The New York Islanders will be building a new arena next to Belmont Park Racetrack. While the exact details of when the Islanders will move into the new arena have yet to be announced, the earliest they could begin playing there would be the 2019-20 season. So that leaves the Islanders playing in Brooklyn to finish out this season and probably next season as well. Quite a few fans would like the team to return to Nassau Coliseum before moving to the new arena but that seems unlikely. Although it would be nostalgic, and the building would likely sell out most game nights, its capacity for hockey is only around 12,000, well short of what is considered standard for an NHL team.
The bigger question is how does John Tavares feel about the new arena? He will be a free agent after the season and would be in extremely high demand by any team that can afford to pay him $10 million per season over a long-term contract, possibly 10 years. The Islanders can certainly afford to pay him, but there has always been some question about how much he wants to play here. Tavares has been unwilling to sign a contract extension and most outside observers assume it was because he wanted to know where the team would end up playing. That question has now been answered. If he truly does like where this team is headed and the idea of playing in a new arena, then the Islanders’ chances of re-signing him just went up drastically, and it would be an upset if he were to leave via free agency. If he’s not interested, then teams like the Canadiens, Red Wings, Rangers, and Maple Leafs will be licking their lips to get a crack at signing Tavares when free agency hits this summer.
Would Tavares stay if there is no improvement in their goaltending? In the NFL, the play of the team’s quarterback greatly determines how good or bad the team is. Well, in the NHL, it’s all about the goaltending and at this point, the Islanders don’t have a reliable backstop. Jaroslav Halak is currently sporting a 2.97 GAA and .905 save percentage. Those numbers are bad but the numbers for Thomas Greiss are even worse 3.83 and .883, yet somehow Greiss has been allowed to start the last three games (13 goals allowed). Remember when we were kids and played hockey? Sometimes we didn’t have enough players for a goaltender or didn’t have the equipment, so we would just play with a garbage can in net. Well, that is pretty much what the Islanders have now. They would be better off with six skaters and a garbage can or traffic cone in net. You can’t start either one of these players on your Fantasy team.
In non-Islander news, Auston Matthews (upper body) will re-join the Leafs on their upcoming five-game road trip. Matthews has been out of the lineup since Dec. 9, which most believe is because of a concussion. With Matthews joining the team, it’s likely that he will play at some point during this trip but exactly when that will be can’t be locked down. What we do now, however, is that it should be sooner rather than later. Matthews is one of the best snipers in the league, and he will be welcomed back by his Fantasy owners. Perhaps they will get an early Christmas present.
Shea Weber of the Canadiens was sent away from the team as he deals with a foot injury. Weber missed six games at the end of November due to the ailment and had been trying to play through the injury ever since. That decision seems ill-advised now, as Weber will be kept out of the lineup until the injury heals, and no one knows when that might be. The Canadiens need Weber back in the lineup as soon as possible. This team doesn’t have the depth to survive the loss of anyone who can help put the puck in the net.
The Penguins announced Tuesday that Justin Schultz (lower body) won’t be returning to the lineup as soon as the team had hoped. This seems to indicate that Schultz may have suffered a setback or just isn’t healing as quickly as the player and team had hoped. The Pens are struggling to win games and are falling in the standings. If you’re looking for a team to make a big splash before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, look no further than the Penguins. They will make a move, it’s just a matter of when. Wouldn’t Evander Kane look good in a Pittsburgh uniform?