A few Islanders notes as prospect camp opens on Friday and the full training camp follows a week later:
Calvin de Haan admitted he was looking for more than the one-year, $3.3-million deal he signed minutes before his arbitration hearing was set to begin last month.
“Obviously we wanted term but I’m happy to be here for another season, go from there,” de Haan said. “I guess it’s part of the game. Glad we didn’t have to go through the hearing because apparently it’s not the greatest experience, but whatever. At the end of the day, it was a good summer.”
With Travis Hamonic off to Calgary, de Haan sees an opportunity for someone on the Isles’ defense to step forward and grab those heavy minutes.
“It’s a great opportunity for everybody. There’s a lot of minutes to be eaten,” he said. “I’m sad to see Travis go, I’m good friends with him and I enjoyed playing with him. But it’s an opportunity for someone else, whether that’s a veteran guy or a young guy coming out of the minors.”
Cal Clutterbuck said the groin injury that kept recurring last season, costing him 16 games and rendering him less than his usual strength for several others, was the result of changing his skates.
“Took me a little while to realize that’s what was causing it to keep happening,” he said. “Changed my skates back and everything’s been fine.”
The 29-year-old wing dropped to five goals last season from 15 the year before. Judging by his astronomical 18.8 shooting percentage in 2015-16, 15 goals is a reach. But his 4.3 shooting percentage last season is roughly half his career average of 8.4, so he’s due for a bounce back.
Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera were among the early arrivals to Long Island, and it’s a very different experience getting settled this year than it was a year ago when both came in as new Islanders and joined a room that was still adjusting to the losses of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin.
“Especially from the family aspect, knowing they’re comfortable is important,” Ladd said. “Obviously you know the guys really well, there hasn’t been a lot of turnover. Anytime you miss the playoffs you’ve got the whole summer to think about it, you get excited this time of year to get another crack at it.”
Ladd also reminded that John Tavares missed all but a week of training camp last year due to the World Cup, which in hindsight had an impact on the team’s slow start. Ladd didn’t jell with Tavares and Jack Capuano pulled the plug on that pairing after only a month, contributing to Ladd’s slow start.
There also was the PA Parenteau situation. A Ladd-Tavares-Parenteau line was envisioned when the Isles brought Parenteau back for one more try, but he struggled to find a groove in camp without Tavares and was waived after the final preseason game.
Whatever the main culprits were, the Islanders were flat out of the gate last season and it cost them a playoff spot. They’re all well aware of how important the first two months this season will be.
“I think everybody’s excited to get going and maybe a little nervous, which is good,” Ladd said. “It’s Dougie’s first camp and I’m sure he’ll want to get right into it.”
Thomas Greiss was the first regular goaltender back in town and he is his usual nonplussed self about the upcoming season — most of all about the brand-new, two-goaltender scenario the Isles have.
The team did acquire Kristers Gudlevskis from the Lightning, but he and Christopher Gibson, who is coming off major knee surgery, are ticketed for Bridgeport. This is the Greiss and Jaroslav Halak show, the one Garth Snow envisioned when he signed Greiss as a backup before the 2015-16 season.
“To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about it,” Greiss said. “It’s been fine the last couple years and it’ll be fine this year. Do my work in practice and see what happens.”
Weight relied heavily on Greiss after Halak was waived and sent down in late December. Greiss, who received a three-year, $10-million extension in January, seemed to wear down during the stretch run after making a career-high 51 appearances.
He also has a new goaltender coach in Fred Brathwaite, who replaced Mike Dunham and Marc Champagne, the two coaches who traded off work with the Isles goaltenders the past few seasons.
“Hopefully it’ll be a fruitful cooperation,” Greiss said. “It plays a part, the goalie coach can help you a lot, or not. Marc Champagne did a great job the last couple years and now (Brathwaite) will be good too I’m sure.”
One of the early arrivals was Sebastian Aho, the 21-year-old defenseman whom the Isles selected in the fifth round in June. After playing the last three seasons in the Swedish League for Skelleftea, Aho quickly signed an entry-level NHL deal and was eager to come over to North America.
It’s a big group of defensemen who need waivers to be sent to Bridgeport coming to camp and Aho is waiver-exempt, so it’s hard to see him doing anything to make the big club right away. But he’s one to watch.
After an informal skate earlier this week, Aho was seen dodging traffic along Hempstead Turnpike to get back to the Marriott from Northwell Health Ice Center. Somebody get that kid a ride!