path as the former, but is certainly going to get paid more. That’s a given.

Carlo’s numbers though could maybe lead to the Isles getting Pelech locked up at $5M or a shade above instead of having to break the bank.

That would be a massive victory for the organization.

A similar deal as such also gives Lamoriello at least a little flexibility to do some other housecleaning in regards to the organization’s other offseason moves.

The term too might even be more important than the money for Pelech’s contract. Boston showed how much they value Carlo by the amount of years they gave him. It will most likely be the same way with for Pelech.

After all, Pelech is only 26 and hasn’t even reached his prime yet. Not only that, the Islanders are Stanley Cup contenders and have a system that will allow them to sustain success long-term.

Some would say Carlo and Pelech are in the same echelon of d-men in the league. Let’s call it the second tier. But Pelech is definitely above Carlo in terms of importance to his team’s overall success. The Islanders rely on defense and don’t have some of the horses Boston does. They also don’t have a Charlie McAvoy like Carlo and the B’s do.

Don’t think for a second that doesn’t play a factor in contract negotiations. It will.

Now that Carlo has his deal done, there’s more clarity of where things might end up going between Pelech and the Isles over the next few weeks. The contract revealed yesterday can only be beneficial as the offseason moves forward.

And the Isles might want to send their Massachusetts brethren a thank you for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One element Zach Parise would bring to the Islanders no one has yet to mention

The Islanders’ offseason just got a bit more interesting in the last 24 hours and it wasn’t even them who were involved.

Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild announced they were buying out the contracts of veterans Zach Parise and Ryan Suter thus making them free agents at the end of this month.

Both players had the same years remaining on their identical 13-year, 98M deals they signed back in 2012.

It was a shocking move to say the least, especially after the Wild took steps in the right direction this year and pushed the Vegas Golden Knights to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. But now Parise and Suter, both 36 years of age, have the chance to find new homes.

There’s already speculation that the Isles could be a potential suitor for either player or both for that matter. A source told amNewYork’s Joe Pantorno this morning that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Islanders make a run at Parise. The Isles did try to acquire him already from Minnesota at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline but the deal never fell through.

Obviously, the connection is there between the player and the organization. The Islanders might also have an even slighter advantage with current g.m. Lou Lamoriello being the one who drafted Parise to New Jersey back in 2003.

If Parise and the Isles were to agree to a cheap deal, it could be a huge win. He would help in some areas the team has been still lacking, mainly the bottom six and scoring (he was still averaging over 40-plus points before this season). Aside from that, there’s another part of Parise’s game that could have the most impact for the Islanders: the power play.

For years, Parise has been one of the more underrated power play specialists in the league. He hold’s claim as the Wild’s franchise leader in power play goals with 69.

In two of the last three seasons, Parise recorded 22 goals on the man-advantage. Compare that to the Islanders who as a team combined for just 21 from their power play goal leaders in that time — Anders Lee with 10 in ’18-’19, Mathew Barzal with 4 in ’19-’20 and Brock Nelson with seven this season — and you see where he could be a crucial addition.

Parise has the skill to be both a shooter and a net front presence. A combination like that could give the Isles a huge boost, even if they do have guys who already play that role in Anders Lee and Oliver Wahlstrom.

But think of the first word: shooter. Parise would give head coach Barry Trotz and power play boss Jim Hiller another weapon at their disposal for good measure. Ditto someone like Mathew Barzal, who has a pass-first mentality.

It’s been blatantly clear the Islanders don’t shoot enough. It’s one element that’s made them an enigma for what seems forever. If not that, it’s played a part in costing them a chance at winning a Stanley Cup. Against the Lightning in the semifinal, the Isles went 1-for-17 with the power play which was a repeat performance of the previous year against the very same team.

Having another weapon like Parise could have made a huge difference just in that department alone.

The Islanders are very close to winning it all and Parise would be a solid addition. His ability to have success on the power play might be one factor no one has spotlighted enough. The Isles would benefit immensely from that kind of added presence.

 

 

 

 

 

Examining the affect of Nick Leddy possibly leaving the Islanders

For the Islanders and their fans, all eyes are pointing to this weekend. Saturday marks when every NHL team must submit their list of protected players for the Seattle expansion draft. There’s a couple of names that have been the chatter the past few weeks in regards to whom the Isles might leave exposed, Nick Leddy among them.

Then came the development yesterday which provided even more clarity about where the 30-year-old d-man stands with the organization. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reported that Leddy is indeed being shopped by the Islanders with the hopes the team doesn’t have to leave him unprotected and lose him to Seattle for nothing.

Leddy has one season remaining on his seven-year, $38.5M deal he signed with the organization back in 2015.

Hearing Leddy is on the block isn’t surprising based on the tumultuous cap situation facing the Islanders — they very little money to spend and still have to pay Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin — but the thought of him leaving is still a tough one. Leddy has been an integral part of the Islanders for over the last seven seasons.

