History hasn’t been good for the Islanders when depending on free agency for help. They have had very mixed results through the years due to fact that someone else in the NHL is always willing to overpay for aging and declining players. Let us revisit that last wordage: Aging and declining players. That is the truth of free agency unless the players are 27-29 like Stamkos who will fetch top dollar to be THE GUY somewhere else. It won’t be Long Island despite those tugging the rumor strings based on pure conjecture.
If the Islanders are even willing to overpay, fact is players choose destinations due to taxes, facilities, climate, livability, family items, etc. These are items that do not fall to the Isles favor when they live in a high cost area with mixed perceptions outside of the Islanders.
However, we can’t discount it completely. There are a few quality items in this UFA class, despite their age.
UFA OFFENSIVE HELP?
*Loui Eriksson – 2-way playmaker and shooter. Plays right-wing and has a left-handed shot. Certainly an upgrade to KO due to offensive skill and defensive play. 30 years old. Just peaking now. Good analytically, but has to be many teams top target this summer on offense.
*David Backes – Think Clutterbuck with much more offensive gifts (top 6). Can shoot, crash net, bang, and play defensively. But, 32 years old and starting to decline. But leadership and veteran experience. Currently leading St. Louis in playoffs. Solid analytics.
Andrew Ladd – Can hit, play top 6. The question is can he still play top 3 as he nears 31 years old? Solid player, vet leadership. However, went to Chicago and sat on line 3 just banging bodies as they went down to the Blues this past playoffs. Solid analytics.
Troy Brouwer – More affordable version of KO? Can bang, and is defensively sharp. Can crash net. Solid analytics. But… is he top 6? No: in deeper analysis, seems more 3rd line… which shows his use on St. Louis this year. Not an answer for top line needs.
Take a look at a comparison:
See… not even close.
Milan Lucic – Only 27 and has some sandpaper and physical edge as a power forward. Word is he wants to stay on the west coast. So chances are the Isles will have an uphill battle. The other item is he tends to be overrated by fans and market price due to size. His stats are down to earth, though always good for 20 goals. Solid analytics, despite lower output than his Boston years.
*Jiri Hudler – Offensively gifted, but defensively liable. Can play both RW and LW. 32 years old. Solid analytically, despite age decline.
Look at Jiri when compared to Teddy Purcell…
Teddy Purcell – 2 years younger than Hudler, also can play LW or RW and has offensive skills. However, not always consistent. Nor solid defensively.
UFA DEPTH: Defensively rounded with upside? 2-way depth. All better than Bernier.
*Nick Spaling – Checking forward that can play center and wing. Can kill penalties and play defensively. Has some good analytics.
Jamie McGinn – injury prone but a defensively sound forward with offensive upside.
Ben Smith – 2 way forward who skates well. Injury-prone.
Riley Nash – plays C and W. Good on face-offs.
Colton Sceviour – depth forward that plays hard and skates well.
David Jones – 2 way winger who has some offensive upside
Kyle Brodziak – Plays center or wing with some offensive upside
UFA Potential Matt Martin replacements for line 4 if he can’t be signed
*Darren Helm – Speedy. Solid analytically, and we know the Isles kind of like that. But more offensive than Martin’s shot/goal suppression focus.
*Dale Weise – Forechecks, bangs, grit. But more offensive than Martin’s shot/goal suppression focus.
Matt Halischuk – 2 way player who can mix it up. Good on penalty kill
*Zach Sill – Banger/agitator who is also defensively rounded. Solid analytically in shot & goal suppression like Martin.
*Bobby Farnham – Skates well. Is a banger who likes to hit and hit. Agitator. Another player who is solid analytically in shot and goal suppression like Martin.
Ryan White – Energy guy who can fight/bang and has a touch of scoring
Steve Ott – Aging and injury-prone lately, but does all the things that the 4th line strives for.
Potential Under The Radar Players:
*Shawn Matthias – sizable guy with some 2 way game. Can dig puck from the corners. Plays wing and center and has SOLID analytics. Could be that jewel in the rough the Isles like to target for being offensively underused.
*Justin Fontaine – could provide some depth scoring outside top line. Solid analytically as well, especially for shot suppression/goal suppression… like Matt Martin did.
In fact, let us compare the two above who are both a bit underrated:
Jason Chimera – 37 years old, but still quick and forechecks well. Can score 20 goals. Solid penalty kill guy, as well.
Nathan Gerbe – smallish but gritty quick energy guy who can shoot the puck.
Chris Stewart – Big man who can also dig out pucks and shoot.
Dark horses: especially if trades or top targets don’t pan out
*Radim Vrbata – getting up there in age, but offensively gifted and still solid analytically.
Mikkel Boedker – Fast. But he reminds me on how Grabner got overrated and over-hyped. I’m mixed on him. But, I have reconsidered due to fans citing he should be included on the list and re-assessed. What does stick out is that he is 2.07 per Points per 60min. That would place him 3rd on the Isles, right behind Fran Nielsen, who has 2.17. Not bad. But certainly not top line. Based on the Isles 2014-15 metrics, he would be 8th, right behind Josh Bailey. Food for thought since one of the Isles big items is to repair some player regression items and get back to that possession activity. So even here… mixed on him.
Prime example is comparing him to Gagner, who we go into below:
See what I mean?
*Sam Gagner – Good passer, plays both center and wing. Needs to shoot more (aka: Josh Bailey). Not bad analytically, as you can see above and why he seems to have a far rounded skillset than Boedker.
Kris Versteeg – Offensively has the tools. Could he fit the Isles needs?
Tomas Fleischmann – Never has matched his one big year.
Alex Tanguay – like an old wine, but can still score time to time
Fact is, this is not a robust list at all. Though some items could be intriguing, it seems more to me that if they Islanders let Kyle Okposo and others walk, a trade is more likely to fill the top 3 need than free agency. However, they could still add a piece or two of under the radar or dark horses to fill out their options.
Next blog we will talk about some trade targets and what the Isles could offer to make it happen. In fact, the trade scenario might surprise you.
* = Best Potential fit due to skill and analytics
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