COVID Response: New York governor Andrew Cuomo proudly announced in October that the Islanders’ $1.3 billion arena at Belmont Park remains on course for a 2021 opening. It’s important to maintain priorities.
Staying Away: It looked for a bit like Mathew Barzal, the Islanders’ best player, might not be in the picture — not because of coronavirus or any health issues, but because of a contract holdout. The restricted free agent did agree to a three-year deal on Saturday, though, and now the Islanders are good to go.
Oh, He’s Here Now? If you aren’t fired up for the trades that landed A.J. Greer and Dmytro Timashov on Long Island, how about the signing of Austin Czarnik? No? Okay, well, now that Mathew Barzal has a new three-year contract, all of the top six forwards are under contract through at least 2023, except for Anthony Beauvillier, who will only be a restricted free agent this summer. Also, Cory Schneider came to camp as the third goalie and a guy to root for, as becoming a perennial Masterton Trophy candidate is a really tough thing to see.
Where’d He Go? The Islanders’ cap crunch resulted in trading defenseman Devon Toews to the Avalanche for second-round picks the next two years. Combine that with Johnny Boychuk’s career-ending eye injury, and the Islanders have lost the blue line depth that was a strength last season, though the Islanders did bring back former Devils captain Andy Greene. Derick Brassard signed with the Coyotes, while Thomas Greiss moved on to get more action, but play for a much worse team, in Detroit.
What To Expect: Coming off of their deepest playoff run since 1993, the Islanders have high hopes, and they should. But it also has to be remembered that their very appearance in the playoffs was highly in doubt when the pandemic hit, and the defense is slightly worse. A lot is going to hinge on young netminder Ilya Sorokin being able to split duties with Semyon Varlamov. You can’t have a wider range of possibilities than the Isles. You can see how they’d win a Cup. You can also see how they’d miss the playoffs entirely. Most likely, they go a round or two.
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