Josh Bailey

What is the Islanders’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the New York Islanders.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Islanders will need to lock up a couple of critical restricted free agents this upcoming offseason but have a lot of components signed to long-term extensions.

The acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the NHL Trade Deadline solidified their depth down the middle for years to come. Mathew Barzal has the potential to blossom into an elite centerman while Brock Nelson and Pageau can flip flop between the second and third line. Heart and soul player Casey Cizikas will continue to anchor the fourth line.

New York also has several of its top-nine wingers in place, including Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle and captain Anders Lee.

The newest addition to the core will be goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who is expected to come to the NHL at the start of next season. The Islanders drafted Sorokin in the third round of the 2014 draft and the Russian netminder has spent the past six seasons in the KHL. He has long been considered one of the best goalies not playing in the NHL. Throughout his career with CSKA, he never finished with a save percentage below .929 and is expected to produce at a similar level in North America.

Islanders goalie coach Mitch Korn has helped develop some of the League’s best goaltenders and Sorokin could be next in line.

Long-Term Needs

While the Islanders have a lot of their core signed to long-term contracts, the organization still needs a high-scoring winger to manufacture offense.

The Carolina Hurricanes swept the Islanders in a second-round series during last year’s postseason as they won four straight and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. New York only managed to score five goals in those four games and were unable to solve its offensive deficiencies.

The Islanders play a fundamentally sound defensive system but need someone who can create offense on their own to change the momentum within a game. Barzal has a chance to be that type of game-breaker in today’s NHL but you need more than one player with that skillset.

In addition to their lack of offensive punch, the Islanders lost their defensive structure when Adam Pelech was lost for the season in early January. General manager Lou Lamoriello thought he solved the problem with the addition of Andy Greene from the New Jersey Devils but the Islanders went 2-5-4 in the 11 games he played and finished in a seven-game skid.

Coach Barry Trotz and his staff need to examine why the absence of one player impacted their system as much as it did.

Long-Term Strengths

The impact a coach has on any given team has long been disputed, but the effect Trotz has had on the Islanders is undeniable.

Ever since Trotz inked a five-year contract with the orange and blue, he brought a credibility to the team on the ice. The Islanders became one of the most defensively sound teams in the league and instantly became a playoff contender. With Trotz behind the bench, the Islanders will reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a consistent basis.

Besides strong leadership behind the bench, the Islanders have developed a strong culture inside the locker room. Players play for one another and there is a system of accountability that was lacking before Trotz arrived.

Overall, the Islanders should be in the playoff discussion for years to come with a disciplined structure, strong goaltending and a true difference-maker behind the bench. However, in order to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and not just a team that qualifies for the postseason consistently, they need to add a dynamic forward.

MORE ON THE ISLANDERS:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Lamoriello says Islanders would match Barzal offer sheet

Lamoriello Islanders would match Mathew Barzal offer sheet
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If an opportunistic NHL team sends Mathew Barzal an offer sheet, Lou Lamoriello claims that the Islanders would match it.

Lamoriello briefly but authoritatively stated as much in an … often brief and authoritative Q&A with fans on the Islanders website. Here’s his exact answer:

It is our intention to not allow it to get to that point, but should that happen, the answer is yes.

Lamoriello also mentioned that:

  • The Islanders expect intriguing goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to play in North America next season, and specifically with the Islanders.
  • The team believes Johnny Boychuk and Casey Cizikas would be ready if play resumes.
  • Meanwhile, Lamoriello said Adam Pelech is expected to be ready by (2020-21) training camp.

But, yeah, that Barzal bit is the most interesting. Let’s ruminate on the situation for a moment.

A Barzal bidder could be a threat if Islanders, others face cap crunches

As of this writing, Cap Friendly estimates the Islanders’ would-be cap space for 2020-21 at about $12.62 million. Of course, that estimate would be based on an $81.5M ceiling. Usually, we assume there will be at least a modest increase, and the league pointed to that happening … until the coronavirus pandemic put the season on “pause.”

