With the Stanley Cup Finals about to get underway, we now have a handful of games remaining for the 2015-2016 hockey season. And with that comes one of the most exciting times for fanbases of teams who are looking to upgrade for next year, the offseason. First comes the draft which is roughly a little more than 3 weeks away. Followed by July 1st, aka free agency.
For the New York Islanders, they enter a slightly new era with new owners taking majority control from charles wang who will remain with the organization as a minority partner. Management and coaching (sadly) will return, but will have more pressure than ever to succeed after the Isles reached the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The most pressure however will be on general manager garth snow. While snow didn't make any upgrades to the team last summer or at the trade deadline this season, he must do everything to address the glaring weaknesses of the team.
The biggest weakness is the secondary scoring. They got nothing from Bailey who in my opinion should be unloaded for anything at this point. 8 years of mediocrity from him is enough. Kulemin and Grabovski were showing up here and there, but for the money they're both getting is disgusting for the numbers they've put up. Young players like Strome, Nelson and Lee who were expected to carry a good amount of the offense this season all took a step back in one way. Nelson did set a career high in goals but was very streaky and nearly nonexistent in the playoffs. Strome had a nightmare sophomore season overall. And while Lee was starting to show improvements in his game before his season abruptly ended due to a broken leg, he to struggled.
Snow must be the aggressor this summer, and it should be at the draft. Even though their biggest trade chip in Travis Hamonic pulled his request to be traded since the health of one of his family members has improved. The Isles must bring in a top flight forward for John Tavares. That is priority number one this summer. As i have stated before, Tavares had Thomas Vanek for a brief time before the Isles traded him to Montreal 2 years ago at the deadline for Sebastian Colberg (side note, Isles waived him), and a 2nd round pick.
The Edmonton Oilers to me are still an option to make a deal with for one of Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle. Yes it will cost the Isles a good amount to get either one of them, but snow can't just sit idle and say we can win with what we got, because that is just stupid and a good way to get yourself fired. Wang won't protect him the way he has the past decade since now wang is minority partner and can't make the final decision on who to let go or keep anymore. If I'm snow, I'd dangle the 1st round pick in this years draft, de haan and either a prospect or roster player to try and get Hall or Eberle.
This summer is not just about the Isles taking the next step. It's about proving to John Tavares that this team is on the verge of not just being an elite team in the east, but a team on the verge of winning the cup. Tavares is going into his 8th season this ocotber, and he is going to want to win while he is still a top player in the NHL. If snow doesn't bring in help to take some of the scoring load off of Tavares (who's carried this offense since day 1), not only do I feel Tavares will start contemplating free agency as a legit possibility, but snow will most likely not be around next summer. This offseason is essentially snow's final test as general manager. He must pass by addressing the weaknesses of his team. Yes he must sign 2 of his 3 UFA's in Okposo, Nielsen, and Martin. However he must bring in outside help via the trade market. Help that will take this team to new heights. Not the help from scarping the bottom of the barrel in years past.
Snow doesn't want to be the reason Tavares might walk in 2 years when he is UFA. But should he not improve the team and then make the typical "we kicked the tires to see what was out there" excuse that he has used in the past. He won't just be saying goodbye to the best player the Islanders have had in many many years. He'll also be saying goodbye to his job as a general manager.