When the Islanders put PA Parenteau on waivers yesterday, it became very clear that the Islanders are looking to go in a new direction. Although an uproar was heard among fans (Parenteau had a reasonable contract and could play on the right side of the top line), the fact is that Parenteau was a quick fix to a bigger problem that would be better off addressed now.
Let’s be frank here, no discussion of the Islanders, whether it be a season preview or a general story, can ignore the fact that John Tavares, New York’s franchise player, will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season. In other words, Tavares can choose to play anywhere after next season.
If the Islanders want him to stay, Tavares needs at least one outstanding player to join him on the team’s top line and the team needs to be a Stanley Cup contender or at least a team that is moving in that direction. So why waste time with Parenteau? He is only a stop gap and brings you no closer to being a Cup contender.
This is especially true when the Islanders prospects have shown in the preseason that they will likely bring the team offense now; maybe even as much offense as Parenteau would have brought. And so we applaud the Islanders move to let Parenteau go. And he is gone–across the river to New Jersey.
This afternoon, the Islanders announced their 23-man season opening roster. Looking at the roster, it is unclear whether the team will make the playoffs. New York (as currently configured) certainly won’t be Cup contenders this season. But they are headed in the right direction.
The most important long-term question now becomes, who will be on Tavares’s right? Some hockey prognosticators think that it will be the rookie future star, Matthew Barzal. A natural right handed center, Barzal is a great playmaker, who played extremely well in the preseason. It is reasonable to think that it was Barzal’s play that landed Parenteau on waivers in the first place.
Not that Barzal is used to playing on the right side. But he would be the natural person to try in that slot in the coming games. Barzal has amazing offensive talents and, if he could just show some of them, it could give Tavares a big boost.
Since Parenteau was put on waivers, Tavares has been joined by Anders Lee on the right side. But Lee is not really a solution to the RW hole in the roster. He does not have a high enough upside to be a first line winger on a good NHL team. A prospect who does, however, is 20-year old Josh Ho-Sang, who was recently reassigned to Bridgeport, but could be coming back very soon.
Whether it is Barzal or Ho-Sang, the Islanders have finally realized that it is no longer the time to just have spare parts alongside Tavares.
Right now, the Islanders are starting the season with six defensemen and three netminders. That’s because to send JF Berube down to Bridgeport, he would have to go through waivers, and likely be lost. The blueline of this team is solid, with prospects RD Ryan Pulock and LD Adam Pelech waiting in the wings; and a little further away, 2015 draftee blueliner Parker Wotherspoon tearing up the WHL.
The goalie situation will have Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss battling it out for the number one slot. Halak is the presumptive number one, but Greiss was impressive in the preseason. Either way, neither is as good as the potential of the 2014 third-round selection, Ilya Sorokin. It is in Sorokin that the team’s between-the-pipes Cup hopes rest.
This promises to be an interesting season for the Isles. It is a time of transition, as New York really moves its top offensive prospects into position for the future. If it turns out that the Islanders are outside the top eight in the conference, don’t fret. Better days are surely coming, and coming pretty quickly.