New York Islanders: Top 5 free agents to target

Garth Snow already made a huge splash this offseason. Yes, I know, Jaroslav Halak is the only player that has been added to the team since the end of their abysmal season.

Yesterday was a sign that Snow is nowhere near done retooling this team, though. Trading a conditional 5th round pick for an aging 38-year Dan Boyle seems silly, but it’s not as absurd as you may think. Below are my top five guys the Islanders should target during this upcoming offseason in free agency and why they would be a good fit for the franchise.

  1. DAN BOYLE

He is not officially on the roster, but the Islanders have his rights.

The aging Boyle won a Stanley Cup during the 03-04 campaign with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Two of his teammates during that season (Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis) are playing currently for the cross-town rival, the New York Rangers, who are in the Stanley Cup Final. They certainly haven’t lost a step, nor has Boyle.

Boyle brings much more than just smarts and skill to Long Island. He can fill a similar spot that current assistant coach Doug Weight filled. He can come in, be a player who helps the younger defensemen such as de Haan improve their offensive output, help out on special teams, and mentor this young cast of Islanders players for the grueling 82-game season mentally. Boyle and his agent appear unlikely to sign, but with the Islanders currently owning the rights to him until July 1st, don’t be surprised if Snow attempts to make an offer that Boyle can’t refuse.

Dan Boyle

The New York Islanders currently have Boyle’s rights

 

  1. RYAN CALLAHAN

The former Rangers captain could be a legitimate grab for the New York Islanders.

Think about it from the Islanders’ perspective first. They are currently a young team in need of players who will buy into a system no matter who the coach is. Ryan Callahan can provide just that- a forward who is known for his 200-foot game and isn’t afraid to block shots can help lead by example.

While Islanders fans would like to think that John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are invincible, both have had season-ending injuries at some point in their young careers. I highly doubt that anyone on the Islanders’ coaching staff encourages either one of them to get in front of a puck to impede a scoring opportunity for the opposition.

Now look at it from Callahan’s perspective. He was the heart and soul of the Rangers. He was their captain when they went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012 and the Rangers opted to not renew his contract and traded him to Tampa Bay. It is clear that Callahan’s price tag is higher than his offensive output, but Snow should not put a price tag on what Callahan can bring to the table. Callahan can deflect attention away from players such as Tavares, Nielsen, Okposo and more. He will feel comfortable playing a 200-foot game and not be called on as frequently for offensive production. He should like the idea of coming to a team that appreciates that he can go into the gritty areas.

Ryan Callahan

The Islanders could use Callahan’s leadership and grit

  1. JAROME IGINLA

After nearly 20 years with the Calgary Flames, Iginla has played for the Penguins and Bruins these past two seasons. Neither team met expectations.

The 2013 Penguins’ run ended abruptly in the hands of a Bruins sweep during the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2014 Bruins’ run ended even sooner as they were ousted by their rival the Canadiens in seven games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

There are two sides to this argument. Iginla turns 37 on July 1st, an age where many players start to decline. It is inevitable that Iginla will decline from this year’s offensive onslaught: in 78 games this season, Iginla notched 31 goals and added 30 assists. While it is clear that the Bruins have more offensive firepower than the Islanders, it is not unreasonable that Iginla could be a 20-goal scorer on a first or second line with the Islanders.

This addresses why the Islanders should go after him, but why should Iginla come to the Islanders? This one might be the hardest to address, but it is not inconceivable. Iginla has tried to play “second fiddle” in Pittsburgh and Boston. While he would not be the centerpiece of the Islanders either, he would be called on during crucial situations such as down the stretch in games and special teams play. Iginla might find it attractive to play alongside Tavares on the power play. Hell, P.A. Parenteau had 49 assists playing alongside Tavares in 2011-2012. Since then, Parenteau has combined for 44 assists in 103 regular season games with the Avalanche. I think Iginla could relish in a top-line role with Tavares and if Snow meets Iginla’s asking price and years, the Islanders could land the perennial goal scorer.

Jarome Iginla

Iginla’s intangibles are unparalleled

  1. BROOKS ORPIK

Plagued by a minor injury, Orpik missed 10 regular season games this year, but Orpik brings size, strength, smarts and hockey IQ to the table.

Orpik has played eight straight seasons of postseason hockey. Not many players ever make it to eight playoff appearances in general.

Being a defensive defenseman, Orpik has very little offensive upside. The Islanders are completely fine with that. While I would not classify Orpik as a shutdown defenseman, I would certainly label him as a positional defenseman. What I mean by that is Orpik uses his size and strength to ward off the opposition and makes a good first pass nine times out of ten.

Orpik is going to be 34 years old at the start of next year and most likely has a few years left in the tank. While Orpik will not provide flashy highlights, he’ll make sure that Jaroslav Halak doesn’t need to make highlight reel saves. That’s all a goalie can truly ask for. Orpik will be sought after by a lot of teams. Don’t count the Islanders out as a team that could snatch him up.

Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik hoisting the Stanley Cup

 

  1. Jussi Jokinen

Jokinen is a streaky player. Like Michael Grabner, Jokinen can be unpredictable. They could both notch 40 goals in a season or fall below expectations and barely hit double digits for goal totals in a season.

This might be a risk worth taking. The Islanders ended the season with primarily a Bridgeport Sound Tigers offense. Johan Sundstrom, John Persson and Anders Lee to name a few of the notable Sound Tigers. Jokinen brings stability and timely goal scoring.

The Penguins played 13 postseason games this year. In those 13 games, Jokinen had 7 goals and 3 assists, and three of the seven goals were game-winning goals. The Penguins only won seven games this postseason. Not to mention, Jokinen sported a +5 rating during the postseason.

In the 2009-2010 season, the Carolina Hurricanes finished 11th in the Eastern Conference. Jokinen had 30 goals and 35 assists that season as he led the way for the struggling Hurricanes that season.

The only reason why Jokinen might not test free agency? Penguins’ new general manger, Jim Rutherford. Rutherford was appointed general manager of the Penguins today, but was also general manager of that struggling Hurricanes team. He knows the importance of Jokinen and understands what he brings to the table. If Rutherford doesn’t snatch him up, Snow will certainly make an effort to snatch him up.

Jussi Jokinen

Jussi Jokinen with some timely scoring