What’s next for Islanders?
For the first time since 2007, the New York Islanders made the NHL Playoffs.
Although they were ousted in six games by top-seeded Pittsburgh, the Islanders were able to build momentum going into next year, as well as gain valuable experience for a core of young players that is among the best in the league.
John Tavares blossomed into the superstar the Islanders have been waiting for since they drafted him first overall in 2010. Kyle Okposo took his game to another level in his first playoff appearance. Michael Grabner is among the fasters skaters in the league and can be a game-breaker.
That’s without even mentioning the likes of Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin up front, as well as Travis Hamonic and Andrew McDonald on defense.
So what’s next for the Islanders after their breakout season?
They still have a couple of high end prospects coming through the system in Ryan Strome at forward to go along with Griffin Reinhart and Calvin De Haan on defense.
But what the Islanders really need is a young goalie that can play at an elite level for extended periods. This season, Evgeni Nabokov carried the team at times, but he’s already 37 and likely on the downside of his career.
One possible target could be Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings. Bernier is stuck behind one of the best goalies in the NHL in Jonathan Quick and could want out. New York would have to give up some valuable assets to get him, but it could be what takes the team over the hump.
The Islanders outplayed Pittsburgh for much of their first round series but was far too often let down by Nabokov’s poor play. Bernier doesn’t have as much experience as the Islanders would like, but he may be just what they need to take them to the next level.
Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller are two other goalies who will likely be on the trade market this summer. If I’m Islanders GM Garth Snow, though, I’m targeting Bernier. He’s much younger than the previous two and doesn’t carry near the cap hit.
Could it happen? Yes.
Will it happen? We’ll have to stay tuned during the offseason to get some answers.