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Apr 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Carolina won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Rumors: Matt Niskanen being aggressively pursued by Islanders

With the 2014 NHL Draft only days away, the NHL Rumors are starting to fly and a lot of them will surround the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now that the Penguins finally have a coach in place in Mike Johnston, general manager Jim Rutherford must quickly turn his attention to both the 2014 NHL Draft and the beginning of free agency.

Early on it looks like Rutherford will have a ton of competition in order to re-sign defenseman Matt Niskanen, although it seems a forgone conclusion that Niskanen will be suiting up elsewhere next season.

Right off the bat, New York Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow appears to be taking a very aggressive approach to trying to lure Niskanen and other unrestricted free agents.

Both ESPN’s Katie Strang and Newsday’s Arthur Staple have reported that the Islanders reached out to Niskanen right at 12:01 am today, the earliest they were allowed to make contact.

Niskanen is arguably the top unrestricted free agent defenseman available on the open market and is coming off a career-best 46 points last season. Given he’s only 27 years old and a right-handed shot, it’s expected there will be a large line of suitors looking to secure his services.

That being said Niskanen will get a lot more than the $2.3 million he made last season, likely pricing the Pens out of the running.

It looks like the Islanders are hot after Brad Richards, who became an unrestricted free agent just a few days ago following his buyout from the New York Rangers.

While the Isles may be the first team linked to Niskanen, they certainly won’t be the last as it is likely only a matter of days until Niskanen is an ex-Penguin.

Tags: Matt Niskanen Nhl Rumors Pittsburgh Penguins

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