The New York Islanders season came to a close with a heartbreaking loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night in Game 7 and the team is back in New York, so the offseason is now upon them.
After a fairy tale run to the semifinals for the second year in a row, the Islanders face plenty of questions this offseason that will impact the future of the franchise going forward. NHL GM of the Year Lou Lamoriello will have a busy offseason ahead of him trying to navigate the Islanders through another expansion draft and key free agents to re-sign amid very tight salary cap space for the Islanders.
So what’s next for the Islanders? Let’s take a look at some of the key issues facing them:
The first item on the agenda will be planning for the expansion draft, which is less than a month away now. Lamoriello, head coach Barry Trotz and the rest of the front office have some tough decisions to make about who the team protects from the draft and who they expose. Some of the names will be easy enough to figure out when it comes to protecting players, but that still would leave other impactful players unprotected. Nick Leddy has been one name that’s been thrown around as someone who the Islanders could leave unprotected as well as forward Jordan Eberle. We’ll find out soon enough with the expansion draft set for July 21.
Cap Issue/Re-Signing Free Agents
As Barry Trotz said after the loss in Game 7, the Islanders that were on the ice this season, will not be on the ice next season. The New York Islanders found themselves in a cap crunch last year and things will be tight money-wise once again this offseason. Right now Casey Cizikas, Andy Greene, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. Add on top of that Anthony Beauvillier, Ilya Sorokin, Adam Pelech and Michael Dal Colle will be restricted free agents. Pelech will definitely be requiring a raise after the way he played during the regular season and the playoffs for New York. He, along with defensive partner Ryan Pulock, gained plenty of praise for their play as the Isles’ top defensive pairing.
Then there comes the price tag that Cizikas could run the Islanders. The Islanders would like to keep the center of their identity line on the roster, but finding the money Cizikas could be asking for might be difficult. And there will be other teams very interested in his services if Cizikas reaches the open market.
Fixing the Power Play
It was a moment that seemed to be tragically poetic. The New York Islanders fighting to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the dynasty days undone by their power play. Now it will be up to Lamoriello to give Trotz the pieces to improve it. The Islanders struggled on the power play during the regular season and only slightly improved during the postseason. It finished at a paltry 18.8 percent success rate during the abbreviated 56 game schedule. Getting Anders Lee will help and the use of Oliver Wahlstrom could impact that unit positively, but the Islanders could also use some help from the outside. The Islanders have always been a pass-happy team during the man-advantage and the team needs to find that scoring touch, or someone who will take a shot every now and then. That could be difficult with the cap situation, but the Islanders need to find a way to address their power play in the offseason.