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Islanders have work ahead of them after Tavares departure

Finding No. 1 goalie, extending Lee on agenda before season starts

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

John Tavares was one of the few bright spots for the New York Islanders in the past 25 years.

And now he's gone.

 

[RELATED: How Maple Leafs landed TavaresTavares felt leaving Islanders was 'right thing for me']

 

After meeting with six teams last week, and much deliberating, the 27-year-old center signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. He leaves behind a lot of what ifs and what could have beens, a captain who was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

"The New York Islanders would like to thank John Tavares for everything he has done for the franchise throughout the past nine seasons," general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement after the departure was announced Sunday. "John has achieved great individual success on the ice, as well as devoting a tremendous amount of his time and energy to the community. We wish him and his family all the best."

So where do the Islanders go from here? How do they pick themselves up and dust themselves off? After all, it's hard to envision they're going to sit back following the hires of Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz this offseason.

Here are four things the Islanders can do before their season begins at the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4.

Find a No. 1 goalie -- They weren't expected to re-sign Jaroslav Halak, who became an unrestricted free agent and signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Boston Bruins on Sunday, but the Islanders must find a replacement after allowing an NHL-high 293 goals last season. Thomas Greiss has two seasons remaining on his contract, but he's yet to prove he can be a No. 1 goalie. Players including Craig Anderson (Ottawa Senators) and Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) have been reported as potential trade targets, so the Islanders will be working the phones with hopes of shoring up the goaltending.

Video: Taking a look at the New York Islanders' future

Extend Anders Lee -- The forward, who turns 28 on Tuesday, scored an NHL career-high 40 goals last season and is eligible to sign a contract extension. Tavares obviously played a role in Lee's success, but with Mathew Barzal's vision, there's no reason to think Lee's production wouldn't be similar if Trotz puts those two on the same line. Should Lee re-sign, he would be a solid choice to replace Tavares as captain.

Determine the No. 2 center -- Tavares' departure instantly makes Barzal the Islanders' top center. But who slots in behind him? Do they shift Anthony Beauvillier to his natural position after he scored 21 goals on Barzal's wing, or does Brock Nelson move up to the second line? Or do they continue to look for one via trade after the Buffalo Sabres traded Ryan O'Reilly to the St. Louis Blues? The Islanders agreed to terms with forwards Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula on Sunday, but neither fits the bill. But those additions should help improve a penalty kill that finished 31st in the NHL (73.2 percent) last season.

Upgrade the defense -- The Islanders missed Calvin de Haan after he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in December, at times allowing 50 or more shots on goal. De Haan became an unrestricted free agent Sunday and has drawn interest from several teams, so the Islanders may have to look elsewhere for an upgrade. That could also come via trade considering the lack of options on the market. New York also is keeping Thomas Hickey after the defenseman agreed to terms on a four-year contract Sunday.

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