The New York Islanders' summer was marked by a number of roster moves, most notably among the forwards and in goal. Some of those new additions participated in informal skates at Islanders Iceworks on Monday, and they're excited to begin preparing for the new season; it's the team's last at Nassau Coliseum before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015.
"It looks like a good place to play. I feel just excited. I still am a little bit tired after the plane. I moved from California. We will see. To me, first day is always hard," center Mikhail Grabovski said. "Personally, I'm just happy to find a good team and sign a long deal so I can play and relax. A great city, a great chance to play next year in a new stadium. I'm happy."
Grabovski was one of the Islanders' marquee acquisitions, signing with New York on the same day as good friend Nikolai Kulemin. The two forwards enjoyed great success playing together with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the hope is they can rekindle that chemistry with their new team.
The two friends share an agent, Gary Greenstin, although Grabovski said he initially had no idea that the pair would be reunited in New York, even though their signings were announced minutes apart on July 2.
"For me it's easy. I know him. He's my closest friend," Grabovski said. "I was surprised. We don't talk before. I think it's our agent making our dream because we always think about playing together again. Our families are close, our children are close. It's easier for him and me."
Grabovski and Kulemin add depth and offense up front, but the biggest change came in goal. New York signed Jaroslav Halak to a four-year contract on May 22 after acquiring his negotiating rights in a trade with the Washington Capitals, then signed backup Chad Johnson on July 1.
Both goaltenders participated in the Islanders' informal skate on Monday.
"They have a young team, a great group of guys over here. They're only going to get better," Halak said. "I was glad that they traded for me. They had really good interest in me. Obviously it was on both ends. I'm happy to be here and thrilled about training camp and the start of the season."
While Halak is an established starter in the NHL, Johnson enjoyed a standout season in 2013-14 as the backup to Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask with the Boston Bruins. Johnson appeared in a career-high 27 games and had a 17-4-3 record with a .925 save percentage and 2.10 goals-against average. He's hoping to provide the Islanders with similar goaltending depth.
"It's a team with a lot of skill. A young team that is gaining experience every year and getting better every year," Johnson said. "That's one thing I definitely recognized when signing here. For myself, it's an opportunity to come in and be a part of it and be a part of the rise and the improvement every year."