For eight NHL teams – and you know who they are – the moment is now. For 22 others, the moment was sometime last week or last month or last year, or, well, whenever it was they failed to seize it. Their seasons in the rearview, the NHL’s fallen turn their attention to the offseason as they look to reinforce their rosters for the 2014-15 campaign.
The New York Islanders, whose moment came and went when they lost seven of eight leading up to the Sochi Olympics, have been looking ahead to next year for the past few months. They’ll have to bring some players in to fill some obvious holes, but here are five players the team should keep heading into next season. (For the sake of originality, obvious “retainees” such as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo won’t be included on this list.)
1. Jaroslav Halak
This one’s as obvious as they come, but it doesn’t mean the Islanders are guaranteed to get the deal done. They have two months to negotiate with the recently-acquired Halak before he hits the open market on July 1, and GM Garth Snow has to make his head-start count.
The Isles have had goaltending issues for years, a problem that came to a head this past season. Be it for reasons of ability or durability, none of the team’s netminders could deliver in 2013-14 when the Islanders finished dead last in cumulative save percentage (.894). Halak won’t come cheap, but Snow has plenty of cap space to work with this summer and the two-time All Star is both worth the money and the long-term commitment.
Reports are that Halak is interested in getting a deal done soon, so look for this to be in ink before the end of the month.
2. Casey Cizikas
After a terrific rookie season in 2013, Cizikas had a disappointing sophomore campaign. With six goals and ten assists, he eclipsed his first-year production by just one point despite playing in 35 more games.
Still, the 23-year-old center is a strong skater with a knack for getting under the opposition’s skin, which takes well to the Islanders’ aggressive style of play. That he has some scoring touch is an added bonus, and it’s not a stretch to think Cizikas can be a steady 10-goal, 30-point player down the road.
His entry-level deal expired at the end of this season and Cizikas might be due for a slight raise, but the Islanders would do well to give it to him.
3. Calvin de Haan
De Haan was a pleasant surprise for the Islanders in 2013-14, handling big minutes with poise in his first NHL season. On a blueline that was nothing short of a disaster for the Isles this season, de Haan was one of the lone bright spots. The rookie posted 16 points in 51 games – a 25-point pace over a full season – and adjusted smoothly to the pace of NHL play. He also finished 11th in the NHL with 114 hits.
Another young pending free agent, the 22-year-old defenseman is worth locking up to a long-term deal.
4. Matt Donovan
Much like de Haan, Donovan was another rookie defenseman that made a successful leap to the NHL this season. So successful, in fact, that he was named to the USA team headed to this spring’s IIHF World Championships in Belarus.
Along with standout Travis Hamonic, de Haan and Donovan, if resigned, could be the cornerstones of the Islanders blueline for years to come.
5. Cal Clutterbuck
The one-time enforcer for the Wild, Clutterbuck has evolved into a solid all-around player for the Isles. He doesn’t drop the gloves as frequently as he used to, but he makes the presence felt killing penalties and forechecking aggressively. The 26-year-old winger, who tallied three shorthanded goals last season, is a well-suited bottom-six forward for this Islanders team.