NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the New York Islanders.
The New York Islanders wasted little time this offseason upgrading their top line, acquiring right wing Jordan Eberle in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on June 22 for forward Ryan Strome.
Eberle, 27, has a history with Islanders center John Tavares as teammates for Canada over the past 10 years. Eberle, who has scored at least 20 goals five times in his NHL career, has two years remaining on a contract that has an average annual value of $6 million, according to CapFriendly.com.
"We've played together at the World Juniors when we were a lot younger," Eberle said. "We've played at World Championships together. Obviously, John is a generational player and a guy who thinks the game at a very high level, and he's obviously the leader of that team. I'm excited to hopefully get an opportunity to get a chance to play with him and hopefully bring some success to the Islanders."
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Eberle is expected to be on the top line with Tavares, the Islanders captain. They'll likely be joined by left wing Anders Lee, who scored an NHL career-high 34 goals last season.
"I'm so excited for Jordan to come in," coach Doug Weight said. "A lot of people that have been around him, I think we've seen a kid that's scored 34 goals in this league and had 76 points (in 2011-12, each an NHL career high). That's impressive. He's got that skill, and we're going to push him and support him and put him in a spot to succeed. Hopefully he pays huge dividends."
The Islanders will be looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify by one point last season. They'll do so without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who was traded to the Calgary Flames with a fourth-round pick in the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft on June 24 for a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a second-round selection in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019 or 2020. Hamonic was a top-four defenseman for the Islanders the past seven seasons and a leader on and off the ice.
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Several of the Islanders' young defensemen will compete for Hamonic's spot, including 22-year-old Ryan Pulock, who was a first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2013 NHL Draft. Adam Pelech, 23, who agreed to a four-year contract as a restricted free agent July 24, and Scott Mayfield, 24, will vie for a bigger role.
"You don't really want to see a guy like [Hamonic] go, but that's part of the business," said defenseman Calvin de Haan, who agreed to a one-year contract Aug. 2. "It's just going to give an opportunity for another player to step into his role. It's a good opportunity for whomever has that chance."
Other young players also will be looking to take the next step in New York, including center Mathew Barzal, a first-round pick (No. 16) in the 2015 NHL Draft, and forward Joshua Ho-Sang, who had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 21 NHL games last season. Barzal turned 20 on May 26; Ho-Sang is 21.
The Islanders still have the task of signing Tavares to a contract extension. Tavares, who has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 NHL games, has been eligible to sign an extension since July 1 and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2018.
"For me there's really no rush," Tavares told Newsday this week. "I'm trying to determine things, let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal, and it's been good so far."
This will be the Islanders' first full season under Weight, who went 24-12-4 after replacing Jack Capuano as coach Jan. 17. Weight made several changes to the coaching staff this offseason, including hiring assistants Luke Richardson, Scott Gomez and Kelly Buchberger. Fred Brathwaite replaces Mike Dunham as goaltending coach, and Greg Cronin was promoted to associate coach. Bob Corkum, an assistant the past three seasons, will not return.
"Training camp will be different," Weight said. "Training camp will be hard, and the players are going to be addressed to that fact. It's going to be challenging. To me, the best thing about camp is you work out all summer, but you have this pit in your stomach, this nervousness, this specialness that it's not just another practice.
"Going out there the first time, whether I was 33, 38, 22, I had butterflies. I knew it was going to be tough at the end where you were going to have some skating, I knew there was some physical tests, I knew I was going to be sore. We don't want anyone getting injured, so rest will be a key. It always is, but they're going to be tested. It's going to be a different environment, so I'm excited about what it's going to look like, for sure."