As the Islanders continue their two days of internal exit interviews and external media scrums, everyone awaits John Tavares and Doug Weight, plus Garth Snow and ownership’s surely generic “we like our group, we need to be better, always trying to improve our hockey club” statements to media.
There is potential for a sea shift (Tavares is a free agent, the coaching and management have have failed more than they’ve succeeded for years, ownership theoretically wants a “fifth Cup”), but also great potential for a maddening status quo.
But before those finales, other not-insignificant news has filtered out from other player exit scrums. Things that inform what this franchise can do, and what it probably won’t do, to change the team’s trajectory for next season.
Johnny Boychuk is having surgery.
The defensemen wasn’t specific about his “lower body” injury and the surgery he’ll have. He told reporters on Sunday he could’ve had it during the season but wanted to see how he could play, especially if the team made the playoffs (ha), through the injury.
This is not insignificant because: 1) Boychuk missed 24 games, with an injury situation that lingered and kept the coaching staff guessing on when he’d be back; 2) Boychuk has been a “top pair” guy with Nick Leddy, who struggled through much of the second half; and 3) at age 34, Boychuk just finished the third year of a seven-year contract with a $6 million cap hit.
The Islanders knew the risk of signing him to such a deal at his age. Obviously there are outliers in the NHL who are able to uphold a high standard of play into their late 30s, but each injury/surgery only adds to the concern that Boychuk won’t be one of them.
Anyway, hopefully this one gets him back to 100% (for a 34-year-old). Uncertainties abound.
Calvin de Haan says he’ll be ready by training camp...but for whom?
de Haan’s latest shoulder injury in December had a significant impact on the Islanders season. It’s clear in retrospect he helped them paper over some of the defensive risk taking that effectively tanked their season.
The fact this is a second major injury to this shoulder is a concern for the defenseman heading into free agency, though he said doctors added bone to the dislocated shoulder to help stabilize. And he’ll still get paid: teams needing a defenseman will tend to hope for the best.
Plus, de Haan noted that “the market won’t be saturated” for defensemen this summer.
Calvin de Haan says he finally feels "human" again after Jan. 18 surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder. Said docs did everything, full-service surgery, including putting in new bone.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 9, 2018
Calvin de Haan says he would welcome return to #Isles but also notes free agent market won't be saturated with d-men. Says it's a tough time for him coming off major shoulder injury and being without a contract.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 9, 2018
i.e. he loves Long Island, doesn’t necessarily want to leave, but is going to get his market worth. Yeah, he’s gone.
"At the end of the day I'm confident that I'm going to find a job somewhere. We'll see," de Haan said about pending free agency. Added (emphatically) that he loved it on Long Island. #Isles— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) April 9, 2018
With the Isles signing long-term deals with Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield this past season, and Ryan Pulock emerging as a regular, it’s hard to picture them carving out money for de Haan.
Even though they were a better team with de Haan in the lineup. And even though the team needs to focus on collecting higher end talent rather than repeatedly committing long to the lower end.
Hickey May Be Gone, Too
One guy who’s taken a longer path to NHL regular, who you could see maybe going for stability over the “open market” treatment, is fellow unrestricted free agent Thomas Hickey. Again, for the same reasons as de Haan it’s tough to picture Hickey remaining in the fold, though he’d be more affordable so maybe something is worked out. Perhaps he becomes the “vet sometimes scratched” in place of Seidenberg.
#Isles Thomas Hickey (UFA) on return: "I’m understanding there’s bigger people to take care of, without saying names. They’ve got to figure that stuff out. The one thing we have is time to circle back. If there’s a fit it would happen, if not I'd be grateful for the time spent."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 9, 2018
He said he knows they have other free agents to deal with first; and he at least has an advocate in the emerging Pulock:
#Isles Thomas Hickey on D partner Ryan Pulock: "By the end of the year, he was our best player every night and that speaks highly with the amount of skill guys we have. I'm really excited for him and his career moving forward. He’s going to be a special player."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 9, 2018
Other Exiting Free Agents: Halak, Kulemin, Seidenberg
These aren’t set in stone, but given team needs it’s a reasonable if not accurate assumption fellow unrestricted free agents Jaroslav Halak, Nikolay Kulemin and Dennis Seidenberg will be elsewhere next season.
All say they want to keep playing, so of course they’d take new deals with the Islanders. Not sure it makes sense for both parties though.
The Isles need an upgrade in goal but have Thomas Greiss already signed for two more years. They could be bold and buy out Greiss, but obvious replacements are not plentiful around the league.
Kulemin, returning from a long-term injury, said he would’ve been ready in the playoffs. His loss from the fourth line was also felt, so...maybe they’d coax him to return on a cheaper deal?
And Seidenberg is Mathew Barzal’s landlord, but...this team needs to upgrade the overall blueline and, as mentioned above, they have a lot of contracts already locked in.
Halak: “I’ve enjoyed my time here, it’s been four years. Obviously I would be open to a new deal. We’ll see what happens.” #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 8, 2018
Anthony Beauvillier Makes it an Islanders-Heavy Team Canada
They’re taking the whole line!
A little good #Isles news: Anthony Beauvillier is headed to the World Championships to play for Canada. Joins Barzal, Eberle and Pulock. Deserved invite for Beau.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) April 9, 2018
Beauvillier joins frequent linemates Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle as well as Pulock in accepting invitations to Team Canada at the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Denmark.
It’s almost like the top half of the Islanders lineup isn’t the problem.