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Season preview: New York Islanders

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Season preview: New York Islanders

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: New York Islanders

2014-15 record: 47-28-7, 3rd in the Metropolitan

How they finished: Lost in seven games to Washington in the conference quarterfinals

Coach: Jack Capuano (6th season)

Notable additions: G Thomas Greiss

Notable subtractions: C Tyler Kennedy, RW Colin McDonald, G Michal Neuvirth, D Lubomir Visnovsky

RELATED: What can the Caps expect from Oshie, Williams at right wing?

Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Jan. 7 at New York, Thu. Feb. 4 at Washington, Thu. Feb. 18 at New York, Tue. Apr. 5 at Washington

Outlook: Unlike last year in which the Islanders made headlines by acquiring defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk a week before the season, this summer was rather quiet as general manager Garth Snow appears satisfied with the talent he has assembled and will look to see some measure of progress on the ice.

If you think the Caps have had a tough time lately in the playoffs, that's nothing compared to the Islanders. While the Caps have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1998, the Islanders have not advanced past the first round since 1993. Of course, four Stanley Cups help soften that blow, but I digress.

While New York may not have made many changes on the ice, they will be making one major move off of it as this year they trade in the friendly confines of Nassau Coliseum where they played for 43 years for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That transition will be made a lot easier if the Brooklyn fans embrace their new team. If not, the Islanders will not have much of a home ice advantage to speak of the first few years.

The Islanders are of course led by John Tavares, their superstar captain who was among the finalists for the Hart Trophy last season. Tavares is entering his seventh season in the league despite the fact that he turns only 25 in September.

This is a very young team and they may actually be getting younger as Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock will challenge for roster spots in training camp. Dal Colle had 93 points in 56 games in the OHL last season while Pulock managed 17 goals and 12 assists in AHL Bridgeport.

Jaroslav Halak provides some stability for a sometimes shaky defense that will be without veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.

But while there is plenty of reason for optimism for this young roster, there are also some questions as well.

Tavares is one of the NHL's elite players, but it is safe to say the Islanders are behind where they were hoping to be six years after drafting him. Tavares has led the Islanders to the playoffs only twice and never out of the first round. In his first six years, Sidney Crosby helped the Penguins reach the playoffs five times winning the conference twice and the Stanley Cup once. Even Alex Ovechkin, often criticized for his lack of postseason success has reached the second round four times.

That lack of playoff success hasn't gone unnoticed as evidenced by the fact that, despite coming off his best season as coach of the Islanders, there was speculation as to whether Jack Capuano would remain coach. Kyle Okposo's name was also rumored to be on the trading block throughout the summer. The veteran winger is entering the last year of his contract, but he also is the second best player on this team behind only Tavares.

The Islanders find themselves with lots of cap space, but without a GM currently willing to spend it as Snow said, "these young players are going to need new contracts when they get out of their entry-level contracts. Raises are usually in order when the player performs."

Snow sees the problem Tampa is now facing and is keeping plenty of room open to ensure that he can afford to keep his budding stars. While Tampa was playing for a Stanley Cup last June, however, Snow's Islanders were watching from home.

If Snow plans too much for the future, he can't keep wondering why they aren't getting any better in the present.

Expectations: The Islanders are one of the tougher teams to predict. I could see them being one of the best teams in the division and the conference or I could see them fighting for a wild card spot.

The talent is there, no question about it, but the Islanders seem to lack that key piece that can turn them from a good team into a great one. For the Penguins, the acquisition of Bill Guerin served as a lynchpin to their Cup run. Bruce Boudreau finally got over the second round hump when the Ducks added Ryan Kessler.

The Islanders just don't have that x-factor.

With money to spend, New York is going to be at the center of every trade rumor in the NHL this season. Snow wants to keep cap space open for his young players, but if the Islanders struggle they will be in the market for rental players with expiring contracts to help them finally reach the second round.

I just don't see enough progress from the Islanders' core to think they will be able to keep up with teams like Tampa Bay, Montreal, Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh, etc. There is enough talent there to reach the postseason and, given the right matchup, maybe even the second round. Beyond that, I still believe the Islanders are a year and a player or two away from competing for the conference.

MORE CAPS: Team Russia fined for walking off the ice at Worlds

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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