Isles Aggressive During Free Agency Courting Session, Call Several Potential Targets

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Brad Richards playing on Long Island?

It’s possible.

Following last season’s disappointment, the Islanders vowed to be aggressive this offseason. It showed early on as they traded for the rights to goaltender Jaroslav Halak back in early May and had him signed a few weeks later. They then rolled the dice on pending free agent defenseman Dan Boyle, acquiring his rights from San Jose earlier this month, but were unable to get him signed.

The moves showed that the Islanders are pretty much done with their rebuilding effort and that general manager Garth Snow is on some kind of mission to improve the team substantially heading into the franchise’s final season at Nassau Coliseum.

Wednesday marked the beginning of an NHL-wide free agency courting session of sorts. Until July 1, teams are allowed to contact potential unrestricted free agents. They are not allowed to make offers, but can inquire about what players are looking for in terms of salary and term of contract.

The Islanders were reportedly one of the most aggressive teams during the first day of the period, contacting several players, including former Rangers center Brad Richards and offensive-minded Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, among others.

The Rangers bought out the final six years of Richards’ $90 million contract last week, eliminating his $6.67 million cap hit. The 34-year-old center will be owed $12.6 million over the next 12 years, but will also receive an additional $8 million over the next three seasons as signing bonuses, Sportsnet reported.

It’s no secret that the Islanders are in need of another winger to play on the top line alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, and though Richards doesn’t fit that description he could very well be a fine backup plan should the Isles fail to trade for help or sign a top free agent like Mike Cammalleri or Jussi Jokinen.

Richards had 20 goals and 51 points for the Rangers during the regular season. He added five goals and 12 points in the playoffs as the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

The Islanders, who have a plethora of young centers, would likely want to sign Richards to a short-term deal and use him as a second- or third-line center, as well as a mentor of sorts to players like Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey.

As for Niskanen, the Islanders will figure to be one of several teams vying for his services once the signing period begins on July 1. The 27-year-old defenseman had 46 points and was a plus-33 last season and is largely believed to be the best player available at his position on the open market.

The Islanders would like to get another proven defenseman into the fold so that they ease the transition of blue chip prospects Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock to the NHL. It’s believed Reinhart will be given every opportunity to make the big club out of training camp in September, while Pulock is expected to play a full season at AHL Bridgeport.

New York would also like to sign another goaltender to complement Halak, who is among the best goalies in the NHL but has never played more than 57 games in a season.

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