The New York Islanders got back to the postseason in 2015-16, making it two straight years they’ve gotten there. The John Capuano coached team went 45-27-10 in the regular season, and advanced past the Florida Panthers before getting knocked out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. As superstar John Tavares continues to crawl toward his eventual free agency – he has two remaining seasons at $5.5MM – the team has quite a few big names to worry about this offseason. Here’s a look at their upcoming free agents:
Key Restricted Free Agent: C Ryan Strome – The elder Strome brother and former 5th overall pick, Ryan had a somewhat disappointing season for the Isles this year. After putting up 17 goals and 50 points in his sophomore year in 2014-15, Strome only collected 28 this season while seeing less powerplay time and experiencing a drop-off in possession metrics.
Strome will turn 23 in less than a month, and is coming off his entry-level contract; he’ll be looking for a bridge deal like the one Nazem Kadri signed in 2013. While Kadri was coming off a stronger season, he didn’t have as much history in the league as Strome does now. That deal lasted two years at $2.9MM, and while Strome might not hit that mark he’s expected to get over $2MM.
Key Unrestricted Free Agent: RW Kyle Okposo – After putting up a huge season, Okposo is in line for a big pay raise. The former seventh overall pick put up 64 points in 79 games, continuing what has been very strong play since 2013-14. He’s racked up 184 points during that time, ranking him 17th overall in PPG over that span among players with at least 50 GP. Coming in ahead of players like Corey Perry, Phil Kessel and Jonathan Toews, Okposo is going to get a huge contract this offseason.
As reported earlier today, it looks like the Islanders are set to move on from the winger, with GM Garth Snow wishing him luck in the future. For the team, they’ll be losing their second highest scorer and a player who has been a big part of the turnaround in New York. With the third highest, center Frans Nielsen, also being a UFA this summer the Isles are at risk of losing a substantial part of their offense on July 1st.
Projected Cap Space: $13MM, 18 players under contract.
While the Islanders seem to have their defense corps set up for next year, their forward group will have to rely on some young talent stepping up if they don’t make any big free agent splashes. 24-year old Brock Nelson put up an impressive 26 goals and will be expected to take on an even bigger role with the departures of Okposo and Nielsen.
The goaltending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss performed admirably this season, but the team may look to move one of them at some point, with Greiss entering his final contract year and Halak only with two remaining. As they both enter their thirties, the team may look to move on as they have a number of solid prospects in the system.