Now that the league is on pause, there are all sorts of questions. While the biggest ones are about whether the league could hand out the Stanley Cup (and how), financial worries also linger. It sure sounds like it will be difficult to even maintain an $81.5M cap, let alone raise it.

It’s tough to picture a team being cutthroat during such a time, especially in an NHL where credible offer sheets are about as rare as Lamoriello approving of a high jersey number and mustache combination.

But things can change quickly, and if life and sports go back to something approaching normalcy, one could imagine a perfect opportunity for someone to try to poach Barzal with an offer sheet. Generally speaking, such offer sheets are often designed to hurt the team to match thanks to certain structural quirks. (The Flyers front-loaded their offer to try to get Shea Weber, for instance.)

A Barzal offer sheet could hurt maneuverability even if Islanders match

For better or worse, the Islanders have handed out a lot of term to forwards lately.

Anders Lee (29, $7M cap hit through 2025-26), Brock Nelson (28, $6M, 2024-25), Jordan Eberle (29, $5.5M, 2023-24) and Josh Bailey (30, $5M, 2023-24) already represented a pretty substantial group with its fair share of risks. Then Lamoriello added Jean-Gabriel Pageau (27, extended at $5M AAV through 2025-26) to the mix.

The Islanders would do what they need to do to retain Barzal, as Lamoriello said. Even so, a strategic offer sheet could create an especially tight fit.

Such thoughts make you wonder if the Islanders might want to get something done ASAP with Barzal, but back in January, he indicated talks will wait.

“We want to make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, take a run at the Stanley Cup, and after that we’ll figure [the contract] out,” Barzal said during All-Star weekend, via NHL.com.

A few weeks ago, Elliotte Friedman surmised that an offer sheet could indeed come for Barzal, and it’s easy to see why.

Barzal is vital to Islanders, compares well to Marner

If you’re a team in need of an impact player, wouldn’t Barzal be worth at least as much as Mitch Marner‘s $10.893M AAV, if not more? After all, Barzal brings all of that speed and production at center.

Compare Barzal and Marner based on multiple season RAPM charts at Evolving Hockey, for example:

With 60 points in 68 games, Barzal leads all Islanders scorers, which puts him on track to top team point production for three straight seasons. While he hasn’t matched that explosive rookie year of 85 points in 2017-18, Barzal’s been able to avoid Barry Trotz’s doghouse.

His value to the Islanders is abundantly clear, and won’t be lost on potential suitors. It would be surprising if anyone snatched Barzal away, but that offer sheet threat could really drive up the price for the Islanders.

Perhaps a team might snare a player away who’s a few rungs lower down the ladder with an offer sheet considering the economic turbulence, though?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Kucherov carries Lightning; Hart makes victorious return

Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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Three Stars

1) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov scored twice including the overtime winner in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Russian winger has collected 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) during an 11-game point streak as the Lightning have climbed up the standings. The Bolts also extended their point streak to nine games (8-0-1) and moved to within three points of the Boston Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Captain Steven Stamkos did not play due to a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.

2) Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders

The focus was on Alex Ovechkin’s chase for 700 goals but Beauvillier and the Islanders quickly stole the spotlight with two early goals in a 5-3 victory against the Capitals. The 22-year-old forward set a new career high with his six-game point streak. No. 18 scored the opening goal after a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence 3:30 into the game. He added his second less than three minutes later when he gathered a rebound during a scramble in front of Ilya Samsonov. His linemates Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had three assists in the victory.

3) Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

After a nine-game absence due to a strained abdominal muscle, Hart returned with 30 saves in the Flyers’ 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers at Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia improved to 7-2-1 over its last eight games and passed the Carolina Hurricanes for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Hart and the Flyers have been dreadful away from home this season and will need to improve in a hurry if they expect to keep up in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

[RELATED: Ovechkin’s chase for 700 continues on NBCSN | Pens acquire Zucker]

Highlights of the Night

You have to see it to believe what Matthew Tkachuk pulled off in the third period against the San Jose Sharks.