When he and Johnny Boychuk were acquired within mere hours of each other before the start of the 2014-15 campaign, they immediately changed the entire outlook of the organization. The Isles made the postseason in back-to-back years with Leddy being part of the top defensive pairing. Over the past few years, he has still maintained his status as a reliable presence, but Leddy has seen his role change somewhat under head coach Barry Trotz. Because of the ultra-defensive system Trotz employs, the d-man’s offensive mindset has had to take a backseat. The emergence of Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Boychuk being forced to retire due to an eye injury have all been a factor why.

Now while it’s not a given Leddy is no longer in an Islander by next Wednesday, starting to look at life without him is definitely worth thinking about.

For starters, the Isles would lose arguably their most important offensive d-man. All due respect to Pulock — who is a solid attacker from the blueline in his own right — Leddy has been the team’s go-to guy from the backend for years. He’s been a Trotz favorite since he took over.

Leddy had three-plus years of 40 points or more until stumbling in 2018-19 and has been the team’s top power play quarterback for several seasons now. His speed and ability to enter the zone also have made him extremely valuable to the Islanders’ success as well.

Filling Leddy’s slot in the top-four won’t be an easy task either. As Staple said, prospects Samuel Bolduc and Robin Salo are likely options, but they might still need more seasoning.

Beyond them, could Noah Dobson be ready for another promotion? He was given the vote of confidence last year when the organization had to depart with RFA Devon Toews, whom they traded to Colorado. This year was sound one for Dobson playing third-pair with veteran Andy Greene.

But remember this, the Isles drafted Dobson in 2018 as high as they did with the thinking he would be on a top-four defender for the future.

On the flip side, Leddy being moved or taken by Seattle would allow g.m. Lou Lamoriello some flexibility to keep the core together that has now gotten to the third round in back-to-back years. The Isles are very close to being a Stanley Cup winner, and there are a few important pieces that need to be kept here for them to finally get over the hump.

Knowing for that to happen at the expense of Leddy might not soften the blow, but sometimes you have to sacrifice in terms of the bigger picture.

Changes are coming soon for the Islanders and they could start with Nick Leddy being at the forefront. Him possibly leaving will have an affect in a number of ways.

 

 

Don’t let anyone fool you, the Islanders were the Lightning’s toughest challenge in repeating as champs

If you were watching the last moments of the NHL on NBC’s broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals, you would have heard something that would make you shake your head. And if you’re an Islanders fan, it probably made you laugh.

Keith Jones, an analyst that blue and orange supporters aren’t enamored with going back to his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, made a remark that the Florida Panthers were the Tampa Bay Lightning’s toughest challenge on their run this postseason to repeating as champions.

Not the Montreal Canadiens, whom they just defeated in the Finals. Nor the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that could be considered a lighter version of them Tampa themselves.

Nope, Florida.

Jones pointed out because there were scrums after almost every stoppage of play, how physical the series was from the start and the high-scoring games, that Tampa had to work extra hard advance past the first round.

Maybe this was just ignorance or jealousy on Jones’ part, but someone should have reminded him it took Lightning just five games to dispose of the Panthers. And look, that is not to say Florida wasn’t a tough opponent for the Bolts — they showed they’re no joke — but it’s not even in the same conversation to the war the Isles put Tampa through in their semifinal matchup.

After all, it was the Islanders who took Tampa the distance, having lasted seven games. It was the Islanders, who came one different power play away from knocking off the defending champs. And it was the Islanders who responded every time it seemed Tampa was going to run away with the series.

Lets look at the facts too. It was a nasty, intense, and brutal for all the players involved. Five of those seven matchups were all decided by a single goal. Only Game 2 and 5 was the goal differential different. But remember this: even in that Game 2 win for Tampa, it was a tie game late in the second period before Ondrej Palat’s “controversial” goal flipped the game in the Lightning’s favor.

To further the point, the last game between the two clubs ended in a 1-0 score on a shorthanded goal. A SHORTHANDED GOAL. That’s how extremely close the Islanders pushed the Lightning to the brink of elimination.

Oh might us remind everyone (especially Jones) too that the Bolts had to overcome an Isles’ club who was without their captain Anders Lee, a compromised J.G. Pageau — he played the series with a broken thumb — and a truly game Semyon Varlamov.

“When you win a championship or end up getting to play for one, you want to say you went through the best,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Game 7 a few weeks ago. ”

And I can honestly say here…the Islanders are as good a team as we’ve played in two years. And last year in Game 5, it goes to overtime, Game 6 goes to overtime. Nothing was easy. Not even the 8-0 in Game 5. It was unbelievably difficult. And the proud team they are, to come push on as they did at the end…that’s as close as two teams can be.”

If the coach of the winning squad heaps praise like that for his opponent, that’s got to mean something. Islanders fans can take some solace in knowing that they were the true final obstacle that Tampa needed to get through to win it all.

Some can say that the shoe is now on the other foot with the Lightning being in the way of the Islanders winning it all. Who knows, maybe the two teams make it a three-peat next year and face each other again. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

It’s not impossible either, despite the fact both organizations are going to see changes due to being hammered by the salary cap. But it goes without saying in these playoffs, the Islanders were the ultimate challenge for the Bolts.

They were the team that nearly ended their bid to repeat and made them work the hardest.