Streit rejects Isles’ offer, will head to free agency

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Mark Streit’s time on Long Island could be coming to an end.

On Tuesday, Newday’s Arthur Staple reported Streit, the Islanders’ captain since 2011, has rejected the team’s “best” offer and will head to free agency when his current contract — a five-year, $20.5 million deal — expires.

Streit, 35, was a key member of the Isles this year. He led all New York defensemen in scoring (27 points) and finished second on the team in power play points, with eight.

In the playoffs, he tied John Tavares for the team playoff scoring lead (five points) and averaged over 20 minutes a night.

Following the Islanders’ first-round exit against Pittsburgh, Streit told Newsday he wanted to return to New York.

“I’ve said it all along, I want to be back,” he explained. “I love it here, I love Long Island and the organization has been great to me.”

But it appears for all that love talk, money got in the way.

Here’s more:

The Islanders are believed to have made a three-year offer for the same $4.75 million per season that Lubomir Visnovsky accepted on the eve of the trade deadline (Visnovsky’s deal is for two years), but Streit is looking for north of $5.5 million per season.

With the free agent market for defensemen very thin, Streit could command $6 million per year and even possibly get a four-year deal. The Islanders wanted Streit back to keep the continuity Garth Snow has built, but the Isles GM is also not interested in busting his salary structure to keep Streit.

It’s easy to see why Streit would want to test free agent waters.

He’s primed to hit the market at a time where defensemen are at a premium — he, along with Sergei Gonchar, Ron Hainsey, Ryan Whitney and Marek Zidlicky figure to headline the class, which gives a pretty good idea of how shallow the class is.

What’s more, this group of UFA blueliners actually thinned out last week when Los Angeles re-signed Robyn Regehr to a two-year, $6 million deal.