In what may be the most important off season of the Snow Administration (if it’s not a success it could be his last), Snow has gotten off to an interesting start. In this world of instant reaction, the Islanders decision making has given the hockey world pause. The Isles are not noticeably better than they were in April, but they are not worse either. They are though, more interesting as the offseason kicks into high gear this week. So far, the Islanders have made three moves with each move having the feeling that it is setting up for the big one. In the expansion draft the Islanders offered up a first round pick (along with Grabovski and a second-round pick) instead of offering any contributor to their team, which was the highest price paid by any team in order to protect players from the draft. After years of Jordan Eberle rumblings, the Islanders finally made him the right wing of John Tavares. Last, they moved Travis Hamonic to Calgary for picks.
Garth Snow has long taken the road less traveled, when it comes to his decision making as General Manager of the Islanders. How he choose to work with the Golden Knights is yet another example of that. The first piece to the trade is Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski has a five-million-dollar cap hit this season, this is a contract the Islanders wanted to get out of. If he were to miss next season he could have gone on Long Term Injured Reserve in order to save the cap room. That’s if he was still injured, players have to agree to go onto LTIR. There were reports in the middle of the season that he was trying to play next season which is a scenario the Islanders could not live with. There is too much uncertainty in regards to his situation to depend upon the LTIR to save his cap hit.
The other part of the deal was the draft picks the Isles gave up. The Isles paid the heaviest price in the league to protect all their players from expansion. Even after working with Vegas General Manager George McPhee (as an assistant for the Islanders) before he took the Vegas job, it seems Snow did not know what way GMGM was going to go. Many teams were losing an important part of their teams, but it seems like the Isles were into something bigger. Outside of Strome (who was dealt), it seems like some of the unprotected players needed some other form of protection so Snow could make a deal later in the offseason. It is very difficult to believe that anybody on the exposed list is truly worth the price they paid in order to protect them. Snow didn’t want to lose anyone so they lost a couple picks.
The most straight forward thing the Isles have done this week is the trade of Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle. This hopefully give Tavares the winger they have always been looking for. A change of scenery may do wonders for each of the players involved. Strome may very well develop into a good player (not to the level of a top 5 pick) but it may be because he is changing his address. Jordan Eberle on the other hand is the bonafide top 6 forward this team needs. He will be a staple on Tavares’ wing for the next few seasons. The expectations should be he comes close to his career highs in 2012 where he scored 34 goals. These are the type of moves we expect to see Snow make in the coming weeks.
Last is the type of move people didn’t expect Snow to make, with the Islanders trading Travis Hamonic to Calgary for draft picks. There are two angles to look at when it comes to this move, the first being the Islanders defensive depth. With the Islanders protecting five defenseman, you know they felt strongly about the depth they have at the position. Boychuck and Leddy are givens based upon the contracts that each of them have. Calvin deHaan had a big year which gave the Islanders the belief he can step into a top four role. All year fans kept asking about how the Islanders were going to protect Ryan Pulock, even though he was playing in Bridgeport. The real surprise was the protection of Adam Pelech, once we saw the Islanders confidence in him, it had to be known that defenseman were expendable. Pelech would not have been protected if the Islanders didn’t feel he would play a big role every night next season. With both Seidenberg and Hickey also under contract (in addition to Mayfield being a depth defenseman) someone (and maybe someone else) had to go. Travis Hamonic was that someone. The question both the Islanders and the Flames need to ask themselves, was last year the beginning of the end for Hamonic. While not an old defenseman by any means (26 years of age), Hamonic has played tough for the Isles and plays a style that does not always age well. If last year was only an aberration the Isles have sold low on one of their players who a year ago was believed to be a core part of this team for the long term.
The second part of this deal was the return they got for Hamonic (which for a defenseman coming of the year that Hamonic did, was fair value). There is no doubt that the Islanders are looking to win now. With the pending free agency of John Tavares being the most important thing to this organization, trading a regular NHL player for draft picks is head scratching. That is unless there is another move to be made. It is the accumulation of assets and cap space that seem to be the reward for Snow in this deal. It seems very unlikely the Islanders will leave the month of July with the two firsts and two seconds that they currently hold for next year.
After a decade with Snow at the helm we have reached the tipping point in his administration. He is still going about it his way, which is unique. He has put himself in position to make the Islanders the talk of the league this week. As many Islander fans will note, there is still some hesitation on whether that is a good thing or not. Let’s see if he truly has a master plan or if he is flying by the seat of his pants?