Things could change in New York, but for the time being it looks like a near certainty that Islanders winger Kyle Okposo will be hitting the free agent market on July 1.
The Islanders held their final media availability of the season Tuesday morning following Sunday’s post-season exit, and during his meeting with reporters Okposo, 28, said he and his agent haven’t spoken about a possible contract extension with New York at all over the course of the season, per the New York Post's Brett Cyrgalis. The reason for the lack of discussion wasn’t touched on, though it appears that means Okposo will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
Okposo, who scored 22 goals and 64 points in 79 games this past season, will likely command a big raise on the open market, too. He’s currently finishing up a five-year, $14-million deal that paid him an average of $2.8 million per season, though he was making $4.5 million in actual salary during the 2015-16 campaign. And it’s likely his actual salary from this past season is much closer to the cap hit he'll command on the open market.
Where he lands, though, is another question altogether. Okposo is just entering his prime and he could still grow his game to become an incredible offensive force. The only thing that has likely stopped Okposo from reaching the 30-goal plateau to this point in his career is his inability to stay healthy, but he’s flirted with 30 goals before. In 2013-14, Okposo scored 27 in 71 games, and he’s been, at the very least, a consistent threat for 25 goals in each of the past four full seasons.
Okposo’s best offensive comparables over the past three seasons are Taylor Hall, Alexander Steen and Matt Duchene, each of whom earns more than $5.5 million per season. Over the past three seasons, Okposo has scored 67 goals and 184 points in 210 games, and there are 13 players — Hall, Steen and Duchene included — who have posted similar totals. Of the players to score between 60-75 goals and 175-200 points since the start of the 2013-14 campaign, not a single one earns less than $4 million per season. The average cap hit among the seven wingers in that group is $5.47 million.
There’s little doubt that on the open market Okposo will sign a deal that’s in that price range, and teams looking for a first- or second-line winger will certainly see if there’s any way to reach a deal with the winger.
For the Islanders, Okposo’s departure will hurt, no question. Other than New York captain John Tavares, there isn’t a single Islanders forward relied upon as heavily as Okposo. In the post-season, Tavares, with six goals and 11 points, was the only Islander more productive than Okposo, who had two goals and eight points. The same can be said for the regular season, where Okposo’s 64 points were second only to Tavares’ 70. That’s evident in ice time, too. Okposo logged the second-highest average ice time among forwards.
Landing Okposo in free agency will be a nice score for whichever team locks him up, and replacing him won’t be easy for New York. But as Okposo said, via Cyrgalis, “all good things come to an end.” And with no talks happening, this looks as though it could very well be the end of Okposo as an Islander.