Now that their season is over, the New York Islanders have time to reflect on how far the franchise has come the past few seasons. The Islanders made a return trip to the playoffs for the first time in many years, and pushed their first round series to seven games, showing they clearly belong as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. While they know their young core of John Tavares and Matt Moulson will be back, there are many pending free agent forwards that will force the team to make some big decisions.
The goaltending situation must be addressed, as Evgeni Nabokov proved unreliable in the postseason and easily cost the team a few games in the regular season. Kevin Poulin doesn’t appear ready to be his backup, and bringing in another veteran netminder should help things. The defense could stand some improvement as well, but the Islanders should have Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carkner, Andrew MacDonald and Brian Strait back for starters.
Josh Bailey had a solid season for the Islanders, and is a restricted free agent in line for a raise. The Islanders would be wise to keep him around, but may not have the cap space to overpay for his services. After that, Marty Reasoner, Brad Boyes, Eric Boulton and David Ullstrom are a few of the players they have to make decisions on. Reasoner could retire after a lengthy career, and Boulton provides little value outside of an enforcer role. Losing either one of those players wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially if it frees up cap space for younger talent. Boyes was great when playing with Tavares and Moulson, and if the price is right should definitely be brought back. Ullstrom has yet to get a lengthy look with the team, and still has enough upside to deserve at least another year on a two-way contract. The Islanders may be a few pieces short of being a cup contender, but they have a long offseason to try and find those missing pieces.