"Eyes on the Enemy" will be a continuing bi-annual series on the NY Rangers Blog giving fans updates on the Rangers closest rivals. Part 7 of the offseason version of 'EotE' will focus on the New York Islanders. All contract figures listed below courtesy of capgeek.com
Do Ranger fans really care about how the Islanders fared a season ago?
I didn't think so...
The Islanders were a thorn in the side of the Rangers not only in the standings, but off the ice as well. GM Garth Snow's ridiculous acquisition of Tim Thomas in early February in an effort to get to the salary cap floor because of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky's reluctance to join the Islanders after the lockout ended. It also gave the salary cap strapped Boston Bruins flexibility to trade for Jaromir Jagr prior to the trade deadline.
And in case you forgot, the addition of Jagr helped a pretty good Bruins team get to the Stanley Cup Finals past the Leafs, Rangers and Penguins.
To further complete the screw-job, I looked high and low to see if Snow or Isles owner Charles Wang had a child named Torey 22 years ago, but turned up nothing...
On the Farm:
With the frequent trips to the NHL Draft lottery you would expect a team to have no shortage of very highly touted prospects waiting for their shot at the NHL. The Islanders, unfortunately are no exception.
Right-handed defenceman Ryan Pulock was selected 15th overall by the Islanders in June's draft. Pulock, captain of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, was one of the most "offensively gifted defencemen" in this draft and possesses a lethal shot from the point. Some issues with his skating and injuries may have caused him to slide in the first round. Scouts and draftniks say the Islanders found value in Pulock by taking him in the middle of the first round as he was projected prior to the lockout as a top 5 pick in 2013's deep draft class.
There are some concerns about top defensive prospect Griffin Reinhart (1st-2012) heading into this season. Reinhart's point production slipped last season after being drafted. He is also coming off offseason foot surgery. The Edmonton Oil Kings captain will look to turn his game around heading into his final junior season.
Arguably the Islanders' top prospect in their system, center Ryan Strome will look to make the Islanders out of camp after a strong '12-'13 showing not just with his junior team, but for Team Canada in World Juniors (4G, 2A) and a 10 game stint with Bridgeport, the Isles AHL affiliate (2G, 5A).
The Islanders are notorious for giving out cheap contracts. They traded for a goalie with a high cap hit and zero chance of playing just to get to the salary cap floor. Glen Sather needs to find whatever serum or drugs the Islanders gave to John Tavares to get him to sign a 6 year, $33 million contract and bring Derek Stepan in for a "chat".
By the way, the Islanders bought out Rick DiPietro's cap circumventing 15 year, $67.5 million contract with contract with 8 years left on the deal. The team owes DiPietro $1.5 million every year until 2029.
The Islanders also owe Alexei Yashin, whose last season in the NHL was in 2007, $2.2 million for two more years.
Odds and Ends:
In all seriousness, this long rebuilding plan the Islanders have undertaken might be finally coming to fruition. John Tavares is on a point-per-game pace over the last two seasons and at 23, his best hockey is well ahead of him. However, there is a ceiling as to how good the team can be in the near term. Evgeni Nabokov turned 38 over the summer and coming off a season which he played 41 out of 48 games, plus 6 games in the playoffs. They also lost defenseman Mark Streit to Philadelphia and wasn't replaced. I'm not convinced that the Islanders can replicate the minor successes of 2013 which included their first trip to the postseason since 2007; especially now with conference re-alignment and how the playoffs are formatted. The prospect reinforcements are on the way and the future could bode well, but it wouldn't surprise me if Game 6 against the Penguins was the last playoff game inside Nassau Coliseum.
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