The group of Islanders that will convene for physicals on Thursday morning is very different than in seasons past.
Gone are three mainstays of the recent Isles revival, with Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin having signed with the Sabres, Wings and Leafs. Gone, too, at least in the short term, is captain John Tavares and goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, who are duking it out for Teams Canada and Europe at the World Cup until next week.
Reporting Thursday will be three NHL veterans who will bring a different look to an Islanders team that has fundamentally stayed the same at its core for the last few years.
“It doesn’t take long to figure out it’s a good group of guys in here, they seem to get along really well,” said Andrew Ladd, the former Jets captain who signed a seven-year, $38.5 million deal on July 1. “Just excited to get going. Once you get into battling together, you really start to come together and for a new guy, you really start to integrate into the team.”
Ladd, Jason Chimera (two years, $4.5 million) and PA Parenteau (one year, $1.25 million) are the three new faces up front. Parenteau turned himself from a journeyman into an NHL player during two seasons with the Isles (2010-12), posting 120 points while playing on the wing with Tavares.
Now a more mature 33 and having rescued his career with a 20-goal season in Toronto last year, Parenteau is looking to fill some of the void left by the departure of the three longtime Islanders.
“They signed some really good leaders in Ladd and Chimera and I can see myself helping in that area as well,” Parenteau said. “I love this area, I love this team and I’m ready for anything.”
Ryan Strome’s signing on Tuesday left no loose ends for GM Garth Snow, other than having his coach be a day late — Jack Capuano was still working as an assistant for Team USA at the World Cup and wouldn’t be back until Friday at the earliest.
But this is a group that, while deeply changed, still has mostly the same cast that won a playoff series for the first time in 23 seasons last spring. Without Tavares for the first week days, things may feel a little odd, but that could be a positive.
“Honestly it’ll be a good opportunity for guys to step up,” Strome said. “So many times guys are kind of looking over their shoulders and see what Johnny’s doing. For the first couple weeks, maybe see guys take the initiative, step up and take charge a bit. Johnny’s our leader, no question, but maybe it’ll be good for some guys, myself included. He’ll come in here flying too, so we better be ready to go.”