We wrote before about the deep thinking the NY Islanders have to do on Kyle Okposo this season. Let us now go one step further and list out the difficulties to this situation and why this will likely remain something pending for the rest of the season.
If you have been following my tweets this past summer, then nobody should be surprised that Anders Lee and John Tavares are being used together. Anders Lee is a rising young player. We have seen both Josh Bailey and also Ryan Strome with them thus far. My money is still on Josh Bailey as the left wing. However, they are certainly looking at different options.
Meanwhile, Kyle Okposo has been paired with Fran Nielsen thus far in preseason. They are players in their contract year who have a mounting incentive for output and points. We could see Strome also on this line. Brock Nelson. Perhaps we will see Kirill Petrov also?
Whether Kyle Okposo is used on line 2, or there is a reversion to the line 1 schematic from previous years that place him back with Tavares, let this be very clear…
There is a high likelihood that Kyle Okposo will not be a NY Islander next year.
The market and the fact Kyle is looking for north of $7 million per season really makes this crystal clear. The Islanders are not in position to spend big money to give Okposo a long term contract. The attention to cap management, and avoiding being a cap ceiling team, makes that clear. Even if KO was willing to do 6 million, how do you do that when you have Ryan Strome an RFA after this season and who will likely make $5 million+. Remember: this team must leave room to resign Tavares. How much do you think he will command?
The Islanders have to be realizing this and likely why he was dangled earlier this summer: to accrue market value. However, looks like they weren’t too impressed with what was offered.
What the Isles have discovered is that it is extremely hard to deal a player who is either a rental or will command a huge contract in a few months via free agency right now. Other teams have their own cap issues or concerns now that the cap ceiling bubble has burst.
Teams that can afford the contract Kyle Okposo will command come free agency are not interested in a rental. Moreover, can simply wait until he is a free agent to get him since most of them are winning a thing right now. Why give up assets via trade for a guy likely to hit the market come next July?
A desperate to win-now type of team will not give an NHL player in return for Okposo. They will only want to give up picks and prospects. Win-now teams are on a committed course and unwilling to give key NHLers that are cap friendly. They can wait for a cheaper rental elsewhere.
Thus, we have the conundrum, and why Okposo is more likely to last the season and then walk.
The Islanders find themselves in an almost impossible position with him. Unless they are willing to take prospects and/or picks, they will likely be unable to move him.
Therein lies the problem.
When the NY Islanders were a rebuilding or still struggling team… it was easy. Just take the picks/prospects. Problem solved!
But, this is not that team. This is a team ready to compete and looking to take the next step. This is why good teams tend to lose impending free agents. You need them to win and maintain level, and can’t move those free agents to receive an equal value in terms of an NHL player. Competing teams need equal value trades, not future values.
Only shot the NY Islanders might have is the very tricky attempt to trade one impending UFA for another. Stay tuned for that option.
In the meantime, the pressure is on Okposo, besides Frans, to produce nightly. Contract year stats are paramount for players and their agents to command maximum dollars in the upcoming free agency. The Islanders can reap the rewards of that with a possibly prolific line 2 to add to an already solid line 1. Scoring beyond the top line is key to the Isles fortunes.