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New York Islanders Free Agents: Thomas Hickey, Anders Lee negotiations advance, 6 receive qualifying offers

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Poulin still in the fold, Hickey contract reportedly imminent.

Me first!
Me first!
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL draft complete, the New York Islanders commenced the business of dealing with their restricted free agents. Qualifying offers were extended, as expected, to Kevin Czuczman, Mike Halmo, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Kevin Poulin and Johan Sundstrom.

The three key RFAs are Thomas Hickey, Lee and Nelson -- all of whom are NHL regulars and already in negotiations for contract extensions, according to reports from Arthur Staple of Newsday and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Sounds like Hickey is closest to a deal:

[Note: Follow Staple on Twitter this afternoon for an on-going chat and Q&A about the Isles offseason.]

While an extension for Hickey is warranted and important, it will be interesting to see how he does without his regular partner Lubomir Visnovsky, who isn't expected to be back.

As Staple and Friedman have both pointed out, Hickey and Lee have arbitration rights, so their deals are a little more pressing than Nelson's.

Winger John Persson was not qualified, which means the Isles will relinquish his rights. He was already known to be returning to Sweden.

Probably the only surprise among the qualifiers, and it is a modest one, is the QO extended to Poulin. The goalie had a hot start in the AHL last season behind a very young defense, but hasn't appeared to be more than an AHLer for the last few seasons, each of which has included a one-year extension.

Last season his two-way extension included a considerable raise at the AHL level (which makes sense, as that's where he was destined to spend most of his time after spending the previous season mostly in the NHL). For now, the Islanders are still without an NHL backup for 2015-16, so Poulin may be considered a known quantity for emergency NHL backup, as well as crease mate for the next young goalies coming through the system.