Nelson left a perfect drop pass for Bailey before he slid the puck over to Beauvillier who completed the brilliant sequence to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead early in the first period.

Brayden Point stole the puck from Zach Werenski preceding a marvelous string of passes that allowed Kucherov to slam home the overtime winner.

Ivan Provorov could not have fired the puck into a better spot for his 10th goal of the season.

There are times when all you have to do is put your stick on the puck, but in this situation Milan Lucic wisely redirected a pass to the top portion of the net to give the Flames an early one-goal lead.

Stats of the Night

Scores

New York Islanders 5, Washington Capitals 3

Arizona Coyotes 3, Montreal Canadiens 2

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Florida Panthers 1

Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (OT)

Vancouver Canucks 6, Nashville Predators 2

Calgary Flames 6, San Jose Sharks 2

Ovechkin’s quest for 700:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Vatrano helps Panthers win sixth in a row; Dodgeball ‘Storm Surge’

Vatrano hat trick Panthers six in a row Buzzer
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Three Stars

 1. Frank Vatrano, Florida Panthers

The Lightning understandably drew a ton of attention for their rise up the rankings. Should we give their in-state neighbors some love, too? Consider the Panthers’ winning run, which cued up nicely with Joel Quenneville’s return to Chicago:

  • The Panthers keep overcoming mostly hit-or-miss (and sometimes hit by injuries) goaltending by scoring, a lot. Tuesday’s 4-3 win against the Blackhawks marks Florida’s sixth win in a row. They’ve scored at least four goals in every game during that streak.
  • The Panthers’ strong play extends beyond this streak. Florida carried a strong 13-4-0 run in its last 17 games.
  • They closed off a three-game road trip, all with wins. They return with another three-game road trip (so technically, it’s six in a row on the road). If they stand strong after this stretch, it would be quite a testament to what Coach Q & Co. are building.

Vatrano caught fire during this six-game winning streak. Tuesday represents the peak of that run, as the winger generated his second NHL hat trick. Vatrano also extended his point streak to five games (five goals, four assists for nine points).

He showed flashes of brilliance in Boston, and has largely converted that into a solid niche with Florida. Vatrano quietly scored 24 goals and 39 points last season. Tuesday’s outburst places Vatrano at 14 goals and 27 points for 2019-20.

Florida needed all three of Vatrano’s goals, as his third ended up being the game-winner. The Panthers were up as much as 3-0 and 4-1, so Chicago fought back, but not enough.

Count Mike Hoffman as one of the other Panthers who are scoring up a storm.

2. Josh Bailey/Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

The Rangers generated a massive 42-18 shots on goal advantage on Tuesday, but the Islanders held on for a 4-2 win. Getting outchanced like that remains a cause for concern, but Griess bailed the Isles out with 40 saves.

(Quick thought: is it possible Barry Trotz needs to loosen up when the Islanders hold leads? They lost after coughing up a big one against Washington, and almost invited the Rangers to creep back in on Tuesday.)

Bailey generated three points (1G, 2A), so maybe you’d call him the bigger star over Greiss?

3. Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes

Justin WIlliams continues to make an early impact for Carolina. After producing the shootout-deciding goal in his return, Williams fired in two goals on Tuesday. Not bad, considering his modest 11:45 time on ice.

Teravainen gets the overall edge, though. Like Bailey, Teravainen scored a goal and two assists for three points. The shifty Finn is backing up last season’s almost point-per-game play (76 points in 82 GP), with similar results (48 points in 50 GP).

Andrei Svechnikov demands a mention of his own. The splendid sophomore collected two assists, placing Svechnikov close behind Teravainen with 45 points in 50 GP.

