Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin Signings: What's the Islanders lineup look like now?

Oh sure, anyone can work magic against THE THRASHERS... - Claus Andersen

Sorting through the extra bodies, anticipating options for what comes next.

It didn't take long, after the New York Islanders answered many mournful pleas to sign someone SIGN SOMEONE, for the next logical question to emerge: How on earth will the lines shake out with Mikhail Grabovsky and Nikolai Kulemin in the lineup?

The pair's talkative agent Gary Greenstin provided one clue: As the two were shopped as a package deal, they received some assurance from the Islanders that they would be paired together, attempting to recapture the magic they had in Toronto.

But beyond that, there is the matter of lots of pro bodies for a team that finished the 2013-14 season with several regulars injured, providing the opportunity for several youngsters to make early cases for the 2014-15 lineup.

Already 12 forwards are on one-way contracts, with regular Casey Cizikas an RFA, Anders Lee (an RFA coming off a two-way deal) also in the mix after an impressive 22-game stint at the end of last season, and Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome presumed to earn jobs after impressive rookie seasons.

In theory, and after the addition of Cory Conacher on a one-way deal, this should create immense pressure on the fourth line, including Cizikas. Alternatively, it creates options for a compiling a trade package some point before the season. Adding further flexibility, Nelson has already excelled at both wing and center, and Strome, penciled as a center, has enough offensive punch to consider moving to the wing for the short- or near-term.

One sketch, which collects bodies but obviously has extras:

Nelson - Tavares - Okposo
Grabner - Nielsen - Strome
Bailey - Grabovski - Kulemin
Conacher - Cizikas - Clutterbuck

Extras: Lee, Martin, McDonald, Boulton

Again, you could swing Strome and/or Nelson back to center there, and probably be better off having one of them bump Cizikas to wing. But we'll see if the Isles are willing to stack that much pure talent down the middle without a traditional "gritty" guy at fourth-line center.

(Likewise, the Isles have traditionally not demoted players on one-way contracts to the minors. However, they've also not traditionally had this many on one-way deals, and one difference under the current CBA is that those salaries would still count against the cap (or floor) even if demoted.)

And of course you could move Lee into the lineup if he comes to camp exhibiting the same promise he showed last spring. The team has obviously found roles for Martin, McDonald and Boulton in the past. Injuries are always a factor too, with the team just a few golfing atrocities away from having the overflow problem solved for them.. Worst case (outside of injuries), Strome and Lee could be returned yet again to Bridgeport.

The point is, there are lots of options created by the latest two signings, and potentially a long summer to sort them out. Like many Isles fans, when mulling the options I have my ideas ... and my fears.

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