Islanders say goodbye to Okposo, sign Ladd and Chimera on hectic Canada Day


Kyle Okposo beats Phillip Grubauer for a goal in the second period with Brooks Orpik down. AP Photo by Alex Brandon/Getty Images

Kyle Okposo left the Islanders for the Sabres. Frans Nielsen also left for Detroit. Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera are the newest Islanders.

The July 1 free agent frenzy has begun. For the Islanders, it’ll be a different look this Fall. After bidding adieu to Kyle Okposo, they reached agreement on a seven-year deal worth a reported $38.5 million with unrestricted free agent Andrew Ladd.

An experienced player who won Stanley Cups with the Hurricanes and Blackhawks, the 30-year old Ladd is the kind of player who can help captain John Tavares lead the Islanders. A former captain of the Winnipeg Jets who was sent to the Blackhawks as a rental, the 6-3, 200 pound forward is a good skater who isn’t afraid to go to the net.

A skilled player who has scored 20-or-more goals in five of the last six seasons, he should help offset the loss of Okposo, who signed with the Sabres for seven years, $42 million. So, he’ll make $6 million on average compared to Ladd’s $5.5 million. Both players are signed for the same length. It should be interesting to see who fares better. Okposo will have the benefit of likely playing with Jack Eichel while Ladd could team with Tavares.

Okposo wasn’t the only player the Isles said goodbye to. They also parted ways with popular second line pivot Frans Nielsen. A solid contributor who played every situation, he landed in Detroit for six years with an average cap hit of $5.25 million. For some reason, the Islanders weren’t willing to give him that. So, the Red Wings finally get a center who can aid them in trying to keep their consecutive playoff streak alive.

As expected, Matt Martin won’t return either. The rugged winger who combined with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas to form a deadly fourth line will test the market.

Just coming across Twitter… the Islanders have agreed to sign former Cap forward Jason Chimera. He’s the kind of veteran that should help them. He is 37 but has great speed and is a superb penalty killer who can play third or fourth line. I really like that move. The details are two years for $4.5 million. Not bad. A guy I wouldn’t have minded the Rangers going after.

Based on these two moves, it looks like the Islanders are going with more experience and leadership. Both Ladd and Chimera are character players who should fit the team concept. They don’t have much room left on the cap. It takes them to about $8 million remaining. Ryan Strome is a restricted free agent as is Jean-Francois Berube and Shane Prince.

As for the other big fish who landed elsewhere, David Backes left St. Louis to sign with the Bruins getting a five-year deal worth $30 million. So, the Blues take a hit at center and also in the leadership department. They will have a new captain. The former one left an emotional heartfelt message to the only organization he knew:

As expected, the Oilers signed Milan Lucic. For some reason, they gave him seven years, $42 million. While the cap hit of $6 million per season isn’t bad, seven years is awfully risky for the bruising style the big power forward plays. He’ll certainly make room for Connor McDavid. I guess Edmonton preferred more toughness which is why they parted with the supremely skilled Taylor Hall, who went for Adam Larsson to help revamp their blue line.

There have been other moves which aren’t as earth shattering. Eric Staal agreed to a three-year contract with the Wild worth an average of $3.5 million per season. Jamie McGinn signed with the Coyotes for three years, $10 million. A nice payment for a secondary scorer.

The Devils made a pair of moves inking former Pens’ defenseman Ben Lovejoy for three years at an average of $2.66 million. Also agreeing was Vernon Fiddler for a year, $1.25 million. So, they made some solid depth moves. Former Devil David Schlemko left for San Jose getting a four-year contract worth $2.1 a season. Essentially, Lovejoy replaces him on the back end.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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