Here we are, expecting NHL teams to be rushing out qualifying offers to restricted free agents on the last day they can only to find out that the Islanders took care of their paperwork a while back.
Per Newsday's Arthur Staple, the Islanders have qualified six RFAs, with two Bridgeport veterans on the outside looking in.
Deadline for RFAs to receive QOs is today. #Isles sent theirs out weeks ago -- Strome, Prince, Mayfield, Berube, Gibson, Quine all received.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 27, 2016
Not sure about two other RFAs -- Petrov and Justin Vaive. Kevin Czuczman and Mike Halmo are Group VI FAs and unlikely to be back.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 27, 2016
Then, an update:
#Isles gave a QO to Kirill Petrov, though doesn't seem likely he'll be back in NHL. James Wright and Justin Vaive not qualified, now FAs.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 27, 2016
The six players to receive QO's are pretty much the six players you could have guessed the Islanders would want to retain. Forwards Ryan Strome, Shane Prince and Alan Quine were regulars contributors by the end of the season (Strome obviously for longer and, uh, shorter, than the other two) and Jean-Francois Berube still could be next year's back-up depending on how the goalie situation shakes out. Christopher Gibson remains the brightest piece from the Michael Grabner trade and he'll probably return as the Sound Tigers starter next season.
Back when I was daydreaming about the Islanders signing Steven Stamkos, I spitballed what I thought each RFA would get. Of course, I also guestimated that Casey Cizikas, also an RFA, would get $1.5 million AAV and he ended up getting over twice that much so what the hell do I know?
Kirill Petrov is a whole long story that I don't have the time to get into again. The bottom line is that by issuing a qualifying offer, the Islanders still retain his rights (whether he signed the offer or not).
Winger Vaive scored 11 goals and six assists in 63 games for the Sound Tigers this season, while Wright was tied for fourth on the team with 41 points (14g-27a). They were both brought in last year to be AHL depth and served their purpose. Good luck to them in their next endeavors.
Czuczman and Halmo are familiar names, having spent a long time in the Islanders organization. Halmo first signed as a free agent in 2012 after captaining the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL and scoring 85 points (40g-45a) in 66 games. Czuczman (pronounced "Churchman," in case you're not up on your Lighthouse Hockey running gags) was a sought-after free agent from St. Cloud State who chose the Islanders after working out with several players during the summer. Both players spent good chunks of time with the Islanders in 2014. Czuczman played a 13 games right away and looked like he could be a solid low-cost contributor for a while, while Halmo was a hard-hitting grinder that didn't bleed shots against in his 20 game stint.
Alas, the Islanders' added depth derailed their chances for getting called up. Trading for Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy (not to mention the contributions of Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey) meant bad news for Czuczman, while the ascendance of Don Cherry's favorite fourth line kept Halmo in the AHL.
Now, as players 25 years old and with less than 80 NHL games under their belts, they become Group VI free agents. It would have been nice to see more of them at the NHL level. Maybe they'll get a shot with another organization next year or with that new shop that's opening up out west.