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Sports

So, What’s Next For The New York Islanders?

The Brooklyn-based hockey team finds itself in a tricky situation following the departure of star player John Tavares.

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If you're a fan of hockey, specifically the NHL, you know it's been a tough week for Islanders fans such as myself. On July 1, former Isles captain and organization centerpiece John Tavares announced that he would be leaving New York after nine years to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I know it was a hard decision for Tavares to make and, while I'm not thrilled with the verdict, I understand why he ultimately chose to leave the Islanders. Toronto is his hometown and, from a completely unbiased perspective, the Maple Leafs are in a better position to succeed in the near future than the Islanders are.

What I don't understand is why Tavares continued to pledge loyalty to New York in the months leading up to free agency. At last season's trade deadline, Tavares claimed that he did not want to be traded, offering false hope for a potential contract extension.

Additionally, JT publicized his excitement with the development of a new Islanders arena located in Belmont Park on Long Island. If he knew he was going to leave the Isles when his contract expired, he should've just stayed quiet.

Oh, well.

What's done is done. John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leaf. What's next?

Things could be looking a lot worse. For the first time during my tenure as an Isles fan, I'm actually confident in the head coach-general manager duo the team has assembled. In May, the Islanders brought in veteran mastermind Lou Lamoriello to control the team's finances and subsequently named Barry Trotz head coach.

The pairing of Lamoriello and Trotz provides the Islanders with something they've lacked in recent years: experience. Lamoriello has been a general manager in the NHL since 1987, winning three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils, while Trotz just won the Stanley Cup as head coach of the Washington Capitals this past season.

With Trotz behind the bench and Lamoriello at the helm, I believe that the boys in blue and orange will be back at the top sooner rather than later.

Since July 1, the Islanders have signed free agents Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, and Robin Lehner. Although the aforementioned signings have been publicly scrutinized by Isles fanatics, I'm trusting our new general manager. Lamoriello is renowned for his decision-making abilities, and while I may not see the value in these players at the moment, I believe that they will be able to make a positive impact of some magnitude in the Islanders sweater.

NYI has also re-acquired grinder Matt Martin from Toronto. Martin previously played for the Isles from 2010 until 2016, a time period during which he was widely considered a fan-favorite. Martin may not accumulate large point quantities, but he does supply the Islanders with a set of intangibles that they desperately missed when he was in Toronto. I hope to see Martin reunited on the fourth line with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas this upcoming season.

The Islanders currently have a little less than $20 million available in cap space for the 2018-2019 season. Lamoriello has free range to do what he pleases with that $20 million. Do the Islanders go out and trade for an elite defenseman, or maybe a capable goaltender, or possibly both? I hope so.

With Ottawa Senators defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson more than likely heading to the Tampa Bay Lightning, I think the Islanders could swoop in as a third party option to consume some of the cap room the Lightning will need to dump in order to fit Karlsson's massive contract into its budget.

The market for proven goalies is scarce, but if I was Lamoriello, I'd be more than willing to make certain players, specifically Josh Ho-Sang, in the Isles deep farm system available in a potential trade.

I'm not worried about how the Islanders will produce offensively, even without John Tavares. Reigning Calder Trophy recipient Mat Barzal will more than likely be paired on the first line alongside Anders Lee and Josh Bailey, both of whom put up big numbers during the 2017-2018 season. I am, however, worried about the defense, which ranked among the worst in the NHL last season.

For now, all I can do is speculate. Us Isles diehards have no clue how the team will perform next season. We have the managerial framework for a dangerous organization, but the pieces haven't quite fallen into place yet.

All I can hope for is the best. I trust Trotz and Lamoriello. I trust that they will bring this team back to glory in due time. It could be next year or in five years or in 10 years. It's time to enter the post-Tavares era. Rather than mourning the loss of our captain, let's prove the critics wrong and flip the script.

Blue and Orange until I die.

LGI!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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