Posted on: February 7, 2012 7:32 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 8:04 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Frans Nielsen isn't the flashiest player on the New York Islanders roster, but he is probably one of their best and most valuable players, and he's going to be sticking around for the next few years.
On Tuesday night he reportedly signed a four-year contract worth $11 million according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. The contract carries a cap hit of $2.75 million per season, which is a pretty good deal for what Nielsen brings to the table every night for the Islanders.
The Islanders will officially announce the deal on Wednesday.
He is currently in the final year of a four-year contract that paid him $525,000 per season, and had he not signed a new contract before July 1 he would have been an unrestricted free agent, and probably an attractive one on the open market.
His raw numbers aren't going to blow you away, as he's scored just nine goals to go with 16 assists in 51 games this season (he's recorded 33, 38 and 44 points over the previous three years) but he plays a big, shutdown role for the Islanders and is usually counted on to match up with the oppositions top players in a defensive role and play in the tough situations that opens things up for the Islanders' top scoring line, centered by John Tavares.
He is also their top penalty killing forward, logging over two-minutes per game in shorthanded situations.
The Islanders now have Tavares, Nielsen, Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo signed through the 2015-16 season.
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Posted on: November 19, 2011 11:12 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 11:34 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Things are not going well for the New York Islanders right now, and after losing to the Boston Bruins, 6-0, in their own barn on Saturday night the team has now lost 11 of its past 13 games to fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The offense has disappeared, two of their three goalies that opened the season on the NHL roster are injured, and one of their top young players, Kyle Okposo, has been a healthy scratch three nights in a row.
All of this, combined with the losing, seems to have head coach Jack Capuano a little upset, as we could see during his post-game press conference on Saturday.
"My thoughts are that when you play this game you need to play with fire, you need to play with passion, you need to play with determination, you need to play with desperation, you need to have ice bags after the game, maybe a little blood dripping right now," said Capuano. "When you lace your skates up the guy across from you, the guy to the left and right of you, need to know you got their back and we're going to play for one another, and that just didn'thappen tonight, and I don't have the answers why."
When asked if it was execution or effort that was the problem on Saturday, he responded that it was "a little bit of both," before adding: "Enough about staying positive and we're going to get through this. You have to work. If you saw our team play at the second half of last year you saw passion, you saw physicality. That's what you need to win hockey games in the National Hockey League every night, and right now, collectively, we are not doing that and you're not going to have success."
The Islanders are off on Sunday before traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins on Monday.
Here's the rest of Capuano's post-game presser:
Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 1:00 pm
By: Adam Gretz
This past week the folks at BusinessWeek put together a list of what they called the "smartest" spenders in sports. Simply put: the teams that spent the fewest amount of dollars per win.
In theory, it's an interesting premise, but it seemed to produce some very flawed results. For example, while the Nashville Predators topped their list, a team that definitely gets the most bang for its limited buck, some of the other teams in the top-10 included the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Thrashers, and New York Islanders. Were these teams smart about which players they signed, or were they simply not spending money on any players of any value? After all, when you think of front office efficiency the Pirates or Thrashers (now the Jets) probably aren't the first teams that come to mind.
The Islanders, on the other hand, are a little more intriguing. At least potentially.
A team in transition, stuck in a rebuild that's been going on for about five years now, The Islanders are probably not quite ready to return to the postseason this year. But they are building something interesting on Long Island, and do have quite a few bargains on their roster for this year and in the future. The quartet of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson, for example, are all signed through at least the 2013-14 season for a combined cap commitment of just around $14 million. I've said this before, but for all of the criticisms the Islanders front office has taken for handing out bad contracts in the past, those look to be examples of very smart spending going forward.
One of the often times most overlooked members of this Islanders team, and perhaps one of their biggest bargains this season at a cap hit of $525,000, the lowest on the team, is Frans Nielsen, their checking center that finished in the top-six in voting for the Selke Trophy last season as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. It's not uncommon for him to be one of their best players on any given night.
