It seems that the New York Islanders could be turning to an old friend when it comes to improving their play in net in 2018-19. The Isles gave up a league-worst 296 goals this season, a 3.61 GAA, behind the pedestrian play of starter Jaroslav Halak and dismal performance of overpaid backup Thomas Greiss. Even solid AHL keeper Christopher Gibson struggled in his eight appearances. With Halak hitting the free agent market and Gibson, a restricted free agent, having an uncertain future – not to mention the undoubted desire by some in the organization to move on from Greiss – the goalie position is in need of an overhaul this off-season. One early rumored piece to the puzzle? Former prospect Mikko Koskinen. In fact, Russian news source Sport Express reports that the two sides have already agreed to a preliminary deal and will make their reunion official on July 1st. Koskinen, 29, was a second-round draft pick by New York back in 2009 and brought with him high expectations when he crossed the Atlantic that same year. However, the hulking 6’7” Finn did not last long, playing in parts of three disappointing seasons in North America, including an .873 save percentage and 4.33 GAA in four starts with the Isles in 2010-11. Koskinen, still very young, returned home and immediately returned to dominating the Finnish Liiga before making the jump to the KHL. Since 2014-15, Koskinen has been the starter for KHL powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg and has been one of the league’s top goaltenders. Last season, Koskinen led the team to a Gagarin Cup title, only to improve his play this year with a stunning 1.57 GAA and .937 save percentage. Now, Koskinen want another shot at the big time and the Isles appear willing to give him a chance to see if his developed game can translate to the NHL. Neither the Islanders nor SKA have confirmed Koskinen’s move at this point, and may not until the deal is made official when free agency opens, but it hardly seems out of the realm of possibility. Not only does New York need a boost in net, but Koskinen is just one of several KHL goaltenders who have expressed an interest in the NHL market this summer, including Olympic standout Pavel Francouz and veteran NHLer Karri Ramo. A short-term contract for Koskinen to compete for the Isles’ starter job would come as little surprise.
- One player who won’t be leaving Europe for the Islanders is top defensive prospect Robin Salo. Salo, New York’s second-round pick last June, has signed a two-year deal with Finnish club SaiPa, the team announced (link in Finnish). The homegrown product, who has already been applauded for his mature, well-rounded game, appears interested in further seasoning in the Liiga before joining the NHL. The SaiPa press release quoted Salo as saying “”I think I can develop the game here and move forward”, likely meaning when his new contract expires in 2020. Possibly forming an dynamic tandem with top Boston Bruins defensive prospect Urho Vaakanainen, Salo certainly could impress over the next two years. However, back in New York, the Islanders will have to look elsewhere for an immediate boost on the blue line, another sore spot of 2017-18.
- While the Islanders’ season may be over, Josh Jooris and the Pittsburgh Penguins are still playing. Yet, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from turning in regards to Jooris’ potential departure form North America. Throughout the year, Jooris has been connected to teams in Europe, particularly in the Swiss NLA, after he nearly signed in the league last summer. The two-way forward could be looking for a new opportunity as his game continues to regress in the NHL. After a promising rookie year with the Calgary Flames in 2014-15, Jooris’ production has dropped off each year. This season, he bounced back and forth from the AHL and had just six points in 40 NHL games, none of which came in his nine games of action with the Penguins following a deadline deal from the Carolina Hurricanes. Jooris reportedly wants a fresh start and now a team has returned that interest. Coach and GM Chris McSorely of the NLA’s Geneve-Servette HC revealed that at the top of his shortlist of potential free agent imports is none other than Jooris. With seemingly mutual interest and a presumed lack of value for Jooris is in the NHL market, this seems to be a rumor with some legs.