The New York Islanders have been enjoying Kyle Okposo‘s services at a bargain price, but now that he’s entering the last season of his five-year, $14 million deal, his time with the Islanders might be drawing to a close.
His agent, Pat Brisson, and Islanders GM Garth Snow only engaged in brief talks about an extension that didn’t go anywhere, per Newsday. There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to figure something out, but it would be very bad if the Islanders ended up letting him walk without getting anything in return and it’s that reality that will fuel trade speculation unless a new contract is signed.
It’s also forced Okposo to wonder about his future.
“It’s pretty hard not to when you go somewhere and everyone’s asking you whether you’re going to be traded or not,” he said. “It’s part of the business and I’m not naive to that. There’s a lot of moving parts.
“Am I upset about it? No. There’s things that upset you on a daily basis in this business and you just have to go with it. As far as contracts, trade speculation, I don’t want that to be a distraction. I just want to go out and play the game.”
Although Okposo took a fair amount of time to breakout, the 27-year-old did just that in 2013-14 when he recorded 69 points in 71 contests. He missed some time last season due to a detached retina, but when he was healthy he added credibility to the idea that he was now a major scoring threat.
Barring a disastrous 2015-16, he should have no trouble getting a major pay raise. The bigger question is if it will be the Islanders that provide him with it.
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Kris Letang is a top-tier offensive defenseman — when healthy. That qualifier has been a big issue for Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins as he’s been plagued by health issues over the last four campaigns.
Which makes his objective going into the season a natural one.
“My only goal is to play 82 games,” Letang told the team’s website.
There’s definitely an element of luck when it comes to a player’s health, but this isn’t a matter that’s entirely out of his control.
“Managing my ice a little bit more is going to be important,” he said. “I cannot be all out like I do all the time. But I don’t want to change my game. I want to be the same guy that is aggressive, that will finish checks and be a guy that’s tough to play against.”
But that doesn’t mean he will be aggressive in every situation.
He’ll look to Minnesota’s Ryan Suter for inspiration. Suter has only missed five games over the last three seasons while simultaneously leading the league in ice time per contest in each of those campaigns. Letang wants to follow his example by picking his spots a bit more.
Letang hasn’t played since March 28 due to a concussion, but he’ll enter training camp without restrictions.
Related: Pittsburgh’s Biggest Question: Is the defense good enough?
James Reimer‘s tenure with the Maple Leafs has been rocky at times, but he doesn’t want to see it come to an end.
“This is the only organization I know and it was always my dream when I got drafted to play my whole career here,” Reimer told the Toronto Sun. “It’s one of the best, I mean it is the best place to play and by far the best place to win and having seen that there is no place I would rather go. Hopefully, I can keep working hard and keep earning the job and we can have a lot of success.”
He’ll be eligible to test the unrestricted free agent waters for the first time in the summer of 2016 after completing his current two-year, $4.6 million contract. Although there was a time when it looked like Reimer would be the team’s starting goaltender, he’s now 27 years old and has spent the last two seasons primarily serving as the understudy.
The Maple Leafs’ decision to bring in Jonathan Bernier before the start of the 2013-14 season and Reimer’s streaky play have contributed to that. His lack of playing time has led to tension in the past, but everyone will get a fresh start under new coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello.
The Tampa Bay Lightning just have to hope that this isn’t a sign of the kind of season this will be for them.
They’ve already lost goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for two-to-three months after having a blood clot removed and now one of the top candidates to fill that void, Kristers Gudlevskis, is hurt as well, per the Tampa Bay Times.
Gudlevskis sustained the injury while playing in a prospects game on Tuesday. He was able to leave the game without assistance, but did not return. After the contest Tampa Bay stated that he had an upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated on Wednesday, according to the Times’ Joe Smith.
So this injury might still prove to be minor, but if it’s not then that would drastically increase the chances of 32-year-old (33 on Sept. 28) Ray Emery making the team after being given a professional tryout offer.
In either scenario, Ben Bishop will enter the season as the team’s starting goaltender, barring yet another injury.
The revamped Buffalo Sabres appear to be on the brink of adding one more significant piece to the puzzle.
Unrestricted free agent Cody Franson is close to inking a two-year contract with Buffalo. TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that the annual cap hit is expected to be around $3.3 million and PHT’s Dhiren Mahiban stated that the contract is projected to be worth $6.65 million in total. Franson is reportedly in Buffalo for a physical.
If he ends up signing for that amount, it would be the biggest contract of his career in terms of the total value, but it’s still far less than he likely imagine he would be signing for this summer. Franson recorded a career-high 36 points last season and the 28-year-old defenseman was seen as one of the better UFA options going into the offseason. He was consequently expected to be in line for a big payday, but the market proved to be a lot less friendly to veteran players than has traditionally been the case.
As a result, Buffalo appears to be on the brink of adding Franson at a great price. It also allows them to upgrade their blueline while maintaining a healthy cap situation, which will be important next summer when they have to re-sign quite a few RFAs including Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Ristolainen.