Well we are now into the off-season for the New York Islanders. The Islanders have three key free agents who become unrestricted on July 1st. New York has to make critical decisions regarding Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. Do they re-sign them or does general manager Garth Snow look for answers elsewhere?
Martin just turned 27 years of age this week. Martin is part of New York’s vaunted fourth line along with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Keep in mind even though Martin is part of the fourth line, head coach Jack Capuano uses them 12-13 minutes a night and in key situations.
Martin is the current NHL hits leader who finished with 365 hits this season. The Philadelphia Flyers Radko Gudas finished second with 304 hits. Martin has been the league’s hits leader for the last five seasons. Martin can chip in offensively (10 Goals & 19 points), bring physicality, energy and is a key cog in terms of team chemistry.
There is no question the Isles want to bring Martin back. I would be surprised if he signs elsewhere.
Matt Martin: "I love this team and I love playing here… LOVE. I got crap on Twitter for saying 'loved' the other day. I love it here."
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) May 10, 2016
Nielsen is a two-way player that can help a hockey club in all situations. Offense, defense, power play and the penalty kill, the Danish forward can contribute in many different ways.
Nielsen is coming off an impressive 2015-16 season. Frans had 20 goals and 52 points in 81 games. The only red flag regarding Nielsen is he turned 32 in April. The obstacles regarding a new contract for Nielsen will be about term and not annual value.
Nielsen has been with the Islanders organization a long time. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2002 NHL Draft. Nielsen has been a key player for the Islanders since the 2008-09 season. It’s more likely than not Nielsen returns to the Islanders. Look for a new 4-year deal between the Isles and Nielsen.
Frans Nielsen said the ball is in Snow's court if they want him back. "I love being here, I would love to come back, but we'll see." #Isles
— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) May 10, 2016
The hardest negotiation for the Islanders this off-season will be with Okposo. The Minnesota native is probably looking for a new deal that is similar to the contracts given to the Senators, Bobby Ryan and the Sabres, Ryan O’Reilly (roughly 7 years $50 million).
The former 7th overall pick has registered at least 60 points, two out of the last three years. Okposo has scored 20 goals or more three times. Having just turned 28 years of age Okposo has a number of prime years ahead of him. This will make him one of the most attractive forwards on the free agent market.
Unless Okposo leaves a decent amount of money on the table I expect him to wearing another uniform come the 2016-17 season. Kyle is a really good player and even better guy but the bottom line is he is not a difference maker in terms of his play on the ice. If a club is going to give a player a monster contract he has to be a difference maker. No doubt whoever signs Okposo will get a top-six forward but they will be mistaken if they think they are getting a first line forward. The Islanders will not make that mistake.
It will be interesting to see who stays and who goes from this group. Okposo, Nielsen and Martin have been with the Islanders for a number of years now. Keep in mind the Isles have plenty of cap space and trade assets in terms of making acquisitions this off-season.