The Islanders’ playoff exit could mark the final days in New York for free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, and could also be the final game as an Islander for Travis Hamonic. Hamonic, who requested a trade West, could be a fit in Edmonton, where the Oilers are looking for a defenseman.
With the New York Islanders eliminated from the second round of the 2016 playoffs, they head into the offseason facing the possibility of some significant roster changes.
Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports pending unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin face uncertain futures with the Isles. Of the trio, the 28-year-old Okposo stands to cash in the most. He’s completing a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.8 million, though he earned $4.5 million this season in actual salary.
Since last summer, contract talks between Okposo and the Isles have been almost non-existent. It’s assumed he won’t be back, meaning the Isles need a suitable replacement at right wing.
Citing defenseman Travis Hamonic’s request last year to be dealt to a Western-Canadian team, Newsday’s Mark Herrman suggests shipping the 25-year-old blueliner to the Edmonton Oilers for one of their good young wingers. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends acquiring Jordan Eberle to replace Okposo.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal proposes the Oilers offer up Eberle or center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Hamonic. He speculates the Oilers might also have to back an additional contract, such as Nikolay Kulemin and his $4.1-million annual cap hit, in the deal. Matheson believes such a move could free up some cap room for the Oilers to pursue Okposo via free agency.
Throughout this season, Isles GM Garth Snow insisted he wanted a comparable defenseman in return for Hamonic. Okposo’s potential departure and the need to provide first-line center John Tavares with suitable linemates could change his mind.
As for Nielsen, Custance believes the Isles should re-sign the 32-year-old two-way center to a reasonable deal. He’s finishing up a four-year contract with an annual average salary of $2.75 million. A three-year agreement worth around $5-million annually should keep him in the fold.
The hard-hitting Martin, 27, is coming off a four-year contract worth $1 million annually. It shouldn’t be difficult re-signing him to an affordable extension.
FOURTH-OVERALL PICK GIVES OILERS OPTIONS
Speaking of the Oilers, speculation persists over what they’ll do with his first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2016 draft. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes they will trade down in the draft to land a defenseman.
Such a move, however, won’t address the Oilers need for immediate blueline help. GM Peter Chiarelli could consider other options, such as packaging that pick with a player to bring in a skilled defenseman.
Jim Matheson suggests Chiarelli package the pick with center Leon Draisaitl and defenseman Oscar Klefbom to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman P.K. Subban and the Habs first-round pick, which is ninth overall.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has consistently denied shopping Subban. Last Tuesday, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli told him point blank he’s had no conversations with the Canadiens.
The Subban chatter seems largely based on his no-trade clause going into effect on July 1. That’s given rise to the media-driven theory that if the Habs are to trade him, they must do it soon. While a Subban trade is a possibility, it’s a slim one at best. Matheson’s proposed deal might improve the Canadiens offense, but it blows a huge hole into their blueline that Klefbom won’t suitably fill.
BRUINS SEEKING HELP ON THE WING
The expected departure of Loui Eriksson via free agency in July will leave the Boston Bruins in need of a first-line right wing. CBS Boston’s Matt Dolloff believes they should seek a replacement that brings more of a physical edge on the right side. Dolloff lists David Backes or Troy Brouwer of the St. Louis Blues, Okposo of the Islanders or Chris Stewart of the Anaheim Ducks as free-agent options.
With a projected $24.2 million in salary-cap space for 2016-17, the Bruins could have sufficient room to add depth to the right side. However, their obvious priority is boosting their sagging defense. They must also re-sign restricted free agent Torey Krug and find a suitable backup goalie.
Okposo and Backes could cost around $6-million annually, which could price them out of the Bruins range. Stewart is coming off a one-year, $1.7-million deal. He’s affordable, but his best offensive days are behind him.
Brouwer, 30, is completing a three-year deal worth an annual average salary of $3.66 million. He could still be an effective contributor and might be had for a similar deal.