May 25, 2011

Okposo Re-Signed for Five Years; Thoughts on Tuesday's Hearing

The Islanders entered this offseason with a number of items on their to-do list seeing as it was the first year that some of the major players in the rebuild were due for contract extensions.

Two weeks ago and a little more than a day after having the press conference to announce the plan for the referendum, the Islanders made a statement by re-signing Michael Grabner to a five-year deal.

Today, a day after the Nassau County Legislature officially "kicked off" their seven day review process prior to voting 'yea' or 'nay' for a special election, the Islanders made news once again as they agreed to a five-year, $14 million extension with Kyle Okposo.

Okposo's deal will be structured in a very similar fashion to Grabner's - an incremental increase until the final year where Okposo could be earning $4.5 million. With the way the salary cap works in the NHL though, the cap hit will be $2.8 million for all five years. That's not terrible by any stretch.

The amount of years is a bit surprising, to me at least. When you have a player who is still for the most part unproven, you're always going to have the concerns in the back of your mind. What this move was based on however is potential, and we know what we potentially have in Okposo. He already does have a 50 point season under his belt too.

The RFA most likely to be signed next is Blake Comeau. For him, I would only go two, maybe three years. He had a nice season and should get a decent chunk of change for it, but I'd like to see more of a consistent effort before I commit for a longer term there.

Josh Bailey is another RFA who needs to be signed, and I would think the Isles may take their time there. I don't think that they should be looking to deal him for whatever they could get, but if a deal comes up and you need to deal a young player to bring talent in, then he would be the most expendable in my eyes.

The deals the Islanders are signing now, length aside, are not bad deals and won't be coming around to bite them. They know how useful both Okposo and Grabner can be, and for $2.8 and $3 million respectively, don't break the bank. It also allows the Islanders to re-sign John Tavares next summer to a deal.

The one concern I do have is how much these deals take away from needing to get within the salary cap parameters. The Islanders have some solid players in the organization, but need to make a little bit of noise in the off-season to generate even more excitement and give this team a real shot. I don't want to see them blowing all of their available money in just re-signing their own players. I don't think this will be an issue with (relatively) small raises coming so far in relation to the expected jump in the cap floor and ceiling for next season.

CLOSE TO PASSING THE FIRST HURDLE? One of the first milestones arrived on Tuesday as the Nassau County Legislative Board had that meeting I alluded to earlier to "kick-off" their week long discussions prior to deciding if an August 1st vote is in the cards for the referendum put forth by Charles Wang and Ed Mangano.

The day started off with a rally outside of the County's Mineola offices at 8:30 AM, with many union folks in attendance holding signs and chanting. It's been estimated as many as 300-400 workers showed up for the event. Following the rally, folks assembled in the Mineola offices and did what we've come to do best: wait.

The waiting would go on for quite a while, as the Republicans and Democrats started their hearing by spending the first 15 minutes arguing about which items on the agenda they would argue about first. The Democrats got their wish, and they spoke for the first four hours about redistricting, another big issue and fine mess Nassau County has unsurprisingly been able to get themselves into.

When the time finally came, some folks tried to haggle over the date of the vote with opinions stating a vote on election day or even on the primary election day in September as being better options. Both of these were seemingly killed though, and we have a good shot at August 1st being the date - barring a NIFA smack down of the idea.

As the meeting went on, there seemed to be a good deal of support from the legislatures. There only needs to be a slight majority in order to proceed, and it appears that will happen when the vote happens at the end of the month.

It will be at that point where things will begin to get interesting as it'll suddenly become a two month sell job. Citizens need to understand what's at stake, what they are paying for in the interim and what dividends it'll pay in the long run.

One of the more interesting notes to come out of the proceedings was that as part of the contract that is being negotiated, any overages of the Nassau Coliseum contsruction would be paid by Wang himself. That is rather noteworthy, and something that cannot be overlooked in this whole thing.

Mangano says that the details of the plan will be available in June. The Legislators want to see something by July 1. I don't foresee any issues with that request. Mangano, Wang and all others involved however, MUST make everything clear as crystal. Don't say that the plan will be "transparent" and lie like many politicians do. You can't play games anymore - this is it. Answer all questions the first time around, and if you don't have the answer to one get it ASAP.

In the meantime, as fans we can keep doing what we have been doing. Advocate for a "Yes" vote, speak to friends and relatives in Nassau. Tell folks what this means to you, especially if you are a younger person living on Long Island. Remember: this is, and always will be more than just a new arena for a hockey team. This is a transformation of an entire area to make it more attractive to tourists and those looking for places to live.

DOUG WEIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE THURSDAY: Doug Weight and the Islanders have scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 11 AM, where it is expected that Weight will announce his retirement and new position in the organization.

I've missed many of the events so far this summer, but will be making the trip to the Marriott for the conference. Be sure you're following our Twitter account and I will try to update early and often.

Many folks seem split in thinking if Weight will be getting a front office position or a coaching job. I think for now he prefers to stay in the front office, but being one of the coaches is certainly a possibility. We'll see what it is he prefers tomorrow obviously. I think everyone can pretty much agree though that this isn't to announce he plans on continuing to play.


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