With apologies to the indispensable Elliotte Friedman...
- Like a lot of you, I don't think the Islanders are a better team today than they were before the draft. At best, they've gone sideways in the talent department while becoming older. At worst, they're just... worse. There wouldn't have been enough money under the cap to bring back both Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo at what they signed for when you add in the RFAs Garth Snow also has to sign. But whether Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and (now) P.A. Parenteau can fill the voids left by them is what's going to keep us up at night for the next few years.
- I'm not mad about any of it (I'm too old and tired for that shit anymore). But it feels like the weirdly successful yet disappointing season has continued to a weirdly successful yet disappointing offseason. One of these days, I'd like to remove the "weirdly" and "yet disappointing" parts from that sentence.
- Just to be clear on the numbers, it's:
- Ladd, 7 years, $38.5 million, $5.5 million AAV
- Okposo, 7 years, $42 million, $6 million AAV
- Nielsen, 6 years, $31.5 million, $5.25 AAV
- I don't think that the reason the Islanders wanted Ladd rather than Okposo has anything to do with the $500K in savings. My gut feeling is that the brass wanted a change in the locker room and for whatever reason decided to make that change by not re-signing Okposo and targeting Ladd.
Going back to last summer's attempts to trade Okposo and the relative lack of negotiating with him, the writing was obviously on the wall for a while. I think (again, gut. Although Arthur Staple's gut might feel the same way) that they wanted someone who could play and who could take more of a leadership role and sought out the only guy on the market who fit their description. Then they gave him the hard sales pitch and flew him out to Long Island to get a taste of where his family would be spending the next seven years.
Ladd's been on two Cup winners, captained one team (that included a cross-border move) and been around the block more than once. Okposo is a good dude they already knew who was a long-standing member of an existing fraternity.
Again, I'm guessing. If I'm right, and it was a change for the sake of leadership, I hope the it works out the way the Islanders want it to. Because moves like that rarely do in the long term.
Adding a strong voice to the room might be a good idea. But this is John Tavares's team. How he reacts is going to be of paramount importance.
- Shocking/Not shocking theory: I still think another forward gets moved before the season starts. If they're intent on purging long-standing players to shake up the locker room, Josh Bailey should make sure his luggage is handy.
The problem is that while Bailey's cap hit isn't terrible at $3.3 million a season, his actual cash payout is a little higher ($3.7 million this season and $4 million next season). This could limit his potential landing spots, and was the same conundrum that led Michael Grabner to get traded to Toronto for a load of B-level prospects last summer.
Despite the mixed results of that trade, I'd probably do a similar one in Bailey's case if I could. No disrespect to Josh, who's a good dude that never lived up to his draft position. But that seems like a realistic change to make.
- The more I think about it, the more I think Ladd is really more of a replacement for Nielsen rather than Okposo as originally thought. Before the signing, I didn't realize that Ladd was used on the penalty kill. Turns out Ladd got power play time (2.63 TOI) and penalty killing time (1.81 TOI/60) last season that was mostly equivalent to what Nielsen got (PP: 2.63 TOI/60 | PK: 1.96 TOI/60).
Other stats 5v5 from 2015-16 sorta line up, too. (all numbers via behindthenet.ca)
- G/60: Ladd - 0.72, Nielsen - 0.66
- P/60: Ladd - 1.60, Nielsen - 1.68
- On-Ice Corsi: Ladd - 2.70, Nielsen - 2.35
- Shots For/60: Ladd - 26.6, Nielsen - 27.6
Nielsen has Ladd beat dead to rights on 5v5 relative corsi (5.2 to -0.7) but Ladd is two years younger. Obviously, Ladd also isn't a center. Yes, I'm kinda cherry picking.
It's not a perfect one-for-one comparison, but I could see a situation in which Ladd is trusted with Nielsen's very important minutes. Whether he's as successful remains to be seen.
- Does that mean that Ladd was Plan B if Nielsen signed elsewhere, as he ended up doing? Or was the plan to sign both with about $8-9 million left for RFAs? Guess we'll never know.
- So if Ladd replaces Nielsen and Chimera replaces Martin (in a weird way) then does Parenteau replace Okposo? That sounds a little crazy. At least he was cheaper.
- It's funny how we examine what the outgoing players say like we're forensic psychologists while totally ignoring what the incoming players are saying.
Nielsen says he wants to be on a team that "plays a fun style," and we assume it's a scathing indictment of the Islanders coaching staff. Okposo says he "wants a chance at a Stanley Cup" and we take it as a shot at the Islanders years-long rebuild
Meanwhile, it barely registers when Chimera says the "Islanders have the best chance to win" a Cup after leaving the President's Trophy winner. Then Ladd compares Tavares to Jonathan Toews and I don't think I've seen one person mention it. Chimera also praised the Islanders coaching staff and both players mentioned their defense as a key reason for choosing to sign.