Usually playing on a line between the speedy Grabner and Okposo, Islanders coach Jack Capuano seems to use the trio in somewhat of a defensive role and more often than not sends them out there against the other teams top lines whenever he has a chance, especially during home games when his team has the last line change before faceoffs.
So far this season Nielsen's line has drawn regular assignments against players like Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Devin Setoguchi from Minnesota, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan from the Rangers, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos from the Lightning, and Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg from the Panthers. Through the first eight games of the season the Islanders have allowed 14 goals during 5-on-5 play, and Nielsen has been on the ice for just three of them (two of them were scored by Stamkos in separate games, the other was a goal scored by Brandon Prust during a 5-2 Islanders win). If you're a believer in plus/minus, he's finished as a plus-player in each of the past two year on a team that's been outscored by 35 and 42 goals during the season while playing against the other teams best players.
Following a 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Capuano told me he was probably their best player on the ice that night. It was a game that saw him score a goal, create two chances on two different penalty kills, block three shots, record a takeaway and win a couple of defensive zone faceoffs. And that's pretty much just another day at the office for him.
"He's played a strong game throughout the year for us," said Capuano. "Obviously the numbers haven't been there but he's been pretty strong for us."
He also referred to Nielsen as "dominant" and commented on how he's always positionally sound when he doesn't have the puck.
With one of the smallest salary cap hits in the NHL this season, Nielsen is a tremendous bargain for the Islanders, but that could soon change as he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency following this season. And there should be no shortage of teams lining up to give him the rather large pay raise he's earned over the past three years if something doesn't get worked out with the Islanders. There's a ton of value in a matchup center that can chip in around 40 points (while playing a defensive role and being put into mostly defensive situations) and play Selke-caliber defense.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Brandon Prust, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Florida Panthers, Frans Nielsen, Jack Capuano, John Tavares, Kris Versteeg, Kyle Okposo, Martin St. Louis, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, Stephen Weiss, Steve Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:08 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 6:12 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Since the NHL went it to its current divisional alignment with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey and both New York teams occupying the Atlantic Division it's pretty much been a three-team race at the top every year.
Since the 1998-99 season only three teams have managed to win the Atlantic outright -- New Jersey (seven times), Philadelphia (four times) and Pittsburgh (one time). The Rangers and Islanders have never won it, while only one of them, the Islanders during the 2001-02 season, has finished higher than third (second place).
Will it be one of the same three teams fighting for the top spot this season, or will one of the New York clubs find a way to win it for the first time under this current setup?
This year the division is loaded with story lines. The Flyers, the defending division champs, re-tooled their roster over the summer, while the Penguins may have to start the season without their best player -- and arguably the best player in the world -- as Sidney Crosby continues to recover from a concussion.
The Islanders look to be a team on the rise, while the Rangers landed the biggest free agent that hit the open market over the summer (of course they did). Meanwhile, the Devils look to build on the momentum of a strong second half and have to figure out what to do with Zach Parise, playing on a one-year deal, as he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Atlantic Division (in predicted order of finish):
Pittsburgh Penguins: Playing without Jordan Staal for the first half of the season and without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the second half of the season the Penguins still managed to finish tied for the top spot in the Atlantic last season with 106 points, losing in a tiebreaker to the Flyers. That's an impressive accomplishment given how the team is built around those three players. Malkin and Staal look to be ready to go this season, and assuming Crosby returns to his former self, the Penguins should have the personnel to not only finish on top of the division, but also make up for two straight early exits in the playoffs.
Strengths: How did the Penguins manage to stay competitive last season without their three best players for such a long period of time? An outstanding defense anchored by Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. Combine the defense with the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson and the Penguins finished the regular season allowing the sixth fewest goals per game in the league. Even if Crosby isn't ready for the start of the season the Penguins still have excellent depth down the middle with Malkin, Staal and Mark Letestu, a nice two-way player that excels in the faceoff circle.
