By Brendan Murray @MurraySportTalk on June 15, 2014
The New York Islanders had a disappointing season in 2013-14, failing to make the playoffs just one year after taking the Pittsburgh Penguins to six games in the first round. They've already made some improvements since their season ended, hoping to return to playoff form. Here are five players that they should build around going forward.
This one is mostly just wishful thinking. The Islanders sent a fifth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the rights to re-signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle. If the Islanders can convince Boyle to stay on Long Island, the team should certainly build around him as he would shore up a young and inexperienced defensive core. All reports indicate he'll be testing free agency, however, so he doesn't make this list.
What the Islanders lack in experience at the blue line, they make up for with a strong and well regarded crop of rookies, and Reinhart may be the best among them. He's by no means a lock to be ready for full-time NHL duty, so this may be a bit premature, but if he can make the strides to earn a regular spot on the starting roster, the Islanders should find a way to complement him with a veteran line-mate.
Kyle Okposo had a breakout season in 2013-14, with many saying he should have been part of the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Sochi. He's an incomplete player, but he thrived this year playing on the first line with John Tavares and Thomas Vanek. The Islanders should rush to find another goal scorer to play on the first line next season.
Ryan Strome should begin to have a real impact on the Islanders this season, and the Islanders should do what they can to make sure that happens. Strome can be a great forward for the Islanders both this season and in the future, and they can help that along by having the young gunner team up with veterans who can show Strome what it takes to play in the NHL on their second or third line this season.
The Islanders may have been the biggest victors in the Ryan Miller trade, picking up frustrated St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak for a bargain price. For the first time in over a decade, the Islanders have a true asset in between the pipes in Halak, and they need to make the most of it by building up their defensive corps.
This one is a given and goes hand-in-hand with the entry on Kyle Okposo. Tavares is one of the best forwards in the NHL and seems content to stay on Long Island. The teams desperately needs to take advantage of that and ensure that he has no reason to go elsewhere. Adding a goal scorer to the Okposo-Tavares line would give the Islanders a first line that can score with the best of them, and allow Tavares' play-making abilities to flourish.
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