“We will leave no stone unturned”
This was said by Garth Snow on this year’s conference call with the media.
Well, if he means it, then he will have to review and contemplate the only clear scenario that can add an elite offensive piece to the NY Islanders this summer.
Let us start at the beginning…
We all saw a few troubling things this past season, despite the 100pt season and ability to get past the 1st round of the playoffs. Anders Lee and Ryan Strome, two key pieces that were expected last season to improve on their 2014-15 season, instead, regressed. This, coupled with a bit of downturns from Nick Leddy and especially Johnny Boychuk, threw off their possession play, shots on goal, and scoring chances, last season.
Though the coaching staff and organization will need to solve that issue, especially with Ryan Strome’s post-100 game plunge into the abyss. In fact, the coaching staff needs a reminder that sticking with youth over lesser-skilled vet depth players is a key need for the future… both analytically and financially to remain viable in a cap ceiling world as John Tavares approaches free agency.
The team must blend Entry Level Contracts along with their veteran SKILLED players and core. That means their drafts and targets are also key, because they need a steady flow of prospects to be NHL bound and replace players in the long-haul.
This means the Islanders DO NEED their draft picks to select new blood on an ongoing basis.
Now, that we got this scenario clear, let us now bring us back to this coming Free Agency list… where, as I blogged earlier this week (click here if you missed it!), that there were very few notable clear-cut top line players. Yes, the Isles can certainly find depth, and maybe a few under the radar items, but overall, it is a very tough way for the team to solve their needs.
This means they cannot depend on the UFA shopping period.
Nor do they have good materials to assure a top flight wing via the trade market, thanks to Travis Hamonic rescinding his trade request.
Yes, perhaps some team might be willing to move someone for a Michael Dal Colle (plus more), but let us be honest…. is this something that is easy to do? Hardly, since most teams want help NOW. MDC is still at least a season away from the NHL, and just a prospect.
So, here the Isles are, in a bit of a bind. How do they assure they get a key player that isn’t over-the-hill or overpriced?
They must deal from a position of strength. Neither the UFA route or hoping someone is interested in MDC, Pelech or Mayfield is a position of strength.
Where is the Isles position of strength? It is on defense.
Ryan Pulock has showed glimmers of being top 4 last season, no thanks to the Isles coaching staff, who seemed reticent to use him consistently… and might have delayed his proper development and ability to be top 4 out the gate this next season.
Nick Leddy, though not the possession hound and puck feeder like 2014-15, was still top-notch.
Johnny Boychuk, who has a no movement clause, dropped from top pairing to 2nd pair. His play dropped so much that many fans thought he must have been hurt this past playoffs. He wasn’t. One can only hope he is not in decline, and this is a seasonal aberration that he can bounce back from.
Calvin de Haan had a better year, but seemed to run out of steam come the playoffs, as opposed to the latter season in 2014-15. This is a step-up. Also, I believe his playoff play pairing with the very off Boychuk did not help him look very good.
Thomas Hickey, who came up big in the playoffs, remain on 3rd pair.
One should also see Adam Pelech and even Scott Mayfield filling out the defense next season. Finally some depth with upside instead of fading (Marek Zidilicky) or negligible skill (Brian Strait).
As we have discussed, Travis Hamonic remain on the Islanders. Except for one thing… and let us reflect on Garth Snow’s words once again…
“We will leave no stone unturned’
If this is true, then we must then face facts…
Dealing Travis Hamonic, despite his willingness to remain an Islander, has to be something considered by the NY Islanders.
It is actually the BEST way to furnish a top flight forward that is below peak (aka: not in decline) and allow the Isles to deal in a position of strength this summer.
I know this might be a lot to take in because it certainly is not something that fans will be comfortable with. However, Garth Snow’s job is to make the Islanders a better team, and if dealing Hamonic will do that, they must consider it heavily this summer.
I am of the belief, that though other avenues might reap some options, their BEST option and strongest hand for Garth Snow is still using Travis Hamonic to get what they need. Then the Isles can place Ryan Pulock within the top 4, get a veteran defender (insurance piece) via free agency or low-cost trade (or get someone via the larger trade that is a notch below Travis), and then address their main need on the top line with a true top talent.
It is the ONLY way that I can see them getting a top elite talent that is viable in age and contract amount.
I am curious to your thoughts on this, Isles fans.
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