Hockey is Back on Long Island after Snow’s Successful Offseason
It’s been a long, long time since Islanders fans have been able to truly say they are confident with their team’s roster going into the season, with this year is one of those times. With defense and other questions up in the air before the last home opener at Nassau Coliseum kicks off on Saturday, Garth Snow went out and made a flurry of moves on Saturday to solidify the team all around. He acquired Johnny Boychuk for a second in 2015, a second in 2016, and a conditional 3rd in 2015. But, he wasn’t done there. Snow went on to acquire Nick Leddy within the same hour, this time for Ville Pokka, Anders Nilsson (who now plays in the KHL), and the recently signed TJ Brennan. Defense, which was the main concern going into the season for the Islanders, was then amped up to a whole new level that any Islander fan could be excited about.
There was a lot of pressure on Garth Snow this offseason, between the Rangers making the finals, and the last year at Nassau Coliseum quickly approaching. It started with the draft. After trading up to 28 to take Joshua Ho-Sang after selecting Michael Dal Colle 5th, there was a lot of hope Snow would do big things on the impending free agent frenzy that would commence on July 1st, but that day left fans in an outrage wanting more. The only signings of the day were Cory Conacher and TJ Brennan, two men who have had a hard time sticking around in the NHL. But then Snow went on to sign the duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin to 4 year deals, padding the offense with more depth than it has seen in 5 years. Grabovski and Kulemin help ease the offensive role of John Tavares and Kyle Okposo up front, as well as push back Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen, who could combine to possibly be one of the best 3rd lines in hockey (if Bailey turns it around). With a logjam up front with 16 forwards slated to compete for the team, including rookies Ryan Strome and Anders Lee who impressed last season, many fans and intelligent hockey minds across North America were expecting a few trades to go down up front, primarily for a defenseman, but that day never came, and never came, and still hadn’t come up until a week before the season starts.
The aforementioned trades of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy came about this week. These two moves were arguably Snow’s best of the offseason, and provides the Islanders with a stable back end, to go along with Jaroslav Halak who they signed in May after giving up a 4th to get an exclusive negotiating window with. Although both on 1-year deals, like certain other plays not to be named that were traded for, Leddy and Boychuk both seem eager to get a fresh start with the Islanders in upgraded roles, both on an off the ice. Boychuk and Leddy now have the most playoff experience on the Islanders blueline, and both have Stanley Cup rings on their resumés.
It’d be easy for any guy to come up and talk about anything. All these young guys work and play so hard here.
-Johnny Boychuk on becoming a leader in the Isles’ organization
Even if per say, either Boychuk or Leddy decide to head to free agency next July, the Islanders have Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock ready to make the team and step in as big time guys. That goes without saying the two newly acquired defenseman could love their time here, between a wonderful place to live, young, upcoming players, a state of the art arena at their fingertips next season, plus the flexible cap the Islanders currently have.
Transitioning into the season, the opening night roster is expected to look like this: (Carkner, Grabner, Visnovsky, Pulock and de Haan all not slated to play)
Cory Conacher – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Mikhail Grabovski – Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen – Nikolay Kulemin
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Griffin Reinhart – Thomas Hickey
Brian Strait – Travis Hamonic
Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson splitting the home at home.
Quite the impressive improvement over last year, especially with Visnovsky, Grabner and de Haan hopefully returning from injuries quickly. Ryan Pulock has also shown large flashes of improvement and could get a big look in the majors depending on injury status’ and the play of Brian Strait and Griffin Reinhart.
In all, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about hockey on Long Island again this season. The team is all around improved, and showcases a true NHL-caliber goalie, something the organization hasn’t seen since Rick DiPietro in the 2006 season. It’s time to rock and roll and send the Coliseum off on a good note.