The New York Islanders’ 2016-2017 season will be either completed or broken based on the events that happen on or before 3:00 pm ET, March 1st. Trading has been down in recent years and in this year particularly. There have been 11 trades this season and there has not been one blockbuster deal. Just like every year, there have been rumors about big names that could be moved, but the reality is, the players that are traded at the deadline are normally rental players on the final year of their contracts. The Islanders only have five more games to play until the trade deadline and those games will likely decide the status of the Islanders — buyers or sellers? Will they look to improve their roster for a push to the playoffs, or will they sell and look to gain draft picks? They have a few players they can trade away for some value, but they also have the right pieces to acquire some help, possibly in the form of a big name player. Pressure will be on general manager Garth Snow, who has had a few questionable offseason moves and there’s no better time for redemption than when the season is on the line and you pull off a season saving trade. Whether that would be acquiring someone like Matt Duchene or getting a decent player like Martin Hanzal, now is the time for the Islanders to be aggressive.
Who to Sell:
If the Islanders decide that the playoffs are a long shot and there is no chance at saving their season — which hopefully will not be the case — the team has a few players they can sell and get some value back on. That starts off with Dennis Seidenberg, who at age 35 could be the Islanders’ most value trade piece. Seidenberg could be perfect for a hopeful playoff contender who lacks a bottom pairing defenseman. Putting up his best offensive numbers in years (49GP, 4G, 13A), Seidenberg, who will be an UFA at the end of the season, can bring back a third round pick, or perhaps even a second round pick. A big advantage is that despite being a left-handed shot, Seidenberg can play on both the left and right side. Seidenberg is physical, a shot-blocker, and an all-around solid defenseman. Also, would the Islanders trade Josh Bailey who is currently on pace for career-highs? He could bring a second round pick, or maybe even more. Bailey has one more season on his contract after this year with an AAV of $3,300,000. Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are also candidates to be traded to help mitigate the losses from the Expansion Draft this offseason.
What do the Islanders Need?:
There will be some intriguing names thrown around, but what do the Islanders need the most? For what seems like forever, Islanders fans have been asking for a winger to play with John Tavares and they may still need one. However, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey have been great with Tavares this season, and this may not be the most worthwhile upgrade. Andrew Ladd still also has the potential to be just that as does Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, and a few others, but an upgrade would help. On defense the Islanders have been pretty solid this season for the most part. Calvin de Haan is having a great season, as is Thomas Hickey. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk are back together on the top pairing during Travis Hamonic’s absence and they’ve been solid too. Adam Pelech has been playing well and Dennis Seidenberg is doing more than expected. Given that the Islanders also have Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews in Bridgeport and Scott Mayfield as their seventh defensman, they seem set in that position. Goaltending has been average lately for a team that relies on it a lot. Hopefully it’s just a slump but if they needed to make any move in that position, it would probably be calling Jaroslav Halak up from Bridgeport who has an 11-1-1 record, a 2.03 GAA, a .929 save percentage, and two shutouts since his demotion. So, taking this into consideration, the position the Islanders need the most help in would be the forward position.
Who To Go For?:
The biggest name the Islanders could and should go after is Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene (signed through the 2018-2019 season) who is reportedly on the trade block. NHL.com lists him as the number one target at the trade deadline and although the reported return price is expensive, the Islanders have the pieces to pull it off. It seems like a top prospect, NHL ready/effective player, and a first round pick is what the Avalanche are seeking in return. So would a trade of Ryan Pulock, Ryan Strome (or maybe Josh Bailey or Brock Nelson instead), and a first round pick get it done? This draft is supposedly going to be weaker than the past few years and with lots of prospects in all positions, the Isles should be fine on skipping a first round draft choice this June. Smaller and cheaper options are also available, but the Islanders have been hesitant in the past when it comes to rentals. Martin Hanzal (47 GP, 14G, 9A) of the Arizona Coyotes is a potential fit for the Islanders. He will be an UFA at the end of the season and the center could help the Islanders’ playoff push. Current Detroit Red Wing Thomas Vanek has been an Islander before and this one is a long shot but he played well in a limited time with Tavares and perhaps he could do it again. However, Vanek has voiced his displeasure with Brooklyn in the past, and it does not seem like he would be happy playing for the Isles. He’s said it was a factor in why he didn’t re-sign with the Islanders and says it makes going to the team undesirable. A rental is a rental for a reason though and although not likely to happen, could it be worth trading for Vanek and having him around for the final handful of games? All in all, one of these players may be worth trading a second or third round pick for.
What to Expect:
Speculating on big names the Islanders could trade for or could trade away is fun but what should Isles fans actually expect come the 3:00 deadline on March 1st? We can start off by looking at the past two seasons, both where the Islanders seemed playoff bound at the time (and were). Two seasons ago, Snow upgraded in goal by swapping Chad Johnson (and a third round pick) for Michal Neuvirth and traded a 7th round pick to the San Jose Sharks for a depth forward in Tyler Kennedy. In addition, Snow made two minor league trades to benefit the Sound Tigers but the two trades made to help the Islanders didn’t really help as Neuvirth went 1-3-1 in his five games and Kennedy did alright with two goals and three assists through 13 games. Last season, Snow made one minor league trade and one NHL trade, trading a third round to Ottawa for pending RFA Shane Prince. Prince would have three goals and two assists in 20 regular-season games and then add three goals and one assist in 11 playoff games. Last summer, Prince signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $850,000. People speculated that with the new ownership, Snow would be pressured to have a good offseason. While losing Okposo, Nielsen, and Martin in free agency, he signed Ladd, Chimera, and Parenteau (eventually waiting Parenteau before the start of the regular-season). This wasn’t exactly the big offseason Isles fans had hoped for, especially not being able to keep any of the three core players that left, so there may be even more pressure to make up for that at the trade deadline.
Other than Duchene, there aren’t many big names out there that could turn the Islanders’ season around. That’s why Garth Snow needs to be aggressive. He needs to explore an inquire about players that aren’t on the rumor mill and/or he’s got to go for the best available option, Matt Duchene. The Islanders seasons depends on it.