THE MORNING SKATE — Lots of Contract Talk for Vets, College Kids

Kevin Schultz

The Islanders have a lot of decisions to make in the next couple weeks, as the trade deadline looms on April 3rd at 3pm. The team has a number of veteran free agents who could either be moved or re-signed, among them are Evgeni Nabokov, Brad Boyes, Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky, Marty Reasoner and Tim Thomas.

In today’s Newsday, Arthur Staple notes that talks are either underway or will be soon for Nabokov, Streit and Visnovsky. Visnovsky, obviously the longest shot of the three to re-sign, is at least open to listening. Whether that is just polite courtesy or actual interest, remains to be seen.

Brad Boyes, Staple mentions, is likely to be seriously talked to as well regarding a new deal. Boyes has been clicking extremely well with the first line and is third on the team in points.

Absent from mention are some other names; Marty Reasoner, Keith Aucoin, Radek Martinek and Eric Boulton. You would have to think it will be the end of the line for all four unless something drastically changes before the end of the season. Depending on how the Islanders view their defense next year, Martinek could be a possibility to return for depth as a seventh or eighth, but that’s not a pressing signing.

RFA DEFENDERS
Speaking of defenders needing to be re-signed, the Islanders have two pending RFAs on the back line in Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey. For Hamonic, there will be an obvious raise coming and hopefully the team can sign him to one of the longer contracts that the rest of the “core” of youth has gotten.

For Hickey, he’s been a solid waiver pickup. As pointed out on Twitter, Hickey has the highest relative corsi of any player on at the team (16.7), which means that more shots are going towards the opposition net than towards Evgeni Nabokov when Hickey is on the ice. Think of corsi as a more detailed variant of plus minus. The one catch here is that Hickey’s quality of competition is low compared to the rest of the team — meaning he plays against “easier” competition more often — but he’s thoroughly shutting down that easier competition. Hickey’s an RFA this summer, so we’ll have to see how the Islanders proceed with him.

KICHTON GONE?
One other note Staple left was that defending prospect Brenden Kichton, who leads WHL defenders in scoring in his fifth season with Spokane, is likely to be re-entering the draft. If the Islanders don’t sign Kichton, he can re-enter this summer’s draft and hope to improve on the fifth round spot he went in last time (earlier round, more $). This would be the third time Kichton has been in the draft, having been undrafted in 2010 and re-entered in 2011 where the Islanders selected him. There’s still time to sign him, so we’ll have to wait a bit to see if Kichton is playing hardball or serious about another go-around.

In other college news, Staple notes that the Islanders are expected to sign Anders Lee (Notre Dame) and Scott Mayfield (Denver U.) when their college seasons are over.

BROOKS ON REALIGNMENT
Larry Brooks went after realignment today and while I can’t agree with some of the old fogey-ish complaints about wooden sticks and goalie equipment, here’s one that I certainly can agree on:

The Rangers never have played the Devils fewer than five times in a season since the club relocated to New Jersey in 1982, playing six or more 20 times. The same applies to Rangers-Islanders, Rangers-Flyers and all permutations beginning a season earlier.

Now, though, there will be seasons in which these teams play just four times, in which these teams come to the Garden (and to Long Island, New Jersey and Philadelphia) just twice.

Only four rivalry games between the Islanders and Rangers in some years? Yeesh.

PLAYOFF NUMBERS
Last season’s eighth seed, Ottawa, finished on a 48-game pace of 54 points. Right now, the eighth place Hurricanes are on pace for 55 points.

For the Islanders to hit 54 points, they’ll need to earn 25 points in their final 20 games. To do that, they’ll need something like a 10-5-5 record, or maybe 11-6-3. The two wins in Florida helped, but they’ll still need to keep up a good pace.