Kyle Okposo leaving Gophers for Isles

New York Islander Fan Central | 12/19/2007 02:32:00 PM | | | | Jeff Dubay on a Minnesota sports radio program had reported through their sources Islander first round pick Kyle Okposo will play for team USA at the World Junior Championship but will leave the University of Minnesota and sign a contract with the New York Islanders when he returns from the tournament.

This was talked about at length on this program with comments that Okposo told his teammates he was not coming back. Opinion page makes it clear this is an unconfirmed rumor but the same person who wrote this said reliable sources are reporting Okposo is done with Minnesota and will sign and report to the Islanders. It was not made clear if that means Bridgeport or New York and the person breaking the information did not know.

NYI Fan Central Comments:
Islanders still have to negotiate a contract in season here folks, it's not going to be an inexpensive one and will be a hit to the cap if he plays in the NHL.

Not much of a shock given Okposo's comments recently about how much of a struggle he has had his second year playing out of position on a club with injuries but this does upset the balance of college hockey for him to leave school in season and will bring a backlash. I even read he wondered if he should have went back to school so it looks like we have our answer.

As for Islander precedent's some may recall Sean Bergenheim was signed out of the WJC a few years ago but returned home after the tournament to see limited ice time.

First Chris Simon now this on the same day plus a game? Too much all at once.

Minnesota's coach Don Lucia has his weekly radio show on Wednesday night at 7pm
here for those curious because no doubt we will get confirmation or a quick denial.

Check back for more updates

Updated 3:30pm Kevin Allen confirmed Okposo story around same time the radio station did.

Updated 4:22pm
Newsday: Greg Logan's blog reports Kyle Okposo is in the process of negotiating a contract with the Isles according to sources at the NHL and collegiate level. The Golden Gophers have called a news conference for 5 p.m. ET to announce Okposo’s decision.

The Islanders offered no comment about the situation and have not scheduled any formal announcement of a signing. After he returns from the WJC, Okposo will join the Islanders organization and could be assigned to either the Isles or their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Brian Stensaas reports a university athletics department spokesman confirmed Okposo leaving the Gophers this afternoon with Coach Don Lucia expected to release a statement around 4 p.m. today.

Updated 5:20pm
Gophers Gophers coach Don Lucia in his press conference blames the Islanders for putting Okposo in a very difficult position.

“While I’m disappointed Kyle is leaving at this point of the season, his dream has been to play pro hockey,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position. I think our team has made strides the last few weeks and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season

Updated 6pm:
Islanders website: Has learned that Islanders general manager Garth Snow and Okposo’s representative Neil Sheehy are currently in negotiations on an entry-level deal.

“We’re extremely excited about the possibility of Kyle joining our organization soon,” said Snow. “He’s a great talent, one of the most exciting prospects in the game. Kyle has the dedication and character we want for our franchise.”

NYI Fan Central Comments:
I'm not sure how the Islanders put him in a very difficult position here? They were supportive of him going back to school last summer and all the comments of Okposo struggling have been from the player, not the Islanders.

Bottom line it is Kyle Okposo's decision as to whether he stays in school or signs a pro contract at this time or plays somewhere else. The Islanders can not force him to do anything.