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So what’s next for the Islanders?

After losing John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs, what are the next steps for the New York Islanders?

Well, Sunday was a nightmare that most fans would like to forget.  Franchise cornerstone and team captain John Tavares spurned the Islanders in favor of a less lucrative deal (7 years, $77 million) with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Tavares leaves a murky legacy that led most Islander fans to their barbecue pits.

Regardless of what happened on Sunday, life goes on as do the New York Islanders. They have much work to do, and GM Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz will need to get started immediately. They seemed to be caught with their pants down by the Tavares decision as they have for the most part only signed depth forwards (Tom Kuhnackl, Mike Sislo, Matt Lorito, Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov) and shored up their depth elsewhere (Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson).

Lamoriello and Trotz haven’t done a lot to improve their club but Filppula, Kuhnackl, and Komarov shore up their league-worst penalty kill unit. Thomas Hickey is coming back on a four-year deal as a depth defenseman, meaning that Calvin de Haan is probably not coming back. Christopher Gibson will probably be the man in Bridgeport and depending on what happens may get some time in the NHL. Here are some other areas of improvement:

Top Six Forward

This is easier said than done as the Islanders were somewhat banking on Tavares coming back. JT’s absence leaves a gaping hole down the middle and Ryan O’Reilly, a top trade target for the Islanders, was traded to St. Louis right after the Tavares news broke. Now the Islanders do have centers, mainly Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier, but they need another top six guy to round out the scoring. I trust Trotz and Lou to get something done, but it’s slim pickings now that Paul Stastny has signed with Vegas. The rest of the free agent class isn’t all that impressive. Look for the Islanders to go after Jeff Skinner as a potential trade option and move Beau to the middle on the second line.

Top 4 Defenseman

The Islanders are also in desperate need of a top-four defenseman.  They’ve been in the mix on the Calvin de Haan sweepstakes, but de Haan is injury prone and may not want to come back to the Island after Garth Snow left a sour taste in his mouth during arbitration last season.  De Haan may be gone, but the eye is still on the prize for a Top 4 D-man.

The cure for all of this?  Erik Karlsson. The Islanders will most certainly have to take on Bobby Ryan’s contract as well, but Ryan does still have something left in the tank, and they have plenty of cap space to take on both guys. Karlsson is a perennial All-Star, future Hall of Famer and one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. It’s going to take a lot, and the Islanders will probably have to part with some fan favorites and a high-level prospect, but Rome was not built in a day and Karlsson is precisely what the Islanders need right now.


Goaltending is at an even higher premium for the Islanders as they only currently have Thomas Greiss and Christopher Gibson on their roster.  Jaroslav Halak left the Islanders for Boston, but there was no intention of him coming back. The market for goalies is even thinner than the market for defensemen, so Lou is going to have to get creative to find another number one goaltender.

Is Cory Schneider available?  Maybe, but they probably would have had to give away one of their first-round picks in this year’s draft.  What about Carey Price?  Sure, he’s available for the right price (no pun intended), but he’s going to cost A LOT, and I’m not sure if Lou wants to commit to giving away the farm for an older Price. There are a few realistic options (Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard) to trade for but nothing moves the needle for the Islanders. They’re going to have to get something, and quick.

It’s not the end of the world, but it doesn’t help that John Tavares left the Islanders. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Islanders have a down year and then try their luck again next year. They definitely need to lock Anders Lee up long term and make sure guys like him and Mat Barzal don’t get away from them before they get good again.

The Islanders have A LOT of young talent, but the problem is that they’re young. There are a bunch of guys (Oliver Wahlstrom, Kiefer Bellows, Bode Wilde) that are hungry to make the NHL and prove every team that didn’t draft them wrong, but it’s going to take a couple of years for that to happen. All will be fine in Islander land. Can it get much worse?

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