Rumblings: Isles have openings to fill

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

You never know what New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow is up to, right? He’s certainly not shy to make a bold move or two.

He’s assembled a talented, young squad that made the playoffs this past season. Now he’s looking to make that group better if he can.

"We’re in the same boat as a lot of teams, we’re looking to improve this offseason," Snow told ESPN.com on Tuesday night. "I think you’ll see pretty much the same group of players [next season] that we had last year. The natural maturation process of guys like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, they’ll get better from the experience last year. We want to build from what we’ve done the last three years and take the next step."

Needs? I would suggest they are looking at the blue line, and backup netminder Michal Neuvirth is an unrestricted free agent and likely headed to market as he hopes to be a starter.

"We obviously have an opening in net behind Jaro [Halak]," Snow said. "That’s no secret. I don’t anticipate [blueliner Lubomir] Visnovsky coming back, so there’s potential for one of our young defensemen to earn a spot, whether it’s [Scott] Mayfield, [Ryan] Pulock, [Griffin] Reinhart, we’ll see what happens via the trade route at the draft and then look into free agency. Those are not guarantees. We feel we have a good group. I’m not shy to say we’d be happy to have the same group back."

But will it include top-line winger Kyle Okposo? Veteran Islanders beat writer Arthur Staple, who is very plugged in to the team he covers, raised eyebrows last weekend when he suggested Okposo could be traded.

Snow, when asked by ESPN.com, refused to comment on the report or those rumors. Clearly from my own recon I can say other teams have phoned on Okposo, but whether the Isles are actively shopping him doesn’t seem clear.

He is one season from unrestricted free agency, and the Isles would like to sign him to an extension.

There’s also the fact that the Isles don’t have a first-round pick (traded for Thomas Vanek) nor a second-round pick (traded for Neuvirth) in this week’s draft, so those are two assets that you normally would have to use in any potential trade around the draft.

So if the Isles are going to make a splash tradewise, it might have to come by dealing players for players.