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Cam Tucker

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Islanders face critical time on and off the ice

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

There is quite a bit on the plate of the New York Islanders. On and off the ice.

That includes steps toward finding a permanent home.

That is especially the case given reports last month that this ongoing arena situation — moving from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center in Brooklyn to possibly being on the move again to another local destination — is apparently a factor in the delay of getting star forward John Tavares signed to a contract extension.

Tavares has one year left on his current six-year, $33 million contract. The face of the franchise since the day he went No. 1 overall to the Islanders in 2009, Tavares is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, provided he doesn’t ink a new contract by then.

Read more: Poll: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

On the arena front, the Islanders have made their interest in building an arena on land at Belmont Park well-known — a scenario that Tavares believes has “great potential there.” However, it’s been previously outlined that this is a scenario that will still take some time to finalize.

From Newsday Long Island: 

Tavares said he is waiting to see what comes of the Request For Proposals issued July 30 by New York state regarding the Belmont Park development. The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and a Madison Square Garden-backed sports arena consortium Oak View Group, are expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot.

It’s not clear whether the state will select a winner before Tavares would hit unrestricted free agency next July. All bids are due by Sept. 28 and Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency which is handling the RFP, has declined to set a timeline after that.

Of course for Tavares, with an eight-year deal in the offing, he would love to know where he’ll be playing.

Contract negotiations with star players — especially one that is moving closer toward unrestricted free agency — can provide enough tension for fans. The Islanders are not only facing such a negotiation, but an ongoing arena situation as well, and reports suggest the latter may be complicating the former.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have won only one playoff series in the eight seasons Tavares has been with the club. They missed out on the postseason earlier this spring.

Even with a player like Tavares, the Islanders have yet to truly challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference. For this upcoming season, head coach Doug Weight put onus on the organization to put their star in a position to win and win right now.

They need to sign their star. They will eventually need to settle their arena situation. And there is added pressure to win as Tavares enters his final year of his contract.
It’s shaping up to be a critical few months for the Islanders.

Blue Jackets sign Boston University product Somerby to entry-level deal

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The Columbus Blue Jackets made a deal Monday, signing defenseman Doyle Somerby.

Originally selected by the New York Islanders, 125th overall in 2012, Somerby played his last four seasons with Boston University. Now 23 years old, Somerby decided to keep his options open following his senior year and test the free agent market last week, prior to inking a two-year entry-level contract with Columbus.

“It almost doesn’t make sense not to talk to everybody,” Somerby’s agent Brett Peterson told the Boston Globe.

“You’re drafted when you’re 17½ with no say who picks you. If you choose to complete your college career, you have that right. That’s just the way the market is. They have a lot of defensive prospects in New York. So that’s how we landed at this.”

And now he’s landed with the Blue Jackets organization, which had a franchise record 2016-17 season and boasts a crop of good, young players, the most notable on the blue line being Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.

Somerby scored five goals and 13 points as a junior at Boston University, marking his most productive collegiate campaign. At 6-foot-5 tall and 223 pounds, he brings size on the blue line but has been regarded as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, and reliable in his own end.

“He’s so difficult to get around,” Boston University associate head coach Steve Greeley told The Daily Free Press. “Below the dots, he’s always pushing … He plays physical, he plays hard and he’s a kid that’s really tough to play against.”

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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The Winnipeg Jets once again missed the playoffs last season, finishing seven points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference.

The Jets have a good, young nucleus of forwards, led by Calder Trophy finalist Patrik Laine, and defensemen, and there should be added pressure on this group to challenge for a playoff spot in the Central Division next season.

One area that was a priority for Winnipeg this offseason was goaltending.

The Jets moved on from Ondrej Pavelec, who is now backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers. Coming to Winnipeg is 29-year-old Steve Mason, who signed for two years with an average annual value of $4.1 million.

Winnipeg now boasts a goaltending trio of Mason, Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson.

The Jets also added 26-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who signed a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.333 million.

Today at PHT, we’ll discuss the key storylines surrounding the Jets heading into training camp.

Gretzky has high praise for ‘workaholic general manager’ McPhee

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Well, it appears George McPhee has a fan in Wayne Gretzky.

The Great One spoke glowingly of the Vegas Golden Knights general manager in an interview with the NHL Network, per the Las Vegas Review Journal.

“Then you have to have a workaholic general manager, and I think George McPhee’s record speaks for itself,” said Gretzky.

“What he’s done in the past and how hard he works and how dedicated he is to making his teams the best teams that they can be.”

McPhee was hired as the Golden Knights’ GM about 13 months ago and, as you can imagine, he has been very busy ever since, building a front office and hockey operations department, selecting a roster of players via the expansion draft, and making a number of deals with different managers throughout the league while stockpiling young prospects and draft picks.

Vegas right now has 12 selections in the 2019 NHL Draft, per CapFriendly. That includes six picks combined through the second and third rounds, where they may be able to increase their chances at landing an NHL player.

With Nate Schmidt signed to his two-year contract, the Golden Knights have 11 defensemen under contract. That surplus really took shape at the expansion draft and McPhee was able to make deals involving Marc Methot, David Schlemko and Trevor van Riemsdyk as a result.

More deals involving that position could be on the way. McPhee expressed earlier this summer, however, that with 11 blue liners, he believed that was a “manageable number” to work with.

Connor Brown ‘confident’ contract situation with Maple Leafs will get figured out

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The Big Three — Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner — gained so much attention last season that a forward like Connor Brown may have been able to slip under the radar.

But after a breakout 20-goal, 36-point season, his first full campaign in the NHL, Brown is due for a raise from the $894,167 annual average value of his three-year entry-level contract.

As of Friday, he’s still a restricted free agent, the only one the Leafs still need to get under contract, with training camp about a month away.

“Obviously it’s my first time going through something like this,” Brown told TSN, per the Toronto Sun. referring to his status as a restricted free agent. “I don’t think it’s as stressful as the media would make it out to be. I’m very confident things will get sorted by season time.

“We’ll get it figured out.”

One issue is the Maple Leafs are currently in a cap crunch at this point in the summer.

From the Toronto Star last month:

The good news for the Leafs is that Brown is patient and wants to remain with the team. He is not interested in signing an offer sheet and appears ready to wait out the Leafs’ cap crunch.

The situation began when the Leafs signed Patrick Marleau to a cap hit of $6.25 million. The first casualty was prospect forward Dominic Toninato, who will become a free agent on Aug. 15. Marleau took the last available NHL contract roster spot. But it also created the summertime salary cap issue, as exposed by capfriendly.com.

In the summer, teams can exceed the cap by 10 per cent, meaning they can carry contracts worth $82.5 million.

The Maple Leafs selected Brown in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

He made his NHL debut on March 17, 2016 and then posted six points in his first seven games.

He was able to carry that over into last season, becoming one of five Toronto players to reach at least 20 goals and helping the young Maple Leafs make the playoffs.

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