Islanders Questions Heading Into Training Camp

Believe it or not, we are counting down the days until NHL training camps open. In regards to the New York Islanders, they are essentially bringing back the same team. The exception is New York has a new backup goalie in Thomas Greiss. I have my eye on three items as the Islanders head into camp and start their inaugural season in Brooklyn.

The Nelson Situation

Well it’s time for both the Islanders and Brock Nelson get this contract situation settled. I know there has been a lot of chatter about the Islanders’ policy of players who are not signed by the opening of training camp. The policy is if a player is not signed by Day 1 of training camp, that player will not play for the team that season. What everyone has to realize is that new ownership (Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky) are not going to allow their first year in Brooklyn to start off with this story line. This policy is one that was instituted by Charles Wang and he will soon be turning the team over to the new owners, as he steps aside.

I can appreciate that Nelson sees all of these rich contracts being landed along the NHL landscape and has to ask the question “what about me?” Nelson is a restricted free agent but one without arbitration rights. Nelson has to wait for his time in terms of that big contract and sign a bridge deal now. Nelson, who turns 24 in mid October, should take notice that Johnny Boychuk did not make more than $2 million annually until he was 29-years old. Nelson is an extremely talented young player who is improving each season and is part of the future Islanders core. Nelson just has to wait a little while longer before he lands the kind of contract he covets. It would not be in his best interest to be one of the very few RFAs not signed as NHL training camps open.

Will Snow Sign Any of the Key UFAs Before Opening Night?

General manager Garth Snow has three key players who will be unrestricted free agents at seasons end. They are Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. Will Snow get any of this trio signed to an extension by opening night? I think the most likely candidate to sign an extension soon is Martin. The 26-year old is part of the Islanders’ secret weapon, their fourth line. Of the three pending UFAs, Martin should be the least complicated in terms of a new contract. He should land a new deal that has an annual value between $2.5 and $2.75 million. In terms of Okposo and Nielsen, these negotiations could go on all the way up to June 30, 2016. Keep in mind Michael Dal Colle will be ready to take a spot on one of the Isles’ top three lines by – bare minimun – opening night 2016. Also, the upcoming UFA class, as it is currently constituted, is very talented and deep. It’s possible the Islanders let either Okposo or Nielsen leave and use those dollars on one of the big UFAs this summer.

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Can the Top 2 Prospects Make this Team?

As New York heads into camp, their top two prospects are hoping to secure a spot on the opening night roster. I am talking about forward Michael Dal Colle and defenseman Ryan Pulock. One can make a strong argument that both are ready to start their NHL careers. However, both kids (Dal Colle is 19-years old and Pulock turns 21 in early October) have to prove they belong with the big club during training camp. In terms of Pulock, there is a spot to be claimed with the departure of Lubomir Visnovsky. Now, Pulock has to show he should be the one to land that open spot on the blue line. Dal Colle has more of an uphill battle. The Islanders are very deep at forward, which is illustrated by the fact that Michael Grabner is currently their 13th forward. In addition, the Islanders will only allow Dal Colle to make the team if he can land a spot on one of the top three lines. New York’s No. 1 prospect has a big task at hand to prove he belongs on the roster come opening night. But it’s his job during camp to show his performance would be vital to success for the young Islanders team.

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