Do the Islanders Sign Their 3 Key UFAs ?

Going into this season, the New York Islanders have three key players who are on the final year of their contracts. As it stands now, all three will be unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2016. This trio consists of wingers Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, as well as center Frans Nielsen. The big question for the Islanders and general manager Garth Snow will be who signs extensions and who departs to another team? The Islanders are in strong salary cap position, both in the short and long term. Cap Friendly currently has the Islanders  with nearly $6.6 million in cap space. In addition, New York  has nearly $10 million coming off their cap with pending UFAs.

Matt Martin:

I said it before and I’ll say it again, Martin is part of the Isles’ secret weapon, which is their fourth line. Martin, along with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, are not your typical NHL fourth line. This line brings energy, physicality, secondary scoring and solid defense. Another major asset this line brings is the amount of ice time they log on a given night. The Isles’ fourth line plays between 11 and 12 minutes per night. This allows New York to have their top three lines stay fresh on a given night and for the marathon that is known as the NHL regular season. While Martin is a secondary player for New York, he is a key cog on the ice and in the locker room. Come July 1 next year, Martin will be 27 and in the prime of his career. Of the three key pending UFAs the Isles have, Martin is the one most likely to sign an extension. He will land a four-to-five year deal with annual value between $2-2.5 million. Keep in mind while Martin is a fourth liner on the Islanders, on many other teams he would be slated on that team’s third line.

Frans Nielsen:

Nielsen might be the trickiest one in terms of whether to sign him to an extension. The current longest-tenured Islander (third round pick in 2002) is a two-way player that helps New York both on the power play and the penalty kill. While Nielsen’s output of 43 points last year was down compared to his previous year’s production of 58 points (career high), he still finished fourth in scoring for the Isles. Nielsen has been a key member of this team for the last few years. However, Nielsen will be 32 by season’s end. The Islanders have many salary cap situations to consider in the near term. In addition to Martin, Nielsen and Okposo, Ryan Strome finishes his entry-level deal at the end of the 2015-16 season. In a couple of years, John Tavares will have to be signed to a very large long-term extension. New York also has a lot of top young talent coming at the forward position through their system. This is highlighted by the Islanders’ top prospect, winger Michael Dal Colle, who will be with the big club no later than next year, for the 2016-17 season. Dal Colle will be on one of New York’s top three lines. All these factors are important items that must be considered when it comes to signing Nielsen to an extension. I believe the Islanders want Nielsen back, but in terms of his potential new contract, where does the organization feel comfortable in both years and annual salary? It’s a toss up if Nielsen is an Islander next season. I firmly believe both sides want to stay together. However, Nielsen would probably be offered a more lucrative contract if he enters free agency come July 1.

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Kyle Okposo:

The most difficult of the three in trying to figure out if an agreement with be reached regarding an extension is Okposo. The winger (turns 28 in April 2016), when he plays a full season, is a power forward that can get between 65 and 70 points. Okposo is a player many teams covet as he has skill and size (6 feet and 217 pounds). However, the negatives are Okposo is a streaky player and has been a bit injury prone in his career. Okposo is coming off a scary eye injury (detached retina) that he suffered last year. All indications are Okposo is healthy and ready to go at full force for the upcoming season. I have no doubt the Islanders want Okposo back, but if it’s going to take a Bobby Ryan / Ryan O’Reilly type of contract (roughly seven years, $50 million), then Okposo will be playing for another team for the 2016-17 season. If Okposo leaves the Islanders after this season, New York will have plenty of options via free agency, the trade market and internally with Dal Colle closing in on the NHL. Remember the Islanders are in excellent shape regarding the salary cap in terms of making future transactions.

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