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Isles 2012-13 roster pretty well set
After the Isles' mini-splash on Sunday's opening day of the free-agent market, the gaping holes in their roster were filled. Even though there are still plenty of players on the market, indications are that GM Garth Snow, coach Jack Capuano and the rest of the staff are going with what they've got.
There will be some feelers out for veterans as training camp draws closer, as the Islanders did with Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo last season, but those will be to fill extra forward/defense spots. There is also the chance for an amnesty buyout of G Rick DiPietro once the new CBA is settled, but that's a big if.
So this is pretty well the team that will go to camp on Sept. 21. Here's what I could see as the forward lines and D pairs heading into that date:
Matt Moulson-John Tavares-Brad Boyes
Josh Bailey-Frans Nielsen-Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner-Casey Cizikas-David Ullstrom
Matt Martin-Marty Reasoner-Jesse Joensuu/Eric Boulton
Mark Streit-Travis Hamonic
Andrew MacDonald-Lubomir Visnovsky
Aaron Ness-Matt Carkner
Some notes on the above:
-- I put Boyes on the top-line wing for two reasons: One, he's a newcomer, and a player who could use a big confidence boost right from the start of the season to be the most useful. Okposo had some good chemistry with Bailey and Nielsen to finish last season, so I'd keep that group together at the start.
-- Grabner with Cizikas is not ideal as a third line. Grabner needs to have his head in the action early next season to avoid the funk that plagued most of his year, at both ends of the ice; it could be a line that is tough to play against with the speed on the wings, but Grabner will have to create the offense and last season wasn't a good example of him being able to do that.
-- It's a much more promising forward group than the one heading into last season. Bailey is on the wing, where he belongs; Cizikas is still only 21, but he is better suited to a bottom-6 center role than Bailey ever was. And there is the potential for scoring threats among the top 9, with Reasoner out to show his season-long drought last year was an aberration.
-- Who's missing? Nino Niederreiter, for starters. If he has a determined camp, he certainly belongs somewhere in the top three lines; last year was just a mess, given his injuries and inability to fill a role he wasn't accustomed to. If the third line is Grabner-Cizikas-Niederreiter and the fourth Martin-Reasoner-Ullstrom, that wouldn't be too bad. Or if Ullstrom starts in Bridgeport. But it would seem that Niederreiter is the odd man out for Bridgeport when camp opens.
Also missing, of course, is Ryan Strome. He needs a "wow" type camp to stick around; it's easy to see him centering Grabner and either Ullstrom or Niederreiter as well, which wouldn't be a typical third line, but the idea seems to be that there is no shutdown line among the top 3. Strome can win a spot, but he's most likely headed back to Niagara of the OHL. Development is still the priority there.
-- I put Ness in on D because I feel -- and so does most of the coaching staff at this point -- that he is the furthest along between Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan and himself. With Carkner on the roster, Ness doesn't have to be as physical with a bigger D partner. Visnovsky and Streit can both play the right side, and I feel that Jack Capuano doesn't want those two veterans playing together.
-- There's still a void for a 7th D-man that needs to be filled. That won't happen until later in the summer or right up to camp.
-- Nabokov is the starter, barring injury. DiPietro is the backup, barring injury (no jokes, please). Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin could duke it out for some playing time when and if there are injuries, but neither is ticketed for an Islanders role out of camp. Still young goaltenders who are developing.