With the NHL trade deadline, a little less than two weeks away, the time for wheeling and dealing is upon us. In regards to the Islanders, this recent home point streak has moved them squarely out of the seller’s column and into the stand pat or even buyer’s column. With the second wild card the only playoff spot within reach it will be an interesting balancing act on how they move forward. It would be expected that they are not going to be in on the truly key rental players or the long-time veterans that are looking to take a run at the Cup. The price for those players will be prohibitive, only the most hopeful fans feel that Garth Snow can turn this team into a Cup Contender in the next two weeks. For everyone else, the Isles will be looking a mixture of long term solutions (which may be revisited over the summer) and mid-level rental players.
Before looking at what’s available, let’s look at what the Isles have to offer. It is safe to assume that they will not look to move anyone on the current NHL roster (the only exception may be for a long-term solution). They will look to move Jaroslav Halak if anyone calls to acquire him. Players such as Barzal, Ho Sang, Sorkin, and even Dal Calle should not be considered in any deal that will benefit this season only. In addition, they have almost a full slate of draft picks only missing this year’s fourth, and sixth round selections. They do not currently hold anyone else’s pick in any round. This is generally not considered to be a great draft so moving a third-round pick should not be considered too high a price for even the most marginal rental. They should still protect the first two picks but anything after will be worth even four playoff games.
This is the time of year when everyone should decide if they are buying or selling. A far assumption should be everyone below the Islanders in the standings should at least consider being a seller. So, let’s take a run around the league and investigate what the sellers have to offer.
With Thursday’s win the Islanders jumped the Flyers in the standings. The Flyers sit two points out of the playoffs and have held the spot most of the year, they will not be included in the seller’s column. In addition, due to the Florida Panthers being in the Atlantic Division they actually have two paths to the playoffs in addition to games in hand on the Bruins. They currently sit three points out of the playoffs and four behind Boston (with three games in hand), for those reasons Florida will not be considered a seller.
The Buffalo Sabres are currently tied with the Panthers with 60 points but due to the fact that they have played as many games as Boston and more than anyone else in the playoff race, this season will be another one without playoffs in Western New York. There is some frustration in Buffalo this season due to how long the rebuild process has taken up there only to get passed by Toronto. The Sabres will not be trading Kyle Okposo back to the Islanders, in addition they will not be trading Matt Moulson. The Sabres look to be very active at the deadline with multiple ufa’s after this season. Brian Gionta looks to be the most popular Sabre on the market even though he has stated he wants to remain in Buffalo. Gionta would fit into a group of depth forwards in which the Isles have plenty. It would be a long shot for the Isles to acquire him, and if by some chance, they did he would actually take away his younger brother Stephan’s job. In addition, they have two defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson are also ufa after this season.
Next come the New Jersey Devils who sit five points out of the playoffs. With a home and home this weekend the Islanders can destroy any hope of the Devils making a playoff run this season. On the trade front, they don’t seem to have a whole lot going on. The only pending ufa they have is PA Parenteau. Parenteau would work as a scoring winger for the Isles and stop me if you heard this before. After last summer let’s just say this isn’t going to happen.
The most interesting team in the bunch may be the Tampa Bay Lightning. After defeating the Isles in the playoffs last year and being within one game of the Stanley Cup finals this has been nothing short of a disaster for the Bolts. With the Lightning being in a tough cap situation they will look to make deals in order to alleviate these problems next year. Their ufa’s include Brain Boyle and Ben Bishop. In addition, they will look to move Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman, and Valtteri Filppula. Between term and no movement clause’s none of these players look like they would be a fit for the Islanders.
The Carolina Hurricanes currently sit at the bottom of the Metro and even though they have three games in hand on the rest of the east, eight points will be a lot to make up for the Canes. In a season where some felt they had a chance to move forward they taken steps back. After trading Eric Staal last year the Hurricanes look like it may be a quiet deadline. With only Jay McClemont and Viktor Stalberg as pending ufa’s, the Hurricanes may be waiting until the summer to make a move.
