The New York Islanders have incredible depth at forward, both on the main roster and in the pipeline. The Islanders, in my opinion, have the best fourth line in hockey in Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. That line is so good that if it was New York’s third line, it would be considered in the top third of the NHL when it came to third-line pairings. The Islanders have an interesting dilemma coming soon and it falls under the category of a good problem to have for an organization. Top prospect Michael Dal Colle is closing on being NHL ready, but where will the New York management and coaching staff put him?
Michael Dal Colle
While the Islanders’ 2013-14 season was a huge disappointment, one bright spot that came out of that year was New York was able to select Dal Colle with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Dal Colle (6 feet, 2 inches, 190 pounds) spent last year with the Oshawa Generals. He led Oshawa to a Memorial Cup championship last year. Dal Colle was spectacular for the Generals in 2014-15 by posting 42 goals and 93 points in 56 games in the regular season. Dal Colle continued his stellar play with 31 points in 21 playoff games. Many talent evaluators would say Dal Colle should get a long look in training camp to see if he is ready for the NHL. In terms of projecting Dal Colle’s NHL career, worst case is that he will be a consistent top-six forward who will score 20 goals per season with a lot of intangibles and leadership. The best case scenario is Dal Colle becomes a sniper and plays on John Tavares’ line for years to come.
All Filled Up at Forward
Barring injuries, New York is stocked at the forward position going into next season. As of now, Michael Grabner (former 30-plus goal scorer) is the Islanders’ 13th forward. There is no room at the inn for the talented Mr. Dal Colle. However, as of now, the Islanders have four forwards who will be unrestricted free agents after the upcoming season in Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Martin and Grabner. In all likelihood, Dal Colle will go back to junior this year to finish his development. This time next year he will be ready to join the Islanders and should be showcased on one of New York’s top three lines. I fully expect the Islanders to get the 26-year-old Martin signed to an extension before he becomes a UFA. Grabner will be gone after this season, which leaves Okposo and Nielsen. Dal Colle will take one of their spots, so, at bare minimum, one of those two UFAs will be somewhere else next season. Dal Colle will be much better than both Okposo and Nielsen. Write it down and remember where you heard it first.
I think giving Kyle Okposo $6.5-7M/year makes sense if he's a 70+ point player. If not, or if he can't stay healthy, different conversation.
— Daniel Friedman (@DanJFriedman) July 16, 2015
While the Islanders are in one of the best positions in the league when it comes to their salary cap, an organization always has to be three steps ahead. The Islanders are currently $9 million under the cap, but still have to sign RFA Brock Nelson. Both Grabner and Brian Strait will be UFAs at season’s end and that will give New York nearly $4 million in extra cap space. However, re-signing Martin to an extension will eat up an additional $1.5 – $1.75 million in cap space (Martin in the last year of his current deal with a cap hit of $1 million). To re-sign Okposo will be a big increase for New York as his current $2.8 million cap hit will rise to at least $6.5 million. Nielsen, who has a cap hit this season of 2.75 million, will likely see his cap number rise to the $4 – $4.5 million level next season.
Keep in mind in the not-too-distant future, the Isles will have to lock up Tavares on a mega deal. The superstar is currently entering Yr. 4 of his six-year deal that has a yearly cap hit of $5.5 million. I already mentioned New York still has to lock up Nelson this summer. This upcoming season will be Ryan Strome’s last year of his entry-level deal and then he will become an RFA. Cizikas is also an RFA after next season.
— Dominik & LHHFriends (@LHHockey) July 29, 2015
The New York Islanders have the luxury of not rushing Dal Colle this year. But as you can see all roads are pointing to some necessary roster changes after the 2015-16 season for the Islanders.
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I am a Long Island – New York City guy. I have been writing about Hockey and Baseball for almost 10 years now on the web. I am also part of the Vegas Hockey Podcast, which is now part of “The Hockey Writers” podcast network. I have been an Islanders fans since the early 80’s. My goal is to bring insightful articles to everyone out there on the Islanders.