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New York Islanders

Islanders May Already Have Internal Pieces to Improve

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New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning

In this new flat-cap era, however long it might be, the New York Islanders are in a holding pattern.

With around just $8.9 million in cap space, as it stands, the team doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room to make many additions to improve upon the roster.

The Islanders, being a win-now team, were right on the cusp with their first trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 27 years. With restricted free agents Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, it’s going to take plenty of maneuvering from Lou Lamoriello for New York to take that leap and reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

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That being said, it’s not likely that the Islanders would bring in another playmaker to improve upon the 2019-20 season. For them to meet or exceed expectations once the New Year rolls around, it’s going to take positive steps from a group of their homegrown players.

Especially if the Islanders don’t re-sign Derick Brassard or end up dealing Leo Komarov as part of cap shedding, that’s going to leave valuable ice time, largely on that third line.

Future Islanders? Three Bridgeport Sound Tigers to Keep an Eye on | NYHN+

This potentially leaves the door open for the likes of Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows.

Wahlstrom, who notched 22 points in 45 games in Bridgeport, showed some of that offensive promise in a nine-game stint with the Islanders, though he failed to register a point. The Athletic recently ranked the forward as the 105th best player under the age of 23.

He’s got all the capabilities to become a dynamic offensive force for the Islanders once he’s fully acclimated to Barry Trotz’s system, which was part of why he had an extended stay in the AHL last year. He’s currently playing in Sweden, though did suffer a tough injury that will likely keep him sidelined week to week, per Eyes on Isles

Though Wahlstrom still is working on the details and the defensive side of the game, his ability to create plays and score with the puck makes him a valuable option for the Islanders. Similar things could be said of Bellows, whose impressive shooting skills have helped him score 34 goals over the last two seasons in the AHL.

Bellows was disciplined earlier this year for violating the AHL/Professional Hockey Players’ Association performance-enhancing substances program. Having already served his penalty, Bellows could vie for a more prominent role with the team in 2021. During the regular season, the Islanders ranked 22nd in the NHL with 2.78 goals per game.

They were better in a shorter postseason sample with a 3.00 goals a game clip, but the Islanders are going to need continued scoring threats and depth for them to maintain any sort of momentum from their playoff run. That’s where Bellows and his well-regarded shot could come into play.

There’s also the polarizing and enigmatic forward Josh Ho-Sang. The Islanders extended a qualifying offer to him, but he’s elected to go to arbitration at the end of October. It remains to be seen what will come of that situation, especially if Ho-Sang ends up waived or still wants to be traded.

But the Islanders don’t have a ton of Minor League plug-and-play depth to get any more scoring, so Ho-Sang could end up being a helpful addition to the bottom six. While his traditional offensive numbers (24 points in 53 NHL games) are not eye-popping, he’s had solid possession metrics with the Islanders. He owns a 51.3 percent Corsi for and a 2.6 percent Corsi relative. In short, the Islanders have been a better team with him on the ice. There’s little doubting his NHL skill.

But clashes with the coaching staff and front office have largely dominated his tenure in New York, so it’ll be interesting to see what ends up coming of his arbitration hearing.

The New York Islanders are in a bit of a bind until they can find salary cap room. But the good news is they might already have the help they need.

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New York Islanders

Islanders Players React After Eye Injury Ends Johnny Boychuk’s Career

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Johnny Boychuk

It wasn’t too loo long after Johnny Boychuk announced he was ending his 13-year NHL career that the reaction from current and former teammates started to pour in.

Johnny Boychuk spent the past six seasons as a member of the New York Islanders and the guys he took the ice with on a nightly basis praised the 36-year-old defenseman for the person and player he was. Part of the legacy Boychuk leaves behind from his time on Long Island was just how important a leader he was in the locker room.

All of that showed as players reacted to the news on social media.

“It’s been an honor to share the ice with you,” Anthony Beauvillier wrote on Instagram. “Proud to call you a friend. You’ll truly be missed. Much love JB”

Others took to Twitter to wish Boychuk well in his post-playing days and share their memories of playing alongside him.

Even former Islanders netminder Robin Lehner took a moment to honor his former teammate.

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New York Islanders

Arnold: Johnny Boychuk Helped Change Perception, Culture of New York Islanders

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New York Islanders Defenceman Johnny Boychuk (55) during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators

Johnny Boychuk paused several times during his Zoom call with the reporters less than an hour after news broke that his 13 year NHL career had come to an end. The emotions of the moment getting the better of him for a second or two.

The often goofy Boychuk tried to remain his usual self, but the sadness of the situation was clearly visible as Boychuk discussed the previous few months and how an eye injury he suffered in March had led to the end of his playing days.

Johnny Boychuk looked back fondly at the past six years that he spent with the Islanders, where he appeared in 404 games and recorded 35 goals and 95 assists. He recalled how he spent a majority of that time partnered with Nick Leddy, who was acquired within hours of Boychuk back on Oct. 4, 2014.

And the 36-year-old defenseman discussed how his greatest memory of being an Islander was the people he came across.