Kreider replaces Panarin at All-Star Game

The Rangers played without Artemi Panarin thanks to an injury. It appears that they’ll have a different All-Star Game representative, as Chris Kreider will replace him.

Another fun Storm Surge

If you can block a shot, you can dodge a ball?

Feisty Scheifele

The Jets are struggling, and thus Mark Scheifele is taking no guff.

Factoids

Scores

BOS 3 – VGK 2
NYI 4 – NYR 2
CAR 4 – WPG 1
PHI 3 – PIT 0
FLA 4 – CHI 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Rust, Zadina among this week’s best adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Filip Zadina, Red Wings – LW/RW: This obviously isn’t the Red Wings’ season, but Zadina is a big part of what Detroit hopes is a bright future. He started the campaign in the AHL, but he made his NHL season debut on Nov. 24th and has been chipping in regularly with two goals and seven points in his last seven games. He’s definitely a gamble, but he has the offensive upside to make him worth the risk. It doesn’t hurt that the Red Wings are incentivized to give their younger players healthy minutes given that the idea of making the playoffs is already long gone.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: If nothing else, Duclair is worth taking a shot on right now given how hot he is. He has an incredible seven goals and eight points in his last four games alone. He’s been really good for a while though with 17 goals and 24 points in his last 25 games. He does have a 20.5 shooting percentage over that span, which is a pretty big red flag, but I do think he’s still worth taking a chance on. Duclair is a forward who has shown promise before and might be hitting his stride now that he’s getting a bigger opportunity with Ottawa.

Jordan Eberle, Islanders – RW: Eberle left something to be desired last season, but he did end it on a positive note that gave us hope for the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately he got off to a rather rough start this season too and plenty of fantasy owners ditched him as a result. He’s shown signs of life in December though with three goals and seven points in seven games. This might just be a hot streak, but Eberle’s a player who has bounce back potential so if you pick him up now, there’s at least a chance he’ll be a valuable asset for the rest of the campaign.

Josh Bailey, Islanders – LW/RW: If you want to double down on Islanders, Bailey is another option. Like Eberle, Bailey is owned in under 20% of Yahoo leagues at the time of writing and like Eberle, he’s red hot right now. Bailey has a goal and eight points in his last eight games. Just as an aside, while Eberle and Bailey obviously are on the same team, they aren’t typically on the ice together. In fact, Bailey has 22 points in 31 games in 2019-20 while only combining with Eberle four times. This is all to say that Eberle and Bailey aren’t linked, so it’s entirely possible that one will stay hot while the other cools down.

Tyler Toffoli, Kings – LW/RW: Los Angeles is taking a breather on Monday, but when they face Boston Tuesday night, Toffoli will be entering the contest on a four-game point streak. He has an impressive three goals and seven points over that span. Taking his season as a whole, he has nine goals and 20 points in 34 contests, which is good for third place on the Kings scoring race, but is pretty borderline in standard leagues and his lack of contributions on the power play or with hits makes him not a terribly viable long-term option. Still, he’s at least an option worth entertaining while he’s hot.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: I’ve mentioned Rust before as a possible add candidate, but I feel justified in mentioning him again given that he’s still available in over half of Yahoo leagues. He’s just been a great contributor this season with 12 goals and 22 points despite being limited to 19 games. He’s also hot right now, scoring three goals and five points in his last three contests.

Jason Zucker, Wild – LW/RW: Zucker isn’t particularly hot right now with a goal and three points in his last five games, but he’s been a regular contributor throughout the season. His 12 goals and 24 points in 34 games aren’t amazing, but it’s solid and his eligibility on both wings is a great bit of flexibility. If you’re been battered by injuries or have an underperforming winger, Zucker is a pretty safe stopgap measure.

