New York Islanders Make Free Agent Splash, Probably Aren’t Done


After a fairly quiet July 1, the New York Islanders made a splash on Wednesday, as Garth Snow got John Tavares some help up front.

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Nikolai Kulemin leaves the Toronto Maple Leafs for Long Island, where he will reunite with former Toronto teammate Mikhail Grabovski as both players signed four-year deals.

Kulemin will receive $16.75 million over the length of his contract, or just under $4.2 million per season. Grabovski will get $5 million per season from the Islanders, though he’ll actually be paid closer to $7 million per season thanks to buyout payments from the Maple Leafs.

The New York Islanders have a passionate fan base, and some of them didn’t like Snow’s inactivity yesterday. However, Snow hasn’t signed these two just to make a move.

Grabovski has scored more than 50 points three times in his career, but he was misused in his final season in Toronto. Randy Carlyle didn’t allow Grabovski to flourish as a scorer, and he was bought out. He had a decent season going in Washington before ankle issues caused him to miss all but one game from the end of January through March.

Though he finished with 35 points over 58 games last season, multiplying that pace over 82 games puts him around 50 again. The New York Islanders will know what to expect from him, and it could go up with the presence of Tavares, along with the familiarity of a former teammate.

Nikolai Kulemin hasn’t gone without his share of struggles, though. After a 30-goal season in 2010-11, the 27-year-old has been held under 10 goals over each of the last three seasons, yet he still got a near 50 per cent raise over his previous $2.8 million cap hit.

The Islanders are clearly hoping a reunion with Grabovski will spark Kulemin and get him back to somewhere near his 2010-11 form, when he played with Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur.

Kulemin also isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, as he dished out 153 hits in 70 games for Toronto last season. Though the New York Islanders certainly have physical forwards (including NHL hits leader Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck, who was fifth), having it come from a player who figures to be a top-six forward could add another dimension to the offense.

What This Means For The New York Islanders

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  • With these signings, the New York Islanders now have 14 forwards under contract, with Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas currently restricted free agents. Any way you do the math, you have to think the roster re-tooling on Long Island isn’t over.

    Former first-round picks Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson continue to develop, while Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo are key pieces on Long Island. Apart from that, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room, especially with Frans Nielsen coming off a strong season.

    With that in mind, Josh Bailey may not be long for the New York Islanders. The return may not be great on the first-rounder from 2008, as his 38 points last season were a career-high. However, he’s only 24, and he’s under contract for the next four seasons at a $3.3 million salary cap hit, so he could hit his prime in that time.

    Either way, the New York Islanders have some decisions to make. As the franchise prepares for a new chapter, here’s hoping they get it right.