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  • Tyler Adelle

Isles Hot Seat: Five Players to Seek in Free Agency and One to Avoid

With the NHL's official free agency kickoff only 11 days away, there are decisions that will need to be made for Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello. With the salary cap staying put for a couple of seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this offseason will prove to be a challenging one for most clubs. For Lamoriello in particular, the Islanders can possibly see a significant change in their roster for the 2020-21 season. With forwards Matt Martin, Tom Kuhnhackl, Derick Brassard, defensemen Andy Greene, and goaltender Thomas Greiss all becoming UFAs as of October 9th, Lamoriello will have roughly $18 million dollars in cap space to play with. However, pending RFA defensemen Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock. As well as the face of the franchise in forward Mathew Barzal will make that harder on the Islanders GM.

It’s safe to say that Lamoriello won’t want to lose his second superstar forward in his first three years as general manager of the Islanders, and will not want to lose his established NHL defensemen in Pulock and Toews either. Which leaves the question, can, or will, the Islanders make a free agency splash?

That will be answered for Islanders fans in the coming weeks. But for now, all we can do is do what hockey fans are all the best at. Speculating.

With that being said, here are five free agents the Islanders should pursue, and one they should avoid.

Mike Hoffman, RW/LW

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$5,187,500, 69GP, 29G, 30A, 59PT, +/- (-4)

Former Ottawa Senator and current (for now) Florida Panther Mike Hoffman is a name that has been floating amongst Islanders fans for a decent chunk of the 2019-20 season. And, if we’re being honest, makes a lot of sense. Seeing the 31-year-old winger one goal shy of a 30 goal season for the second time in his career, on top of 30 assists good for 59 points and a 14% shot conversion percentage, would have put him second on this year's Islanders team, behind only Mat Barzal, who had 60 points, it's hard to argue the former Selke Trophy recipient would not have made a significant impact on this year's Islanders team. As Islander fans saw in this year's Stanley Cup qualifier rounds, Hoffman also has the ability to be a real agitator and get under your skin during play. If Lou decided to go the route of letting forward Derick Brassard walk in free agency, Hoffman, with some line changes and adjustments, can make a significant impact for the Islanders' second forward line. Mike Hoffman, in other words, is probably one of the best fits, if not, the best fit, for the Islanders in this year's free agency class.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$6,000,000, 65GP, 22G, 39A, 61PT, +/- (+4)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is another familiar name to the Islanders, as trade rumors had been surrounded by his name for the past few seasons. The former first overall pick finished the regular season 33rd in points with 61, grabbing 22 goals and 39 assists in the process. While also finishing the season with a +1 rating and 13% shot conversion percentage, all these numbers were good enough to give him the numbers needed for his second-best NHL season in his nine-year career, all being with the struggling Edmonton Oilers. Coming off of a $6,000,000 AAV contract with the Oilers, it’s unknown if Nugent-Hopkins will be looking for a raise. If the Islanders were to inquire about the pending UFA, they may need to make adjustments as their current center depth is in the hands of Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, newly acquired Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Casey Cizikas. None of which, seem to be leaving the Islanders soon.

Torey Krug, LD

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$5,250,000, 61GP, 9G, 40A, 49PT, +/- (-4)

As of recent, unlike years prior, the Islanders' defense has not been a pressing concern for the front office. However, should either Pulock or Toews decide to sign an offer sheet elsewhere, Krug would be an ideal fit for the Islanders' blue line. 49 points as a defenseman would bring more of an offensive spark for the Islanders defense, seeing that 40 of those 9 points are assists. While also logging just over 20 minutes of ice time per game, this can also take the workload off of some of the veteran defenders like often-injured Johnny Boychuk and a pending UFA in Andy Greene, if he were to stay put on the Island. With rumors also swirling about the possibility of a Nick Leddy trade, the possibility of bringing Krug to Long Island isn’t as far-fetched as people may believe.

Tyler Toffoli, RW/LW

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$4,600,000, 68GP, 24G, 20A, 44PT, +/- (-1)

Yet another name connected to the Islanders during the trade deadline, Tyler Toffoli, could be a solid fit on a revolving door that is the Islanders' third line. With spots occupied by the likes of Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl, Leo Komarov, and so on, having the 28-year-old winger alongside center Jean-Gabriel Pageau can add some much-needed stability to their third line.

Evgeni Dadonov, RW/LW

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$4,000,000, 69GP, 25G, 22A, 47PT, +/- (-7)

We cap off this list with a player that had left the NHL to return to Russia and returned to the league in 2017 as a man on a mission. Since Dadonov's return to the NHL for the 17-18 campaign, he's been responsible for 81 goals and 101 assists, making him a serious option for the Islanders to consider. Although the Islanders wingers in captain Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, and others, this could be a significant move to make the Islanders top unit a threat throughout the NHL. Dadonov, whose Florida Panthers fell to the Islanders in this year's qualifying round 3-1, has been a significant role for the Panthers of the last three seasons being able to become a fringe playoff team. If the price is right, Dadonov should be a no-brainer for the Islanders' front office.

Player to Avoid:

Taylor Hall, C

2019-20 Salary and Stats

$6,000,000, 65GP, 16G, 36A, 52PT, +/- (-14)

Alright, hear me out on this one.

Yes, I know there was a point where some Islanders fans wanted to trade for Taylor Hall.

Yes, I know Taylor Hall is a great player who won a Hart Trophy very recently. BUT, for $6 million AAV, you would hope to be getting more than a 52 point campaign. Though Hall played in a failing Devils system, he did look to start feeling himself again when he was moved to the Coyotes during the season. All in all, with the salary cap staying put for a couple of seasons, and with the anticipation that Hall will be looking for a raise, it would be wise for GM Lou Lamoriello to steer clear of Hall this offseason.

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