Robby Fabbri, Red Wings – LW/RW: Fabbri didn’t have a spot with the St. Louis Blues, but he certainly has one in Detroit. He’s averaged 17:07 minutes since being acquired by the Red Wings and he’s paid them back for the opportunity by scoring eight goals and 15 points in 18 contests. Fabbri is still owned in just 17% of Yahoo leagues, so he’s flown under the radar to an extent, but he’s had some decent value since the trade and should continue to be a significant contributor with Detroit.

Christian Dvorak, Coyotes – C/LW: Dvorak has been decent this season, but he’s dialed it up lately with two goals and nine points in his last 10 games. I don’t expect him to maintain that kind of pace, but he’s an asset while it lasts. Once he cools down though, I’d lean towards dropping him in favor of some other option.

Eric Staal, Wild – C: Staal had 22 goals and 52 points in 81 games in 2018-19, which was his worst showing since coming to Minnesota. This season is shaping up to be better though. He has 12 goals and 26 points in 34 contests. He only had an assist in his first seven games this season, but since then he’s been an excellent and relatively regular contributor. His center-only eligibility is a definitely knock against him, but he still has use in standard leagues.

Players You May Want To Drop

Adam Fox, Rangers – D: This is a bit of a tough one. He’s having a great rookie season with five goals and 16 points in 32 games, but that might not be quite enough reason to hold onto him if you’re in a standard league. A lot of that production comes from a great run that occurred from Oct. 29-Nov. 30, but more recently he’s been limited to two assists in seven games. Rookies can have more extreme hot-and-cold spells than veterans, so it’s a little riskier to hold onto one while they are cold. That said, even if you do decide to part ways with him for now, he’s definitely still worth keeping a close eye on.

Blake Coleman, Devils – LW/RW: Coleman enjoyed a big hot streak from Nov. 13-28, scoring six goals and 10 points in eight contests. He hasn’t done much else this season though. In fact, if you take away that streak, then he’s left with three goals and six points in 24 games in 2019-20. He’s a decent secondary scorer and was certainly worth having during his hot streak, but there’s not much incentive to keep him now that he’s cooled down.

Jeff Skinner, Sabres – C/LW: Skinner has surpassed the 30-goal milestone four different times in his career, but never in back-to-back seasons. It’s looking more-and-more like that unfortunate trend will continue. Although he scored 40 goals last season, he’s been limited to 11 goals and 18 points in 34 contests this season. It gets worse if you look at what he’s brought to the table since mid-November. He’s scored just three goals and six points in his last 16 games. His shooting percentage is just 6% over that span, which is pretty low for him, so it seems reasonable to believe he’ll eventually bounce back, but not necessarily to the levels that some are hoping.

Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild – G: Kahkonen has spent most of the season in the minors, but he’s been with the Wild during Devan Dubnyk’s absence for personal reasons.  The Wild had a full schedule last week with four games, including three contests in four nights from Dec. 12-15, so Kahkonen has seen plenty of action lately. He saved 31 of 33 shots in an overtime loss on Dec. 10th, but then he allowed five goals on Dec. 12th and four markers on Dec. 15th. In other words, he’s been a mixed bag and even if he wasn’t, his stint with Minnesota would probably be coming to a close anyways. Dubnyk didn’t participate in Sunday’s game, but there’s a fair chance he’ll be back soon and once he is, Kahkonen return to the AHL.

Martin Jones, Sharks – G: This has been a pretty shaky season for the Sharks and Jones has certainly been impacted by that. He has a 3.30 GAA and .888 save percentage in 27 games, which would both be career lows if this continues. That said, I’m a little hesitant to recommend dropping or otherwise getting rid of him at this time. The Sharks shook up their coaching staff just two games ago and part of that change was bringing in former Sharks starter Evgeni Nabokov as the new goaltending coach. It’ll be interesting to see if those changes can help San Jose in general and Jones in particular turn things around. However, I do see this as something of a final opportunity as far as the 2018-19 campaign is concerned. If Jones hasn’t rebounded in the next few weeks then it would make sense to explore other options.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.