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Islanders season preview: A remade team closes out an era

The Islanders plummeted from eighth in the Eastern Conference in the lockout-shortened 2013 season to 14th with a 34-37-11 season.

Josh Bailey Josh Bailey has a good feeling about the team's final season on Long Island.
Credit: Getty Images

The Islanders' 2013-14 season has been lost to time. Just ask Josh Bailey.

"Last year is last year," Bailey told Metro New York in a phone interview during training camp. "We're looking forward to this year."

With good reason.

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The Islanders plummeted from eighth in the Eastern Conference in the lockout-shortened 2013 season to 14th with a 34-37-11 season. But general manager Garth Snow was as active as any executive in the league during the offseason, beginning with the June trades for the negotiating rights to goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Dan Boyle. While Boyle passed on a deal, Halak agreed to a four-year, $18 million offer to be a stabilizing presence in net.

Landing Halak would be a harbinger of things to come.

At the draft, Snow used the fifth pick overall to select Oshawa Generals left wing Michael Dal Colle, then traded back into the first round to nab Windsor Spitfires right wing Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick. A free agency spending spree landed Snow reserve goaltender Chad Johnson, and top-6 wingers Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. The makeover was completed Saturday with the acquisitions of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy from Boston and Chicago, respectively.

To land Boychuk and Leddy — Snow called the duo "top-4 defensemen" after the trades were announced — the Islanders sent second-round picks in 2015 and 2016, and a conditional third-round pick to Boston. Chicago received depth defenseman T.J. Brennan, and prospects Ville Pokka and Anders Nilsson.

"It was an opportunity to upgrade our defense," Snow said. "[The trades are] not a situation where [both deals] came out of nowhere. We had been communicating with both teams for a period of time and it all came to fruition."

In the span of a five months, Snow was able to procure two goaltenders, two defensemen and two forwards to help the Islanders in the short term, while bolstering the prospect pool with two of the Ontario Hockey League's top-20 point producers. And they didn't lose anyone of substance from the NHL roster.

The additions should give head coach Jack Capuano four forward lines and three defensive pairs he can deploy as game situations dictate. Moreover, they augment a team which boasts superstar John Tavares, Kyle Okposo coming off a breakout year, Canadian Olympic training camp invitee Travis Hamonic, one of the league's best two-way centers in Frans Nielsen and hitting machines Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck.

"We definitely got better," Bailey said. "As a player that definitely excites you. Going into the season I think we have the right players in place to do some good things."

The Islanders feel they have the pieces in place to make the franchise's last season at Nassau Coliseum a special one.

"It is what it is," Bailey said. "Obviously there's a lot of great history and tradition in the arena. We want to finish on a strong note and make the last year here a success.

"Obviously that [provides] a lot of motivation."

Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

 
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