I decided to take a few months off from writing about the Islanders to see how the end of the season panned out.
Now that we are five weeks removed from the Islanders' last game, it's time to discuss the upcoming NHL draft, possible trades, free-agent signings and something about a new arena vote on August 1.
Unless any Islanders fan has been living under a rock the last few weeks, Nassau Country Executive Edward Mangano announced that there will be a referendum vote on that August 1 date to determine if the residents of Nassau County want a $350 million state-of-the-art arena along with a $50 million minor league baseball field to be built in Nassau.
I know there are politics involved, including the Democrats wanting more answers before they sign on and back this venture. I also understand that Nassau needs approval from NIFA in order for the money to be lent to make this project a reality if the voters say yes.
NIFA and Nassau County are already not seeing eye to eye. I get it.
I also understand that the August 1 date is causing a lot of problems with politicians. They would much rather this vote be on the election day ballot. There is no guarantee that the vote will even come to fruition. I understand that possibility as well.
You will hear a lot of back and forth comments between the county, NIFA, various politicians and even residents who are against this plan.
This article is not about the negatives of what will or may happen. It's not about what you may or may not read in the newspapers or online the next 10 weeks or so. There will be people reading this article who want to give opinions and point out why this won't get done or why it will be delayed.
If that is what you want to point out or if that is your objective, you have that right and it is your opinion, but this article is not for you. There are plenty articles and blogs that those comments can be seen.
I am going to stick to the positives in this piece.
Personally, I believe the vote will eventually go through and the vote will be a yes. I believe most politicians will eventually be on board with this, and NIFA and Nassau will agree to let the voters decide. This is going to be a positive article.
Let's first focus on what the Islanders should do in the months leading up to the vote.
Do the Islanders take another top prospect with their No. 5 pick at the draft? Do they trade down? Do they trade up? Do they keep the pick? Do they package the pick for a veteran player? Do the Islanders make any kind of splash in the free-agent market? What should they do to promote the "yes" vote on the referendum?
First off, I believe Snow will hold onto the draft pick. With players like Ryan Strome and Adam Larsson possibly available with the fifth pick, GM Garth Snow will most likely continue the rebuilding process and pick one of these talented prospects.
There is always the possibility Snow may not be able to pass up an offer to move up or down in the draft. I don't see Snow trading his pick for an established player. That hasn't been his game plan since he began the rebuilding process, and i don't see that philosophy changing here.
The free-agent market isn't filled with as many big names as in previous years, but there is some decent value out there, and you can expect Snow to attempt to sign some important role players. These signings will be important as the Islanders attempt to reach one of the eight playoff spots next season.
Will Snow try to trade some late-round picks and possibly a first-round pick next year along with a current prospect for an established NHL player? Could he make a splash and trade for a big-name player?
I think this is a possibility, especially with the arena vote upcoming. First and foremost, a deal like that will improve the team and it will gain momentum, which will show fans and voters that the Islanders are making a strong attempt to improve this team and at least make the playoffs.
The Islanders already took one major step in the public relations department by signing their top goal scorer to a five-year deal. Michael Grabner agreed to $15 million deal over five years.
Grabner, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, had 34 goals as a rookie last season. The contract starts out for $1 million next year and escalates a million dollars each of the following four years. That signing only helps the team's salary cap next year as well.
The goalie situation is still the team's big question mark. Will Rick DiPietro stay healthy and regain the all-star form he showed before injuries caused him to miss most of the last two seasons? If not, can Al Montoya duplicate what he did last year? Will Evengi Nabakov be traded? Will he report to training camp and then be traded? Will he make the roster? Is Kevin Poulin ready for a full season in the NHL?
The prevailing thought is Nabakov will be traded in June for a draft pick. If Snow doesn't get what he wants, he does have the luxury of bringing the goalie to training camp and play him in some preseason games hoping plays well enough to increase his trade value.
Nabakov and his agent Don Meehan are both on record stating that he intends to be at training camp in September.
There is also the slight possibility that DiPietro has another setback or Montoya is not yet 100 percent after his surgery to repair torn cartilage and Nabakov would be in uniform on opening night.
Kevin Poulin showed great promise last season, but if the Islanders have their way, they would like to give him a full season in Bridgeport, especially after his kneecap injury that he suffered during pregame warmups this past February.
Whatever happens, this will be a summer that all Islanders fans will not forget.
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