Weaknesses: When you have so much money invested down the middle (centers, defense and goaltending) it's going to be difficult to fill in talent on the wings. James Neal is supposed to be the goal-scoring winger they've been searching for, but he struggled in his debut season with the Penguins after coming over in a trade with Dallas. Steve Sullivan signed a one-year deal this summer and can still provide some offense, assuming he's able to stay on the ice.
The Penguins power play has been, well, pretty awful the past three years, even with the talent they're capable of putting on the ice. There are a lot of reasons they went out in the first round last year, and their 1-for-35 showing on the power play is at the top of the list.
New York Rangers: Surely you're not surprised that the biggest free agent available (Brad Richards) landed with the New York Rangers. Especially when said free agent has such a great track record playing for coach John Tortorella. The two spent a number of years together in Tampa Bay, including the 2003-04 season when the Lightning won their Stanley Cup, while Richards took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Still, a lot of their success will depend on how well Richards and Gaborik play together, and whether or not Gabork bounces back from a disappointing season a year ago.
Strengths: Henrik Lundqvist is as steady and durable as they come in the crease, and a goaltender that's capable of stealing a game by himself. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan bring a nice mix of skill and grit to the top lines.
Strong team defensively -- and Lundqivst certainly helps that -- even if their blue line, which is anchored by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, doesn't contain a single player over the age of 27.
Weaknesses: Speaking of Staal, he's still dealing with some symptoms as a result of a concussion he suffered at the end of last season, which is not a good thing. Gaborik, for all his skill and ability, is always one shift away from his next injury (and yes, that's technically true for every player, but Gaborik's career speaks for itself: he's played more than 65 games just five times in 10 years). Mediocre power play during the regular season that scored one goal in 19 attempts during their first-round playoff loss to the Capitals.
Philadelphia Flyers: Talk about a team that went through a transition this summer. When all was said and done the Flyers basically swapped Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Daniel Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell and Darroll Powe for Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Andreas Lilja and Max Talbot. Better? Worse? The same? Paul Holmgren and Flyers fans are about to find out.
Strengths: Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are excellent young forwards, and Van Riemsdyk could be ready to have a breakout season following his impressive postseason run from a year ago. Danny Briere is still around to be one of their leading offensive weapons.
In a bizarre twist, goaltending moves from an area weakness to one of their biggest strengths thanks to the offseason addition of Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, in order to improve their goaltending the Flyers had to make a series of moves that involved trading Richards and Carter, while also losing Leino to free agency. That's three of their top-five scorers from a year ago.
It's possible the addition of Bryzgalov, combined with the development of the young players and draft picks they acquired in the Richards and Carter deals, could allow this to allwork out for the better in the long run, but they may have taken a step back in the short-term.
Will Giroux and Briere be as productive now that they'll be facing the other teams best players in the absence of Richards and Carter?
Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are both a year older, and Pronger's health was a big problem last season.
New Jersey Devils: When it comes to making coaching changes, no league seems to make more than the NHL, and within the NHL, no team seems to make more than the New Jersey Devils. After a summer-long saga involving their pursuit and eventual signing of Ilya Kovalchuk (who they acquired at the trade deadline of the previous season), the Devils had a disastrous start to last season, winning just nine of their first 31 games, resulting in the firing of head coach John MacLean.
Who did the Devils turn to at the point? Jacques Lemaire, naturally, for his third different stint with the team.
They finished with a 29-17-3 record under his watch and managed to stay in the playoff race longer than anybody could have expected following their awful start. Pete DeBoer takes over behind the bench this season, making him the 9th different coach to lead the team since the start of the 2000-01 season.
Strengths: The Devils should have a strong top-six once Travis Zajac returns, and they'll also benefit from the return of Zach Parise after he missedall but 13 games of last season. He's also playing on a one-year contract (perhaps a "show me" contract. As in, show me you're fully recovered and can once again be one of the top left wingers in the league before we sign you long-term).
As always, they finished with strong numbers defensively allowing just over 2.5 goals per game. Will they be as strong defensively without LeMaire running the ship?