The final team in the east is the Detroit Red Wings, it’s safe to say that the playoff run is over. They are nine points out of the final playoff spot, after years of holding on things have finally fallen apart. Detroit like Tampa is a team that needs to move some salary before the deadline. The obvious answer would be to move Thomas Vanek. As a pending ufa, Detroit needs to clear his salary off their books. Vanek is another player who has been debated countless times on Long Island. He played well in his few months with Tavares, but has not been anywhere close to that player since leaving three years ago. In addition, Steve Ott is also a ufa who may garner some interest but not from the Islanders. The Red Wings have six players with some sort of no trade clause so it will be difficult for them to make moves. This does not mean that the Islanders have a chance to reacquire Frans Nielson.
The western standings look similar in that there is only two playoff spots that are up for grabs. The top six seem locked in and there are three teams in the mix for the final two spots. Nashville, Los Angeles, and Calgary are all looking at some combination of standing pat and buying. The rest of the west should be open for business.
The Winnipeg Jets sit four points out of the final playoff spot but have played an additional two games. At this point in the season that is a difficult hole to climb out of. After a rough season, last year, the Jets seem to have some hope moving forward. Drew Stafford will be the most active Jet on the trade market. He has had a rough year scoring only 4 goals in 38 games and has recently dealt with a leg injury. As a lower level option Stafford, may be able to help score in a bottom six role.
Last year the entire nation of Canada was disappointed that none of its seven teams were even competitive for a playoff spot last year. This year is different as only Winnipeg and the Vancouver Canucks are the only two Canadian teams that find themselves in the seller category. People still don’t know what is going on with this organization, it seems like they are holding on for one last run that does not seem to be happening. This team needs a major shift but it is unlikely that is will happen at the deadline. They do hold on of the true prizes of the deadline in Ryan Miller. As a ufa, the Canucks need to try and move him. While he is not the goalie he once was, he is playing to a .916 save percentage which above the league average. Teams looking for some stability in net should be calling the Canucks. Alexandre Burrows is also ufa for the Canucks as player that can provide some bottom six scoring.
Maybe the biggest disappointment this season is the Dallas Stars after being the top seed in the West last year they are completely out of the playoff race. The Stars do have plenty of ufa’s to move to contending teams. The biggest name on the list is Patrick Sharp, Sharp has had a rough season dealing with concussion symptoms which have contributed to his lack of production. With the status’ of Johnny Oduya and Ales Hemsky it would be surprising to see either moved at this point. Jiri Hurdler and Patrick Eaves fill out the rest of Dallas’ ufa’s.
The bottom of the league has both the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche. On the surface, it may look like the Coyotes are in cap trouble but it is all paper issues that will be sorted out as soon as they need too. The most prominent Coyote ever is Shane Doan and he is ufa. Just like in the past it does not look like they will be willing to pull the trigger on a Doan deal. Martin Hanzel looks to be an interesting choice as a rental player. He has 14 goals on the season in only 46 games. Michael Stone would also be a defensive rental option.
Finally, the Colorado Avalanche. The rumors have been swirling around this team with thoughts that Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog may be on their way out the door. These could be long term solutions for the Islanders moving forward. Duchene especially is the second line center the Islanders have been looking for since they drafted Tavares (over Duchene). Two intriguing rental options also appear for Colorado. Fedor Tytun is a bigger veteran defenseman who has been around the league and is expected to be moved at some point before the deadline. The final player is Jerome Iginla. The future Hall of Famer will be on the move again looking to get that elusive Stanley Cup victory. It has not been a good year for Iginla but he will be the player everyone is rooting for to raise the Cup.
There are plenty of options available for the Islanders at the deadline. Taking out the thoughts of Duchene or Landeskog there is some rental depth available that should not cost a whole lot. Unless other a late injury or bigger trade causes a need, it should be expected that the Isles are looking purely at secondary scoring. There may not be a true top line player but there are some good third line options. The best being Thomas Vanek, as polarizing as a player as he is, he has had success for the Islanders in the past and is the most talented option available. After Vanek it would be some combination of Martin Hanzel, Alexandre Burrows and Drew Stafford. With such a limited crop of ufa’s on bad teams this looks like it may be a quieter deadline.