Things could change in New York, but for the time being it looks like a near certainty that Islanders winger Kyle Okposo will be hitting the free agent market on July 1.
The Islanders held their final media availability of the season Tuesday morning following Sunday’s post-season exit, and during his meeting with reporters Okposo, 28, said he and his agent haven’t spoken about a possible contract extension with New York at all over the course of the season, per the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. The reason for the lack of discussion wasn’t touched on, though it appears that means Okposo will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
Okposo, who scored 22 goals and 64 points in 79 games this past season, will likely command a big raise on the open market, too. He’s currently finishing up a five-year, $14-million deal that paid him an average of $2.8 million per season, though he was making $4.5 million in actual salary during the 2015-16 campaign. And it’s likely his actual salary from this past season is much closer to the cap hit he’ll command on the open market. Read more
It’s interesting how perceptions can change in such a short period of time. For example, does anyone feel a little less optimistic about the future of the New York Islanders now than they did when the playoffs began?
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Islanders were a 100-point team, a franchise that looked poised to eventually become a legitimate force in the NHL. But after being outplayed in the first round by the Florida Panthers and winning basically on the backs of Thomas Greiss and John Tavares, then meekly exiting in the second round to a team that was missing two key players, things don’t look quite so rosy now.
With the New York Islanders eliminated from the second round of the 2016 playoffs, they head into the offseason facing the possibility of some significant roster changes.
Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports pending unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin face uncertain futures with the Isles. Of the trio, the 28-year-old Okposo stands to cash in the most. He’s completing a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.8 million, though he earned $4.5 million this season in actual salary.
Since last summer, contract talks between Okposo and the Isles have been almost non-existent. It’s assumed he won’t be back, meaning the Isles need a suitable replacement at right wing.
Citing defenseman Travis Hamonic’s request last year to be dealt to a Western-Canadian team, Newsday’s Mark Herrman suggests shipping the 25-year-old blueliner to the Edmonton Oilers for one of their good young wingers. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends acquiring Jordan Eberle to replace Okposo. Read more
Victor Hedman very well could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season had the Tampa Bay Lightning earned two more wins and captured the Stanley Cup. And even though the chance to take home the playoff MVP honors doesn’t come around often, Hedman’s Game 5 performance to give the Lightning a 4-1 second-round series victory should make him an early frontrunner for the award.
Hedman was nothing short of outstanding Sunday afternoon, just as he has been throughout the entire playoffs. His two goals in Game 5’s 4-0 victory over the New York Islanders — which sends the Lightning to the Eastern Conference final for the second-consecutive season and third time in six years — give him four goals and nine points in 10 games. That’s not to mention he’s averaging close to 28 minutes per game, has been an impact player on the power play and penalty kill and shut down the Islanders’ best players for the entirety of Round Two.
And while it’s early, maybe too early, to start talking about the Conn Smythe, consider where a Steven Stamkos– and Anton Stralman-less Lightning team probably would be right now were it not for Hedman. As much as Jonathan Drouin has been a revelation offensively and as great as Ben Bishop has been in goal, Hedman has been the clear leader of this team in the post-season and he’s driving the Lightning toward yet another final appearance. Read more
BROOKLYN – Ladies and gentlemen, what you witnessed here over the past two games is the difference between a veteran team that went to the Stanley Cup final and took a lot of notes and one that won its first playoff series in 23 years. And if you needed any more confirmation of that, all you had to do was look at Nikita Kucherov after Game 4 Friday night.
Kucherov had just emerged from the ice, victorious for the second straight time in overtime, with another enormous goal to his credit and the playoff goal scoring lead with eight. But as he sat at his stall staring into space after the Lightning’s 2-1 overtime win over the New York Islanders, he looked about as excited as a guy sitting on a bench in the mall while his wife looks at…Every. Little. Thing. In. The. Store. (Amirite, guys?)
BROOKLYN – Veteran Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Carle, who missed Games 2 and 3 of his team’s second-round playoff series, will likely draw back into the lineup tonight for Game 4 against the New York Islanders.
Carle, who is out with an undisclosed injury – because all injuries are undisclosed in the playoffs – took part in the Lightning’s morning skate and was one of the first players off the ice after skating for about 30 minutes. That’s usually a telltale sign a player is ready to go, though Carle described himself as a game-time decision.
SYOSSET, N.Y. – If you looked closely enough, you could actually see the blue streak emanating from New York Islander coach Jack Capuano’s mouth as he led practice Thursday. Good thing there weren’t too many kids around. In fact, if Sesame Street had been there to tape the workout, it would have been one of those days brought to you by the letter ‘F’.
“Unfortunately, it’s a little bit of the hockey culture that you have a lot of ‘F’-bombs,” said Islanders fourth-line winger Matt Martin. “It might not be the best thing in the world, but it is what it is. Maybe one day we’ll try to clean that up a little bit.”
As the second round of the playoffs rolls on, the Capitals, Islanders, Stars, and Predators are all trailing their series heading into Thursday’s action.
A one or two game deficit in the NHL is nothing to get too worried about. There have been many memorable comebacks from even 3-0 leads in recent years.
So don’t count any team out just yet. These are the three teams with the best chance of making a comeback in their series:
NEW YORK ISLANDERS, down to 2-1 to Lightning