Travis Hamonic made one heck of a deal for the Islanders and he’s not even the general manager.
Poof! Just like that, the big defenseman re-inserted himself into the 2016-17 lineup when just about everyone from Woodmere to Winnipeg believed he was hellbent for Manitoba.
It’s the best thing that’s happened to the Islanders since Game 1 of the second playoff round when they beat the Lightning. And this Hamonic chapter was a genuine, no-kidding-around stunner.
Islanders break-up day at Iceworks in Syosset on Tuesday was breezing along with the usual no-big-news-breeze when the lovable blue-liner delivered his Forget-About-A-Trade-I-Still-Am-An-Islander proclamation.
“I love being an Islander,” he reiterated, “I enjoy my teammates and I love this organization.”
And with that, GM Garth Snow must love Travis even more. Hamonic’s pact over the next four seasons is a relatively reasonable $3.857 million salary-cap hit.
As for his change of heart — and mind — about leaving, Travis allowed that the health situation involving “an extremely close family member” has stabilized itself.
That ended hopes for clubs such as Winnipeg and Edmonton to land Hammy in a trade.
After thanking just about everyone for a season of support and understanding, the big guy sounded like a just-opened bottle of Flatbush seltzer, bubbling with excitement over his future at Barclays Center.
“I can’t be more eager for next year’s training camp,” he enthused. “I’m looking forward to a good Summer, trying to get healthy and excited to hit the ground running next season.”
John Tavares was naturally tickled that his longtime teammate will remain status quo. Knowing that some pals might not be here next fall, the captain also pointed out how much he appreciated Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen as friends and linemates.
Talking about the potential UFAs, the captain said: “Those guys have been so crucial for me. I don’t think people realize how much I lean on those guys. They’re great people, great leaders who made an impact on our team. But there are always changes and could be some significant ones. That’s part of the game.”
Nielsen and Okposo’s futures with the team are still undecided. But there were a handful of players packing their belongings who are more likely to be ex-Islanders by September.
There’s every reason to believe that Eric Boulton, Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait, among others, either will skate into retirement or sign on elsewhere.
By contrast, no less than six players now attract special interest either because of their impending free agency or other relevant factors. They include the following:
1. OKPOSO: Second-leading scorer during the regular season, the veteran right wing played adequately alongside captain Tavares in the playoffs. Under ordinary conditions, he would return to the lineup. But as an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), he could find attractive offers elsewhere.
However, he held out some hope, suggesting that he “might be back, too. There’s some uncertainty to it.” In other words, he’ll consult with his agent, Snow, consider other offers and then make a decision.
2. NIELSEN: Third on the scoring list — and a plus-1 over the regular campaign — the versatile center stands out as one of the NHL’s best two-way players. While he may be pursued by some teams, there’s a feeling — only a feeling here — that somehow the club will manage to retain Frans who also can play wing.
Playing his uncertainty card, the delightful Dane admitted that he couldn’t see himself in another uniform. “I love being here,” he admitted, sounding very much like Hamonic, “and I’d love to come back. We’ll see what happens. But if I do go to July 1 (Free Agency Day) it will be fun to see what’s out there.”
3. MATT MARTIN: Also a UFA, the NHL’s leading — at least by league stats — hitter and cog on the valuable “Fourth Line,” Double M remains one of the most popular Islanders with strong ties to the Met Area. It would be surprising if the Isles lost him right in Matty’s playing prime. That’s especially so when you read into his responses.
“I’ve always been an Islander and the Island is my home, I stay here in the summer and I love the team, its fan base and my memories. This is where I grew up as a player and in a lot of ways as a person. But I’m prepared for whatever outcome may be.”
4. BROCK NELSON, RYAN STROME, ANDERS LEE: In his post-elimination-game report MSG Networks’ analyst Butch Goring described the trio’s season as “disappointing.”
While Nelson tallied 26 regular-season goals — second best behind Tavares — his performance in the Lightning series left much to be desired in terms of production and drive. That is, unless he was suffering from an undisclosed injury.
Strome’s erratic play found him temporarily in Bridgeport for a cup of coffee and lesson-learning. Likewise, in the playoffs he was in and out of the lineup like a yo-yo. Ryan certainly didn’t play up to his earlier notices, admitting as much at break up day. He asserted that he’ll return next season motivated to prove his critics wrong and become the asset most expected him to be by now.
Lee started slow yet finished the season as fifth-leading scorer among forwards. He gained meaningful momentum late in the season before a leg injury abruptly ended his season. His absence was conspicuous during the playoffs. Anders, goalie-screening in front of the enemy net, could have been a difference-maker in the Lightning series.
Ironically, Lee allowed that had the Bolts’ playoff series gone to a seventh game, he would have been able to play. He said he expected to return next fall, playing the kind of productive hockey he did in the stretch before his injury.
Speaking of the wounded, goalie Jaroslav Halak admitted that he would have been unable to play in the second round and vowed to spend the summer working out in an effort to achieve an injury-free 2016-17.
That said, the meat of the meetings was carved up by the media after Hamonic’s take off on General Douglas MacArthur’s World War II declaration, “I shall return.”
Simply put, Hamonic’s back and the Islanders got him!