One by one, the Islanders congregated at their Syosset, N.Y., practice facility and echoed each other.
They took a step but the end goal was not achieved.
“Another 100-point season, there was a lot of pride in achieving that again, doing that in back-to-back years. A first-round series win was a really good feeling. It was big for a lot of us,” John Tavares told reporters on breakup day, two days after the Islanders season ended with a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 5 of the Atlantic Division Final. “Very good, but just didn’t reach the ultimate goal and that’s what matters and that’s what will stay with you the most. The opportunity, we got a little closer, but didn’t get it done.”
And now the heavy lifting begins for Garth Snow.
The second round loss to the Lightning crystallized the Islanders’ need for additional scoring to augment Tavares’ production. Tavares finished with 11 points in 11 playoff games, the only Islander to record double figure scoring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kyle Okposo, who had eight points--two goals and six assists--in 11 playoff games, is likely to leave in free agency. Okposo told reporters on breakup day that his representation and Snow did not have contract talks during the season.
“I knew it was going to be on the back burner and I knew pretty early that there wouldn't be any talks, so I did my best not to think about it,” Okposo told reporters on breakup day.
The seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft has a career slash line of 139 goals and 230 assists for 369 points in 529 regular season games. In 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games, Okposo has seven goals and eight assists.
"It's something I feel like I've helped build since I've been here, I grew up here and matured and you definitely want to see it come to fruition. You want to see it culminate in a Stanley Cup. So there's definitely some feelings of wanting it to continue, for sure. It's the only organization I've ever known and it's become home,” said Okposo, who finished the 2015-16 season with 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points in 79 games.
“But everything must come to an end at some point. We're not going to play forever. So we'll see what happens this summer.”
Okposo is not the only unrestricted free agent that Snow has to make decisions on. Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin are also UFAs. Both have expressed interest in returning but the twosome may receive offers from other teams.
With the NHL salary cap expected to stay level, the Islanders have $54.228 million earmarked in player salary for next season but have 10 pending free agents outside of the Okposo-Nielsen-Martin triumvirate. Casey Cizikas, Ryan Strome, Shane Prince, Scott Mayfield, Christopher Gibson and Jean-Francois Berube are restricted free agents, while Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait are UFAs.
Nielsen is a strong two-way center, while Martin is one-third of the NHL’s pre-eminent fourth line. Cizikas, Strome, Prince, Mayfield, Gibson and Berube won’t cost much to retain, while Bernier, Boulton, Zidlicky and Strait may be allowed to leave.
The question is whether new owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky will allow Snow to spend in a free agent field headlined by Steven Stamkos. Along with Stamkos, Eric Staal, Milan Lucic, David Backes and Keith Yandle are UFAs.
You can follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.