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A Team in Flux

by Anthony Pucik
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MTAPhotos: flickr

Even with young talent, Barroway's recent suit against Isles' Wang shows they still have plenty of issues.

Earlier this summer, I discussed how the New York Islanders young talent indicated a bright future for the franchise. However, recent reports show the team’s future could be just as murky as ever.

Owner Charles Wang has been looking to sell the Islanders for months now, and he might have finally found a buyer in hedge-fund manager Andrew Barroway. Barroway and his company, NY ICE, supposedly had a handshake agreement with Wang to buy the team from Wang for $420 million.

That is, until Wang saw Donald Sterling’s NBA Los Angeles Clippers’ franchise sell for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.  When that deal went down, nearly every franchise owner in sports felt that their team’s worth rose, including Wang. After hearing of the Clippers’  sale, Wang supposedly backed out of his agreement with Barroway and then asked for $548 million for his Islanders’  team.

Ballmer is now reportedly suing Wang for $10 million because he backed out of the deal to sell the team for the agreed upon price of $420 million. Whether Barroway is right to sue or Wang is right to bring up the selling price of his franchise amidst the Clippers’ sale is not the point here, it is the turmoil that is currently amidst this Islander team.

The Islanders had been near the bottom of the Eastern Conference from much of this century until they made the playoffs in the lockout shortened season two years ago and played a hard fought series against the Pittsburgh Penguins that they eventually lost. With multiple injuries this past season, the biggest one being to captain John Tavares, the team took a step back and missed the playoffs, but with all the young talent they had showing promise with plenty more young players in the wings down in the AHL, the future talent-wise on the team is very bright.

This now reported lawsuit, however, once again gives the Islanders something they really don’t need at the moment. With a young talented core going into their last season in Long Island before moving to the Brooklyn, the Islanders need to give not only their fans, but players around the league a reason to believe they can turn the corner and have a fresh start in their new home. The Isles have the potential to put the last horrible two decades of hockey behind them and start anew. The last thing they need heading into their final season in their old building is a court case with potential countersuits hanging over their head that could drag on into the season.

There is a great deal of potential in this Islander team. With exciting, young scoring talent and a move to a move to a place that welcomed the Brooklyn Nets with open arms in the Barclays Center this could be a brand new start for a team that could really use one. However, the team finds itself in flux with an owner in Wang who is looking to sell and now finds himself being sued by a potential buyer.

Free agents will not be willing to come to the Isles if the team isn’t able to show that ownership isn’t in complete turmoil, even if a move to New York and Brooklyn seems enticing. Players want stability, and at the moment there is little to no stability in the Islanders due to their move to Brooklyn in a year and Wang wanting to sell the team, which is why it might’ve been difficult for general manager Garth Snow to acquire some players this offseason, and this current lawsuit will only make matters worse.  

It would be in the Islanders best interest to crush this issue sooner rather than later, not just for the sake of their last season in Nassau, but for the seasons to come.