Should Islanders Look at Gaborik?
Whilst goaltending remains the Islanders #1 priority this off season, the hole left on the clubs top line cannot be ignored either.
After trading Matt Moulson this season, and then failing to sign Thomas Vanek long term, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are in need of a line mate capable of augmenting the Isles top line as Vanek did. With the Austrian star, the club possessed arguably the best line in hockey for a stretch prior to the Olympic break.
If the franchise is serious about making a return to the post season, it needs to regain that spearhead.
Doing so may not be easy – not many clubs are giving up goal scorers, and the Isles already had one crack at impending UFA Vanek. So where does GM Garth Snow turn?
With Marian Gaborik heading toward free agency, the Islanders might be wise to take a good look at the Slovak sniper.
Enjoying something of a resurgence with LA right now, Gaborik has 347 career goals in 810 NHL games and, despite a checkered history of injuries, with the right support he is a 40 goal scorer in the league. With an top level skill set and good speed, he also provides the kind of ability that would fit in well next to the two Islanders stars.
Tavares is one of the top centres in the world, whilst Okposo had a break out season following a strong post season showing in 2013. Gaborik would not lack support from them, nor would he ‘lag behind’ in terms of pace; as some ‘alternative’ options might.
Whilst Tavares may once have been knocked for his skating, this is no longer the case and filling the gap with someone like Josh Bailey would have a detrimental effect on the lines effectiveness. This is not a snipe at Bailey, who could be a solid 20 goals and 50 point scorer for the club. But he is not in Tavares and Okposo’s class, and as such shoe horning him in would only seek to compromise the clubs top line – not push it forward.
Likewise Brock Nelson, who has had a great season on a stumbling team, could be a fit; but also possess a skill set not necessarily suited to playing with Tavares or Okposo.
Gaborik on the other hand does. The speed, the hands and the need for some decent support (you only need to look at what he did in New York before, or LA now) make it an attractive option for both parties.
Would the Islanders be willing to spend the money however? That’s the question.
Gaborik is coming to the end of a 5 year, $37.5m contract. And with a strong showing in the play-offs for Los Angeles he’ll be hoping to replicate the $7.5m per year he has been earning.
If Snow, and more importantly, Wang have any appetite for moving this franchise forward, especially with the impending move to Brooklyn, where a ‘winner’ would be much easier to sell, they have to make a serious call to Gaborik’s people in July (should he hit free agency of course).
The kicker may be that Wang is after a different kind of selling right now – but again, what is easier to sell? A winner with elite talent? Or a franchise in danger of sliding back to the basement because current ownership has let the cards fall that way?