So far this offseason, the New York Islanders have been very quiet. Garth Snow seems to be content, as he should be, with the current talent on his roster.
The homegrown youth will only continue to develop and get better, and the veteran players the team acquired last season, such as Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak, are fitting in perfectly. Although the roster that will be on the ice for the opening night of the 2015-2016 regular season is pretty much set, one more question needs to be answered this summer. What are the Islanders going to do with Kyle Okposo?
The 27-year-old right-winger from St. Paul, Minnesota is set to make $4.5 million this season, and will have the opportunity to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Okposo was drafted seventh overall by the Islanders in 2006, and has had an impressive eight seasons with the team so far. Last season, Okposo recorded 51 points, finding the back of the net 18 times and adding 33 assists. His point totals would have most likely been higher if he did not suffer an eye injury that shortened his season to 60 games. Okposo is deserving of a pay raise and will most likely receive around $6 million for four or five years if he hits the open market.
The best possible option for the New York Islanders is they extend Okposo’s contract before the start of the 2015-2016 regular season. As mentioned earlier, it is likely that somebody will be willing to pay Okposo a contract somewhere in the area of $6 million for four-to-five years. However, the Islanders may be able to get away with paying closer to $5 million per year if they can get a deal done now. Snow does not want to go into the new season uncertain that Okposo will be a member of his franchise long term.
The Islanders have a lot of young talent that is going to eventually be looking for their paydays, so the team may be unwilling to pay Okposo what he could demand on the open market. Once the regular season gets going, the trade rumors will start to intensify. In reality, New York will be tempted to trade one of their best players if they feel like they will be unable to re-sign him to a contract they deem to be reasonable. The idea behind this is not letting Kyle Okposo walk away leaving the Islanders empty-handed.
If Okposo enters the summer of 2016 a free agent, it is likely that he does not re-sign with the New York Islanders. Okposo may not be worth a big-time contract, but that does not mean that he will not be offered one by at least one team. Every summer, we see teams overpay for players and that will be the case for Okposo.
The New York Islanders are finally transforming into one of the best teams in the eastern conference. There is no argument in saying that Okposo is a key reason for this transformation. It is possible that one of the Islanders’ younger players could come in and fill the void if Okposo left, but is that something Snow should be willing to risk? Islanders’ fans have suffered for too long, and now that they have gotten a whiff of success, it is important to keep things moving in the right direction. In reality, there is only one good option for New York in this situation: they need to extend Okposo’s contract now! This way the team can pay him a price they feel comfortable with and sleep easy knowing that they have one of their stars for the future.
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.