Could the NY Islanders be forced to reassess their UFA situation?
The NY Islanders had the best trade chip this summer. If you don’t think this, then you don’t understand the value of a top 3 or top 4 defensemen in this league. They are a PREMIUM. Add that Hamonic was playing top pairing minutes this year and his amazing contract, and you had a hot chip that was smoking…
And I believe he would have gotten a key forward for the top line.
Except that Travis Hamonic chose to remain an Islander. He rescinded his trade request when his situation changed. Now he remains, leaving the NY Islanders defense extremely deep with him, Leddy, Boychuk, de Haan, Hickey PLUS Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and even Scott Mayfield rounded it out as a deep 8 with now depth with kids and upside.
So defense is solved. Something that is been a longtime coming. The Islanders could even entertain moving someone like Pelech OR Mayfield if they want to re-allocate assets OR pry some unappreciated gem from another team.
And here is the rub. They have NO way to pry a top forward from another team. Sure, the Islanders MIGHT be able to entice a team who is in cap hell to deal a vet for a Michael Dal Colle (Plus other pieces).
BUT use him to get a top 3 forward???
A very tough do.
Fact is, premium targets require premium pieces.
With Hamonic to remain an Islander, it takes that powerful chip away from Garth Snow. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a problem when you have forward needs, despite that it is great that Hamonic is indeed staying.
So what then?
History suggests that the Islanders would be in a pickle if they had to depend on this. Though they have been able to get a few over the years, results have been… well… mixed.
There are 2 big obstacles:
1. Someone else is always willing to overpay (especially aging players who are in fact, declining).
2. Even if willing to overpay, fact is… players choose their destinations based on big factors that are not in the Isles favor: Taxes, climate (which is why Florida gets so many, if you ever wondered), perceptions of livability, comfort, family, etc.
This leaves a BIG question mark this summer on what the Islanders will do when last season and playoffs saw regression from several key players who were expected to build on the 2014-15 campaign, and instead, went backwards.
Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk and even Josh Bailey all slid backward this season compared to the season before. This lead to a very up and down season, despite playoffs and round 1 success.
One possible solution is the Isles and Garth might have to re-assess their UFA situation. Kyle Okposo leaving leaves a gap on offense that trades now cannot necessarily fill.
Free agency might have some jewels, but lets just suck down some reality on Brooklyn being top of their list.
Might the Isles need to be more flexible to their current UFA demands? Could they look to now retain Okposo and Frans, in order to at least hold serve while then seeking to add to it with someone IF possible via trade or UFA so they can at LEAST tread water?
Could the fact these players WANT to stay work in the Isles favor if they are willing to bit more flexible due to UFA and trade-front realities?
These questions and more have to be running through the Isles brass minds right now. There is no easy answer.
No, I don’t think this will be an easy summer for Garth and company AT ALL. Some fans and writers invariably will fall into that great big hole with snappy headlines like: “Snow Not Creative Enough”, but fact is…. Isles are not in prime position on the trade market anymore.
Let’s look quickly at some names being bandied around the rumor-mill who COULD be available:
- Jeff Skinner, Carolina
- Matt Duchene, Colorado
- Jordan Eberle, Edmonton (who they want to deal due to overpaid contract) BUT all teams will want to prefer, Taylor Hall
- Mike Hoffman, Ottawa
- James van Riemsdyk, Toronto
Well, with the changes over in Ottawa, Hoffman should likely be off the market. Same goes for Skinner, who seems to be the piece Carolina is keeping to build around.
Getting narrower, isn’t it?
Fact is, these teams will require premium assets to part with these players. So the message board or twitter cowboys wanting to deal Josh Bailey, Josh Ho Sang, and Thomas Hickey are going to be disappointed with the reality here.
So, ask yourself what these teams will ask for: Maybe both Matthew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, I’d think to start conversations, right? Reality sure bites. That is the effect Hamonic going off the market creates. The Islanders are just not big players on the trade market anymore.
Starting to get the picture?
Not to mention, an expansion draft is likely to be coming up, to add another curve ball into the fray.
The Isles have a bit of a problem in how to solve their offense items… which is why they might have to revisit their financial stance on their UFA’s.
It also makes their decision not to change coaching now a HOT SEAT to figure out key player regressions in their kids because this solution is a now a MUST. Good luck, Cappy!
The headline should really be: “Good News/Bad News: Garth Snow Has Defense Solved, But Offense Could Remain A Problem”.
Summer cocktail, anyone? Bottoms up!
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