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Islanders This Week | Final Season or More to Come?

Hockey This Week | Islanders This Week | By Tony Stabile | Islanders Ticket Deals

Final Season or More to Come?

Isles Moulson and MacDonald head into final contract year with no certainty.

Just a few seasons ago, if the Islanders had a player headed into the final year of their contract, it meant in all likelihood they wouldn’t be back. The team watched players such as Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov, Jason Blake and Ryan Smyth all walk via UFA on July 1st. In the years since then, GM Garth Snow has done a masterful job of locking up his young core of talent long term. In the last few summers, Snow has signed Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Travis Hamonic, Cal Clutterbuck, Josh Bailey, and most importantly John Tavares to long term deals that will assure this team will be playing together for the foreseeable future. This summer presents a bit of a different problem. Perennial 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson and steady defenseman Andrew MacDonald are both entering the end of their current contracts, and are both looking at large raises. Though they are in a similar situation, it’s a different ballgame for these vets.

Matt Moulson was one of those under the radar signings for Snow. He came to the Islanders in time for the 2009-10 season after languishing in Manchester of the AHL (the LA Kings top farm club). Moulson had immediate chemistry with newly selected John Tavares and scored 30 goals his first year with the Islanders. After re-signing just minutes before his arbitration hearing was about to begin, Moulson went out and improved by scoring 31 goals and raising his point total to 53. During that season, right before the deadline, Moulson signed a 3 year extension for about $9.5 million. He has since put up his best 2 seasons scoring 36 goals in 11-12 and last season posting 44 points in just 47 games.

Moulson is a media darling as he is always available after games (win or lose) and can be found at most Islanders events even throughout the summer. Given his development into one of the better left wings in the NHL and his special friendship with Captain John Tavares (Tavares is Godfather to Moulson’s daughter), I see no way he leaves Long Island. At 29 years old, a 4 or 5 year extension in the $20-$25 million is not out of the question.

The story with Andrew MacDonald is quite different. MacDonald, who is making just $550K this season, is due a huge raise on his next deal. He is an anchor on the Islanders blue line, a valuable shot blocker, and has fantastic chemistry with newly re-signed Travis Hamonic. Sounds like a no brainer right? Here are the issues: first off, MacDonald has played over 70 games just once in his 5 year NHL career (to be fair, he did play in all 48 regular season games this year though he broke his hand in the playoffs and would have missed significant time with that injury). He’s due at least a $3 – $3.5 million raise, which would make him the Islanders highest paid defenseman. Finally, the team is loaded with defensive prospects, a few of which will be ready to step into the NHL next fall.

As important as MacDonald has been to the Islanders blue line these past few seasons, would the Isles be better off dealing him at the deadline for either a good prospect or letting one of their prospects (like Scott Mayfield) step into a role he’s already being groomed for? Only time will tell, but I will tell you it’s certainty possible MacDonald will be playing elsewhere next season.

For Hockey This Week …. I’m Tony Stabile

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonystabile

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