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Islanders mailbag: John Tavares’ contract, goaltenders and more

John Tavares and Thomas Greiss of the New

John Tavares and Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Kings at Barclays Center on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers as the Isles get their preseason slate underway.

Here are 10 questions and answers from this week:

@JoshElkin: Following Jaroslav Halak’s World Cup of Hockey performance, is it more or less likely he is traded?

Staple: Halak certainly has been the talk of the World Cup, outside of that dominant Canadian squad and the U.S. failure. I’d say this worked out extremely well for Halak and the Islanders. He had something to prove after last season’s injury problems, and the Islanders needed to see him perform at a high level to feel good about keeping him.

They’ve seen that and then some. I think the organization has changed its mind about Halak and he stays. The question now with Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube also angling for time is, who goes? The answer in the short term is probably no one. I’m sure that will lead to more questions in the coming weeks, but I think they have their No. 1 back in Halak, a talented backup in Greiss and a good prospect in Berube that they don’t want to lose.

@john_islesfan: Do you foresee any opening night roster surprises this year?

Staple: It will be interesting to see who’s slotted where once the goaltenders and John Tavares return from the World Cup. Obviously Mathew Barzal’s training-camp role will change. Will that change his chances of making the team? We’ll have to see.

Outside of Barzal pushing for a spot, the only other surprise I could imagine is in the shuffle of forwards on lines 2-4. Casey Cizikas may end up with two new wingers instead of one. And will Shane Prince and Alan Quine both be in the lineup opening night? That would mean a veteran sits.

@IslesBlog: What will the offer be to Tavares during the offseason based on comparable deals in league?

Staple: Islanders fans already know what Tavares does. It seems his World Cup play has elevated him in the eyes of those hockey-watchers who don’t catch Isles games that often. Given that he is the one true star of this team -- there’s no Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin scenario here -- I think it’s a blank check situation for him.

My guess is he’s looking at an eight-year offer in the $9.5-10 million range. The Isles won’t start with that number, but I bet that’s where they end up.

@massjmcd67: Likelihood Boychuk injury keeps him on shelf beginning of year and if so, which of Pelech or Mayfield gets first crack?

Staple: Johnny Boychuk has been skating, so him missing these first preseason games is not an indication he’s in jeopardy for opening night 15 days away. And now with the addition of Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk’s old Bruins teammate, on a one-year, $1 million deal, the Isles have a veteran depth defenseman that they usually like to have if and when injuries strike.

Mayfield is on a one-way deal so he would need waivers to be sent down. He also plays the right side and is a bigger, less mobile defenseman than Seidenberg or even Pelech. Pelech has been on the left side during camp. Seidenberg can play both sides but usually stays on the left. Pelech also doesn’t need waivers so this Seidenberg signing ensures Pelech goes to Bridgeport to start the season.

@McBertos: You think Isles are still searching a Top 6 forward that completes the team for this season? And for which price?

Staple: As of now, it’s a bit early for Garth Snow to abandon the roster he’s put together and search for someone new. Nikita Kucherov is still out there, but I don’t believe Tampa wants to trade him and would match any offer sheet, even one that puts the Lightning in salary-cap hell.

Barzal would be a top-six (more like top nine) addition if he makes the team and the Isles want to give him every opportunity to seize a role.

@rightontime31: Do the Islanders believe Nick Leddy can/needs to take the next step and be that all-star D?

Staple: I’m sure they like what they’ve seen in his first two seasons and want more. His speed and puck-carrying abilities seem to be what the Isles need on the power play and he likely won’t do much penalty killing to keep him fresher. If he can ramp up his even-strength play from last year, then he certainly could be considered an elite defenseman.

‏@RTaub_: If Barzal makes it, will he be the second line C or fourth line C or he gets moved to the wing?

Staple: All remains to be seen. I’d guess his usage would look like fourth-line minutes at even strength, since they won’t rely on him to win key defensive-zone faceoffs or put him out against top defensive pairs.

He could certainly move to the wing to grab a spot, but what makes him an enticing player to have on the roster is his vision and creativity. That seems better suited to center.

@YoCamron: What younger guys like dal colle, ho-sang, etc do you think make the team. also does strome play 4th or 2nd line C?

Staple: Folks definitely get hung up on numbered line designations, but you have to look at time on ice and usage. Outside of Tavares and the top line, I’d imagine whichever line is going well on a given night gets the next top minutes. Jack Capuano rolls four lines always, so everyone gets a shot at even strength.

Where Strome can earn his stripes is making some headway on the power play, an opportunity he lost last season.

As for Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang, I think it’s evident after the opening games that both need some more polish. There’s no shame in starting in the AHL and injuries will happen. I think the Isles’ thinness on the right side means there’s more opportunity for Ho-Sang, who also seems like the more confident player right now.

@IslesCubsFan: Cappy used the 4th line to keep momentum after scoring, or to change it after a goal against. Any thoughts if he’ll still do that.

Staple: Good question and I think we have to see what Cizikas’ line will look like before we know what Capuano will do. If it’s Chimera-Cizikas-Clutterbuck, I think the answer is yes -- that seems like a true “energy line” to me. If Clutterbuck is moved off and it’s Prince-Cizikas-Quine, perhaps there’s a different role for them.

@MHodge63: Who do you think will be taking on the lead role of carrying the puck for zone entry on the PP now that Frans is gone?

Staple: As mentioned above, Leddy seems like the ideal candidate. PA Parenteau could do that as well. Strome could improve his minutes and responsibility by showing a knack for that spot. The power play may end up changing a bit of its zone-entry structure, too, if Doug Weight doesn’t find a suitable replacement for Nielsen there. It’s just another reason why Nielsen will end up being the most missed among the players who left in free agency.

Keep up with #StapeChat and @StapeNewsday on Twitter all season for more Islanders news and mailbags.

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