Let’s first talk about the OTHER NY Islanders need. It is a need I have been writing about for TWO seasons.
Isles still need a top pairing defenseman who is an elite-level puck mover and power play threat.
Of course, we hope that Ryan Pulock fulfills that role.
Problem is… it takes years to develop to the level the Isles need. With John Tavares re-signing in the wings, the pressure is to win-now. That means utilizing trades to find players to fill the gaps because development time is now a luxury they do not have.
According to some, Garth Snow has this coming season to show what this team is capable of under his GMship. AKA: Playoffs – go deep or else.
This means both Matthew Barzal AND Ryan Pulock could be in play IF they each can find a key player(s) who is at the level they need NOW.
Let’s look at the Colorado Avalanche for example:
Barzal seems most likely for any Matt Duchene deal. The costs inherent to a player like Duchene, despite the lower output last season, will still be steep. As I cited at the trade deadline, the going rate was top prospect, 1st round pick, plus an NHL player.
BUT… The Avs also have puck moving Tyson Barrie, someone I have cited in previous seasons that the Isles covet. TSN Guru Darren Dreger brought this item up today on Montreal’s TSN 690, which Chris Nichols (Twitter: @NicholsOnHockey was kind enough to write about. Dreger cited that the Avs might still need to move Barrie. IF this is true, then I say the Isles should be looking hard at him as well.
Someone like Tyson Barrie would be a true top pair defensemen, instead of watching Travis Hamonic struggle with top pair minutes and use with Nick Leddy.
The problem is between both Duchene and Barrie, you are talking about major salary coming back to them. So this means salary needs to go to the Avs, as well.
And there lies the complexity of deals under this static cap and CBA agreement. The Isles don’t have much room, and if you followed a previous blog… placing Mikhail Grabovski onto LTIR is not an automatic. This means they will either need to hand of salary to the Avs or use another deal (and cost of at LEAST a prospect) to dump salary elsewhere.
The NY Islanders have languished in the possession game for well over 2 seasons. The key cog is NOT just a center like Duchene, plus better face-offs. It also really needs a top-end puck moving defenseman to dish the damn puck.
In the meantime, they are log jammed with middle-tier players. Travis Hamonic is a very solid, but lately injury-riddled, 2nd pairing defenseman. Calvin de Haan, like Hamonic, is also a middle pair. He is an RFA this offseason. Thomas Hickey floats from middle to third pair use but really is just a solid third pair guy.
Then you have Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, and players like Devon Toews and more in the system.
The fact is… now is a key time to use that crowd to strengthen a position and jump over a development gap IF JT’s resigning pivots on it.
Rumbles say it does.
So if the mantra is win-now… and the pressure from the new owners is to win-now…. then this path is clear.
In previous seasons, the Isles seemed to be keen on Kevin Shattenkirk. But as a free agent, and high cost, that might be an impossible mission.
PLUS after overpaying on Andrew Ladd, haven’t we learned that wishing on UFA’s can be a fools errand. Free agent frenzy tends to be a catastrophic enterprise for many teams under the cap
So, expect the Islanders to have a list of key players in top 6 forwards AND JUST PERHAPS…. a top 4 defensemen this offseason.
Don’t discount this team shopping for a key puck mover besides just goals scoring this offseason. Might not be just pivoting on the Avs. Look at any team that needs to move salary and has an elite or top pair potential puck mover to help the Isles jump ahead. If the pressure is to win, the Isles will move key assets to find players ready now. That means both their top prospects could be in play depending on targets and upside. Let us also not forget Michael Dal Colle, who also might be of value.
Just a hunch to throw at the dart board.