Weaknesses: Who on the defense is going to provide some offense? No defenseman scored more than Andy Greene's 23 points a season ago. Adam Larsson, the Devils first-round pick in June, looks to have a ton of upside but some growing pains should be expected as a rookie.
Martin Brodeur is a Hall of Famer and one of the best goalies to ever play in the NHL, but he's clearly not the player he once was. And if the Devils do make it back to the playoffs, well, he's been pretty bad in two of his past three postseason appearances, while the Devils haven't made it out of the first round since 2006-07.
New York Islanders: The New York Islanders made headlines last season because of a massive on-ice brawl in early February. They should make headlines this season because they're an improving team that's going to compete for a playoff spot thanks to their impressive collection of young forwards, with the recently signed John Tavares leading the way.
The Islanders offseason didn't see them bring in anybody significant from outside the organization, unless you're counting on Brian Rolston returning to his 30-goal form from four years ago, but they are getting back their top defenseman, Mark Streit, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and that can be a huge addition to a team that's thin on the blue line.
Along with the return of Streit, a full-season for Kyle Okposo, an excellent two-way forward, will be a welcome addition as well.
Strengths: Definitely their forwards. They're young, they're productive, and many of them are signed long-term for what could be excellent value against the salary cap. The Islanders had eight different players score at least 10 goals last season, and seven of them are returning this season (the only one that isn't is Rob Schremp and his 10 goals).
Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Tavares, Blake Comeau and P.A. Parenteau all scored at least 20 goals for the Islanders a year ago.
Frans Nielsen is one of the NHL's most underrated defensive forwards and showed last season he's also capable of chipping in some offense, scoring 13 goals. He finished sixth the voting for the Selke Trophy which goes to the NHL's best defensive forward.
Weaknesses: Even with the return of Streit, as well as the presence of emerging young defenseman Travis Hamonic, who looks like he's going to be quite a player, there is still a lot of questions about this team defensively and in goal, and in the end that could prove to be their downfall this season.
Rick DiPietro is still signed through the 2020-21 season and has appeared in just 39 games over the past three years.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011-12 Season Preview, Adam Gretz, Brad Richards, Brooks Orpik, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ilya Kovalchuk, John Tavares, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Kyle Okposo, Marian Gaborik, Mark Streit, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Travis Zajac, Zach Parise
Posted on: September 14, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 1:18 pm
By: Adam Gretz
After reports surfaced on Wednesday morning that the New York Islanders and their young star, John Tavares, were closing in on a new long-term contract extension, the two sides came to an agreement on a six-year deal. The team made the announcement with Tavares on Thursday.
The contract will pay the 20-year-old forward $33 million, according to ESPN's Pierre Lebrun and TSN's Darren Dreger.
"I believe in this organization and this hockey team," Tavares said.
Tavares was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and over his first two years with the Islanders has scored 53 goals to go with 68 assists in 161 games. His 67 points this past season led the Islanders, and were 14 points more than the No. 2 scorer on the roster, forward Matt Moulson.
The $5.5 million cap hit will be the highest average salary on the Islanders roster, and will be about $2 million less than the deal 2008 No. 1 overall pick Steven Stamkos signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this summer (and for good reason). Still, if Tavares continues to develop as he has over the first two years of his career this deal could prove to be a bargain for the Islanders to get their franchise player secured for such a price. Part of it is paying for potential, but with a player like Tavares, who has already shown he can play at a high level at such a young age, there has to be confidence that he will continue to develop.
With Tavares signed for the long haul, the Islanders have managed to secure four of their top young forwards for what appear to be cap-friendly contracts.
Moulson, who is coming off his second consecutive 30-goal season, is signed through the 2013-14 season at an annual salary of $3.1 million, while 34-goal scorer Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo are both signed through the 2014-15 season for a combined cap hit of $5.8 million. Garth Snow and the Islanders take a lot of heat, but if these guys develop as they should he'll have managed to set his team up quite well in terms of his young talent and what they're counting against the salary cap.
Photo: Getty Images