Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
1 Are the jobs of general manager Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano safe?
Owner Charles Wang stated his commitment to Snow during the team's 2-10-4 slide in November, and the two traveled together to Pittsburgh earlier this week. Despite the five straight playoff misses (out of six seasons as GM), Wang still has faith in Snow.
Snow, in turn, still has faith in Capuano, who took over for Scott Gordon early last season after the team's 1-17-3 slide. Capuano is 58-55-19 as coach. Snow doesn't seem to feel changing coaches will make this team better, but another slow start next season may change his mind.
2 What is the most glaring need going into the summer?
Defense, simply put. In more detail, the Isles need defensemen who can be physical and keep up the pace of some of the fast young forwards. Steve Staios, Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina are all free agents; about the only one who the Isles might consider bringing back, after all the holes are filled, is Staios, if the 38-year-old wants to be a sixth/seventh defenseman for one more year.
The free-agent market will be painfully thin for defensemen come July 1, with players such as the Flyers' Matt Carle expecting to command $5-million per season on the open market. The Islanders won't go crazy for anyone, so they will have to pick wiser than they have in recent free-agent seasons to complement Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic, their core defensemen.
3 Will the Islanders keep P.A. Parenteau, their biggest pending free agent?
They have three months to come to an agreement and Parenteau, second on the team with 67 points, wants to stay. The Islanders want him back, but only on their terms, which means fewer years and fewer dollars than the four-year, $16-million deal Parenteau is looking for. With a weak free-agent class and Parenteau's career year despite being 29, he may get that amount and term somewhere. If he does, it won't be on Long Island.
4 What do the Islanders have coming from their prospect crop?
The front office has hope that at least one of their three young defensemen in Bridgeport -- Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness or Matt Donovan -- can grab a roster spot in training camp. David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas showed flashes in their short stints this season. Anders Nilsson or Kevin Poulin may get a crack at a regular spot, part of a goaltending tandem with Evgeni Nabokov. And, depending on what happens these final four games, the Islanders could draft as high as second or third, depending on the lottery, which could bring in another NHL-ready teenager.
5 And, finally, what's happening with the Islanders' arena situation?
There isn't anything new in Nassau County, but once the team reconvenes for training camp in September, lots will be happening elsewhere: The team will be preparing for a preseason game in Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Oct. 2, and shovels will be in the ground in Quebec City for a new arena. The Islanders' Coliseum lease is up in 2015.