Despite the New York Islanders still needing to add a top-four defenseman to their blue line to help ensure themselves a chance at making the playoffs next season, they still have an abundance of d-men that are ready to compete for a regular spot in the line-up.
Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Thomas Hickey are likely four guaranteed defenseman to play on a nightly basis. Matt Carkner, Matt Donovan and Brian Strait are three blue liners that will play as well, solidifying six defenseman with one ready to sit and play when called upon.
Following their unexpected return to the playoffs at the end of the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, the Isles found themselves in unfamiliar terratory having a draft pick outside of the top 10. Holding the 15th overall selection, General Manager Garth Snow selected offensively gifted defenseman Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL.
With training camp starting in a few days, the Islanders finally have solid competition up and down their roster. New additions on offense, an influx of youth on defense and two new goaltenders means there will be battles everywhere in camp from start to finish.
As of now, the New York Islanders do not have a forward that is undeniably the top line winger to play alongside of Kyle Okposo and John Tavares. Last year, the Islanders started the season with Matt Moulson on JT’s wing, who was soon exchanged for Thomas Vanek.
Both Moulson and Vanek fit perfectly on the top line. But with Moulson staying in Buffalo and Vanek currently preparing to wear a Minnesota Wild jersey in 2015, the top spot is once again vacated.
Despite the aggressive move made by Garth Snow to acquire Dan Boyle’s negotiation rights prior to the opening of free agency, early reports indicate that Boyle will choose to sign with a new team once he is eligible to listen to other teams on July 1st.
Boyle originally stated that he would have an answer for the Isles by the end of the week. As of today, Boyle's agent George Bazos told Arthur Staple of Newsday that there is nothing new to report since there really isn't a timetable for Boyle to make up his mind (Photo credit: aff ei/Flickr).
Staple notes that the Isles may not be willing to be as patient with Boyle and could look to flip Boyle's rights to another team in order to get back the draft pick they gave to San Jose. You may remember that Snow did the same thing a few years back with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
Goaltender Anders Nilsson said today that he would no longer report to the AHL and is seeking only a 1 way contract as he enters RFA status this summer. This likely means the end of Anders Nilsson's career not only with the Isles but possibly in the NHL too.
Regardless of their unexpected success taking them into the playoffs last year, there were many areas that the Islanders needed to improve coming into the current season. The core of the team was established, but among many other things the defensive corps was a major concern and the departure of captain Mark Streit only made things worse.