“Meeting the people on the Island,” Boychuk started to say before pausing to regain his composure. “From the arena attendants to the security guards to the media. The players, the coaches, the staff. I mean the management, the owners. Meeting all these great people. There have been so many good memories. … It’s tough to process everything at one time.”

What became abundantly clear in the hours after Boychuk announced the end of his career was the place he holds in Islanders fans’ hearts.

Yes, Johnny Boychuk won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and spent six years in Beantown, but some of his most significant contributions came during his time on Long Island. And the biggest was the faith he showed when re-signing with the Islanders in 2015.

The signing went well beyond just making the Islanders a better team, it helped start to chip away at the perception that Long Island wasn’t a place top-tier talent wanted to stay. What Boychuk, and subsequently Leddy, gave the Islanders was a sense of credibility back that they had been lacking for some time.

“I’d seen it before where guys would come to the Island and they would leave within a year or two,” Boychuk said on Wednesday. “When I got traded to the Island we had a good group of young players, but now they’re veteran players. They’ve got experience and I think a lot of guys see potential in the Islanders. It’s a good place to play, to be with your family and to have a bond together as a team. It will continue to just get better and better.

“I think the fans realized it. I didn’t realize it at the time when I first got traded, but after being there a year I realized what it was to be an Islander and you take pride in it.”

Boychuk made an indelible mark on the Islanders organization through leadership on and off the ice. He won over fans through his gritty style of play and give it all attitude. Boychuk left it all on the ice with every shift.

He nearly brought the roof down in 2015 during a desperation clear in the closing seconds of the second period of Game 3 of the Islanders First Round series against Washington. And there were plenty more moments like that throughout his time on Long Island.

Boychuk may have never won a Stanley Cup with the Islanders, but he helped change the culture and perception of an organization that needed it. While he may not be retiring on the terms he would have liked, Boychuk can take some solace in knowing the franchise is in a much better place now than it was when he arrived.

“I think everybody has seen the transformation of how the team did that to themselves,” Boychuk said. “With Lou (Lamoriello) and Barry (Trotz) coming in halfway through my time on the Island it’s just been getting better and better as well. It will continue to get better and better because we play together and we play for each other, and we always will.”

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Johnny Boychuk’s Career Ends Due to Eye Injury

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Johnny Boychuk

The NHL career of Johnny Boychuk came to an end on Wednesday after 13 seasons.

The New York Islanders announced that Boychuk’s time in the NHL had come to an end due to an eye injury he suffered during the regular season. Boychuk was clipped by the skate of the Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen on March 3 just above his eyelid.

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The gruesome injury required 90 stitches to repair the cut, but it did not preclude Johnny Boychuk from playing briefly during the postseason this year. While Boychuk did appear in three games during the playoffs over the summer, he did begin to feel the injury start to become an issue again.

“I kind of felt it in the bubble a little bit, but when I got out I started to work out and I really realized there was something wrong,” Boychuk said during a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. “I went and got it checked out and after I got it checked out I let Lou know what was going on. It’s been two months of doctors and MRIs and X-Rays. It’s been a while.”

After months of tests and exams, the results Boychuk got back were eye-opening, he said during the call. Doctors told the veteran defenseman that his prereferral vision was “pretty bad” and that there was some optic nerve damage.

Doctors even went as far as to tell Boychuk that some of the damage to his eye was irreversible. The news was serious enough that it took any decision Boychuk was going to have right out of his hands.

“When somebody tells you you’re not going to play again or you shouldn’t or else you’re going to get seriously hurt it’s been really tough,” he said. “I don’t even think it was a decision. When you play with it and realize there’s something wrong and then you go and get tests. It wasn’t really a decision, it was a life choice.

“If I was to go play again and not being able to see somebody coming and getting hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”

While Boychuk’s career is coming to an end, the 36-year-old wasn’t quite sure if he was officially retiring or if he was being placed on LTIR. Boychuk had two years remaining on his contract and the Islanders would be able to use his $6 million cap hit if they put him on LTIR.

The Islanders have a mere $3.9 million in cap space with restricted free agent Mathew Barzal still unsigned.

“The injury is causing me to stop playing, so I don’t know if it’s retiring or LTIR,” Boychuk said. “I just know that it’s going to cause me to not play because it’s basically not safe for me if I can’t see things coming. For the future, I have no idea what to do because this has just been two months of going to doctors and I’m trying to think about what I can do after, but I’m not too sure yet.

“I want to be on the Island obviously. We built a house there, so there was no plans on leaving, but I just don’t know.”

Johnny Boychuk has spent the last six seasons with the Islanders, appearing in 404 games and recording 131 points (35 goals, 96 assists). He was acquired by the Islanders on Oct. 4, 2014, from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a pair of second-round picks.

Boychuk signed a seven-year contract extension later that season.

Prior to his trade to New York, Johnny Boychuk spent six years with Boston where he appeared in 317 games and won a Stanley Cup in 2011. In addition, Boychuk spent one season with the Colorado Avalanche.

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