Either all four guys are just liars spouting PR-Speak or they're genuinely excited for their new jobs.
- Twice on Friday, media members tried to coax out Barclays Center complaints and were rebuffed. Nielsen was asked by Nick Kypreos on Sportsnet if the commute factored into his decision to leave Brooklyn and Nielsen flat out shot him down. Then in Chimera's availability, he was asked if his new team's set-up would bother him. His answer was that "any NHL set-up is a good one."
I think it's time we came to the idea that the Islanders' life at Barclays Center isn't all different from what other NHL teams have with their arenas.
Not every Ranger lives within walking distance of Madison Square Garden, let alone their practice facility 30 miles north in Westchester. The Capitals practice in Virginia and play just outside of (what was) DC's dense Chinatown. Members of the Kings don't all live in Downtown Los Angeles. They live in Manhattan Beach and Brentwood and so on.
For the Islanders, the commute is a new experience. But for NHLers in general, it's fairly common. Time to get a new narrative.
- That goes for the ice as well, which was garbage in both venues of the Stanley Cup Final, too. That doesn't mean Dan Craig and his Ice Commandos shouldn't continue to try and fix it, but it's not the deal breaker some might make it out to be.
FTR I'm in the shorten the season/start earlier camp as a way of making every arena's ice better.
- I make fun of Long Island a lot, but I'm always proud when players sign with the Islanders and talk about how great the area is and how so many players make their homes there after they retire. Once players see what it's like there, they're hooked. It's been like this since the team's inception. It's really kind of amazing.
- Nielsen taking less money and years to sign with the Red Wings will never not sting. He's the last player I thought would do that. This isn't Ryan Smyth or even Thomas Vanek we're talking about. That said, for what he gave the Islanders for a decade, Frans will always be okay in my book.
- I never felt the way I did about a free agent that way I did reading Red Wings fans complaints about their team signing Nielsen. I felt like I had to personally defend him.
Their main issue seems to be Ken Holland bringing in another old dude rather than letting the prospects play. I can understand that. But A. Nielsen is still an excellent, productive, valuable player; and B. I never thought of him as "old," even though he predates every other Islander on the roster. He's always just sorta been there.
I don't think Detroit fans need to worry about the signing. I think a lot of the problem is just unfamiliarity with one of those anonymous Islanders.
- Now, Darren Helm and Steve Ott on the other hand are two awful signings by Detroit. Just depressing. If I were a Red Wings fan, those two would piss me off way, way more than adding Nielsen.
- The man is gone. The least we can do it learn to spell his name correctly. It's FranS. With an "s." Not a "z." He's not an archduke.
- Maple Leafs fans, as expected, hate the Matt Martin signing. Four years is at least two too long. And if they think he's going to protect Auston Matthews in any way, they've clearly forgotten Dion Phaneuf's repeated attempts to uninstall John Tavares's head from the rest of his body over the years.
- That said, once Martin starts spreading his free time around Toronto's various charity organizations as he inevitably will, they'll warm up to him pretty quickly.
- Anyone that sincerely thought Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky were going to fire Snow and Jack Capuano on the first day they take over as majority owners - which also happened to be the first day of free agency - needs to go outside and take a deep breath or two. The Islanders weren't bought by Mike Keenan or Donald Trump. Let the gentlemen settle in for a minute.
- Ledecky's hosting a town hall meeting on July 14th, which is a thing Charles Wang did in his first years as owner, too. If I remember correctly, that was where the name Ted Nolan was first thrown around before Wang eventually hired him.
We have no idea what kind of owners these guys are going to be. But by having some previous NHL-owning experience, Ledecky might be more likely to make a change if things go awry. Who knows? I want to see what they say and do first before categorizing them among their (often terrible) predecessors.
- Man, that Taylor Hall thing sure took the wind out of everybody's sails this summer, even before anyone was signed anywhere. I still would have done the deal, although thinking about the Islanders defense minus Travis Hamonic is a little scary. Then again, the Sharks and Penguins each made it to Cup Final with some creative use of their third pairings, so... ugh. Forget it.
- If you were concerned (or straight up pissed off) about the Islanders' direction at the end of the season, their first moves of the summer probably haven't altered your outlook. If you wanted new blood, you got it. You don't need to apologize for being excited about it.
Nothing I write here or elsewhere is going to change anyone's mind. I certainly won't convince anyone of anything when I can't even convince myself that they're better without seeing them play.
As usual, all we can do is hope. It's gonna be a long summer. Be excellent to each other.