What Kyle Okposo provides a team is a rare commodity.
Sure, you can find other 6-foot, 217-pound wingers. And maybe they’re around 28 years old. And maybe they can get you between 22 and 27 goals in a good season.
But can they provide you with the versatility that Okposo can? Can they be an effective possession winger that can move up and down the lineup, but most importantly can hang on your first line as the quintessential co-star to your superstar player?
John Tavares has scored 127 points at 5-on-5 over the last three seasons. He scored 73 of them playing on a line with Okposo. But Okposo actually played more with Frans Nielsen last season than with Tavares, and excelled in that role too – 52.8 Corsi rating when they played together at even strength.
Meanwhile, Okposo has 67 goals and 117 assists in 201 games over the last three seasons, with 56 points on the power-play.
All of this is why Okposo is going to be, outside of Steven Stamkos, the most heavily courted player in free agency this summer.
“I knew pretty early there weren’t going to be any talks so I did my best not to think about it,” Okposo said during locker clean out day. “I’m looking forward to making some decisions. There’s definitely a little bit of uncertainty, but it comes with the territory.”
All of this might also lead you to wonder why the heck the Islanders would part ways with Okposo, and Brian Erni of SNY has these thoughts:
Okposo's situation boils down to simply numbers. From all accounts, Okposo seems to have a high figure (some have said as high as an $8 million AAV) in mind for his next deal, and the Islanders just can't seem to justify that number. Kyle's a very talented player, and I know he's one of John Tavares' favorites. I just think it comes down to whether Garth thinks he needs a serious upgrade to make a big run at the Cup.
(Weird how one teams sees splitting with Okposo as a means to a serious upgrade and other teams see Okposo as the serious upgrade…)
So where is he headed? A brief list of Kyle Okposo suitors, as reported in several places:
Arizona Coyotes – We’ve heard, anecdotally, that the Coyotes like Okposo in a big way, and obviously he helps out their young forwards in a variety of ways. Also, we hear they have a dollar or two of cap space.
Buffalo Sabres – Okposo’s status here is probably linked to that of Steven Stamkos, but he’s an interesting option. A veteran right wing to flank Jack Eichel as he blossoms like Tavares did while playing with Okposo? Hmmm….
Detroit Red Wings – Like other teams, this is a Stamkos-influenced pursuit as well. Again, he’d be an asset for the collection of young forwards that the Wings are amassing. Winging It In Motown has more.
Los Angeles Kings – Did they let Milan Lucic walk to use that salary space for Okposo, arguably a better fit for what they do under Darryl Sutter?
Minnesota Wild – Okposo is a Saint Paul native who would like to follow in the footsteps of Zach Parise and go home again. They have $14 million in cap space with 36 players under contract. They also need a center like Minnesotans need a winter coat, but whatever, it's not like they haven't signed big free-agent wingers despite that need. (They just bought out one, in fact.)
St. Louis Blues – Obviously they need to see how Troy Brouwer, David Backes and especially the Kevin Shattenkirk situations play out. But Arthur Staple puts them in the mix.
Winnipeg Jets – The Jets have reached out to Okposo already, and don’t discount the fact that he’s boys with Blake Wheeler, his University of Minnesota Golden Gophers teammate. Also the Jets landing a big free agent fish would be advantageous on several fronts.
There are probably several other teams that are keeping it on the downlow – watch out for those Florida Panthers, but the Nashville Predators reportedly aren’t fishing for big free agents – but this is the initial field.
Where does Okposo end up?
Probably depends on Stamkos.
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