Islanders look ahead to next season after six-game series loss to Penguins
The Islanders won't head for their offseason destinations until Tuesday. How much longer it takes to shake off Saturday night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins that eliminated the Islanders in six games is as yet unknown.
"From being in the AHL playoffs [with Wilkes-Barre] to being on the other side with the Penguins last year, I know that it takes a little bit and you're always sitting around saying, 'I could have done this or that,' " Brian Strait said Saturday night. "It's just motivation to be better and we will be better for next season."
Next season has already begun for the Islanders, sooner than they thought -- even if they were the only ones who thought that way. Now that they've earned accolades for their play over the last two months, the task now is how to fill in the gaps that held the Islanders back this season.
Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey, two members of the Isles' young core, are restricted free agents. General manager Garth Snow held brief contract extension talks with Kevin Epp, Hamonic's agent, during the brief training camp that preceded the 48-game season, but both sides agreed to put those off until the offseason.
There is little doubt that Hamonic, who turns 23 in August, will be re-signed. Bailey, who had contentious contract talks the last time he was an RFA two summers ago and agreed to a two-year, $2.1-million deal hours before the 2011-12 training camp opened, might not be in line for as secure a deal as Hamonic. But both are almost certain to return.
Less certain are the fates of unrestricted free agents Mark Streit and Evgeni Nabokov, two veterans who were central to the Isles' fortunes this season. Streit, in his second season as captain, put up 27 points in the regular season and tied for the playoff lead with five points. Snow had lengthy contract talks with Pat Brisson, Streit's agent, leading up to the trade deadline. But Streit was reportedly seeking a three-year deal for roughly $16 million total, which was too much for Snow.
With Streit's strong finish to the season and solid postseason, those numbers are not likely to come down before free agency begins July 5.
Nabokov was a workhorse during the season, starting 43 of the Isles' 48 games at age 37. He allowed 25 goals in the postseason, however, and was not sharp enough. Snow may wait to see what goaltenders are available on either the trade or free-agent market before committing again to Nabokov, who turns 38 in two months.
John Tavares, who talked often with Nabokov during the season about on- and off-ice subjects, made his feelings clear Saturday about whom the Isles star wants in goal.
"At times, we didn't make it too easy for him," Tavares said of Nabokov. "He was a leader for us all year and a guy that was huge for us. I hope he's back."
Jack Capuano's contract situation as coach is unknown, but he is all but assured of returning next season after guiding the team to its first playoff berth since 2007.