Tag: Nikolai Kulemin

Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares

It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT


Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.

Tavares can’t wait to end ‘probably the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without playing’

John Tavares

John Tavares has had a lot of time to prepare for the 2014-15 campaign. Far more than he ever wanted.

Tavares had 24 goals and 66 points in 59 games with the Isladners when he suffered a partially torn MCL during the Winter Olympics. He was forced to miss the last 22 games of the season as a result.

“While the summer’s been good for other reasons, it’s been too long and I want to change that this coming season,” Tavares said, per the team’s website. “It’s probably the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without playing. I’m looking forward to training camp and I want to finish off the summer strong and come into the year motivated with a lot to prove.”

The Islanders as a whole have endured a long summer after they finished 2013-14 with the third worst record in the Eastern Conference. Aiming to avoid a repeat of that disappointing result, they have signed goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson as well as forwards Cory Conacher, Mikhail Grabovski, and Nikolai Kulemin.

Tavares is encouraged by the moves the Islanders have made and thinks that there will be plenty of competition during training camp. However, he still has to wait another two months before he’ll get to play in his next regular season game.

Capuano cautious about reuniting Kulemin/Grabovski

Jack Capuano

New York Islanders fans who are big into fancy stats may want to prepare themselves.

In Elliotte Friedman’s final 30 Thoughts column of the summer, he spoke with Isles coach Jack Capuano about the possibility of reuniting former Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on the same line.

As for Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, Capuano did not promise that they would be united, “But, we do know what the advanced stats say about them together.” (Hint: they are good.)

Their familiarity in Toronto made them two of the Leafs’ more productive forwards under Ron Wilson in 2010-11. That season, Kulemin scored 30 goals and Grabovski potted 29 and the pair combined for 117 points. If the Isles can unleash that sort of offensive production from their second line, they’ll be a very difficult team to deal with in the Eastern Conference.

With John Tavares returning from injury, New York’s offense would be worth the price of admission. Of course, it’s up to Capuano to see if the former Leafs teammates can find that old chemistry again.

Here’s an Islanders article on Griffin Reinhart

Griffin Reinhart, fourth overall pick by the New York Islanders, shakes hands during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(June 21, 2012 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

A commenter just complained below the Derek Roy story that we haven’t had a post on the New York Islanders in “13 days and counting.” While it’s possible that’s because the New York Islanders haven’t really done much since signing Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, here at PHT we try to listen to our readers, so here’s a link to a story about Griffin Reinhart. Apparently, the young defenseman would like to play in the NHL, not the WHL, next season.

“I think my skating’s been improving a lot,” Reinhart said. “I think my decision-making’s getting even better and quicker. I always thought I had good decision-making, but being up here you need to make it quicker, and I think I’ve done a good job of that … puck moving and getting some pucks through and overall defensive-zone stick play and all that is really getting better too.”

Islanders coach Jack Capuano confirmed that Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, is “going to get an opportunity come September.” And we promise we won’t ignore the Islanders until then. But if they could do something more exciting than signing guys to two-way contracts and announcing affiliation agreements with ECHL teams, we might be a bit more apt to write about them.

Poll: What were the best/worst free agent signings?

Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik (44) plays in the NHL preseason hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 , in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

There are still some noteworthy unrestricted free agents left on the market, but the vast majority of the money that will be spent on UFAs this summer has already been allocated. As is always the case, analysts have debated over what the best and worst signings were, so here’s your chance to have your say.

There are always plenty of contenders when it comes to the worst signings of the summer, but here are five to consider:

Brooks Orpik — Washington signed the defenseman to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. He logged big minutes with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the stay-at-home defenseman will turn 34 in September, so what is currently a questionable cap hit could look very bad in a couple years.

Dave Bolland — The Florida Panthers inked him to a five-year, $27.5 million deal. He’s never recorded more than 47 points and even that was back in 2008-09. On top of that, he has a lengthy injury history, which makes the term questionable. On the other hand, he’s won the Stanley Cup twice and played a meaningful role in both of those championships.

Benoit Pouliot — Seemingly desperate to get bigger, the Edmonton Oilers handed bottom-six forward Pouliot a five-year, $20 million contract. That’s an awful lot of money for a guy that’s probably going to average less than 14 minutes per game.

Nikolai Kulemin — The former 30-goal scorer has only found the back of the net 23 times over the past three seasons, but the New York Islanders still decided he was worthy of a four-year, $16.75 million deal.

Kyle Quincey — The Detroit Red Wings went into the free agent market with ambitions of improving their defense. The big-name defensemen on the market ended up turning them down though and instead they inked Quincey to a two-year, $8.5 million deal.

Have someone else in mind? All the biggest signings were included in the poll and are listed in order of their total contract value:

On a more positive note, here are some names to keep in mind when talking about the best signings of the summer:

Thomas Vanek — He came under fire for his performance in the 2014 playoffs, but Vanek has been a solid first-line winger for most of his career. His new deal with the Wild comes with a $6.5 million cap hit, which isn’t much of a bargain, but the fact that Minnesota got the 30-year-old to agree to just a three-year deal should help them.

Brad Richards — He was a point-per-game player in Dallas, but saw his stock fall considerably with the New York Rangers. Even still, the Chicago Blackhawks might have gotten the steal of the summer when Richards agreed to join them on a one-year, $2 million contract. The Blackhawks were up against the cap, but this move allowed them to address their second-line center vacancy without making significant sacrifices.

Marian Gaborik — He revitalized the Los Angeles Kings’ offense and was played a big role in them winning the Stanley Cup. Despite his lengthy injury history, Gaborik was in a position to cash in big this summer, but he choose to take a smaller annual salary for a longer deal and the luxury of playing with Los Angeles. His seven-year, $34.125 million contract is certainly lucrative and not without it’s risks, but he likely did leave money on the table to help the Kings’ cap situation.

Paul Stastny — The fact that he now has an annual cap hit of $7 million means that he’s obviously not a steal. At the same time, the Blues managed to limit him to a four-year deal that will cover the prime of the 28-year-old’s career. That’s a win for St. Louis considering he was one of the most highly sought after free agents on the market.

Christian Ehrhoff — Like the Chicago Blackhawks, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in a difficult cap situation. In Ehrhoff though, they have a potential short-term replacement for Matt Niskanen at the cost of $4 million for the 2014-15 campaign.