Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
Andrew MacDonald is on pace for a career season in points, helped greatly by his presence on the top power-play unit. This is good news for MacDonald, the potential unrestricted free agent, and possibly not-so-good news for the Islanders.
This is the NHL world today: A player in a walk year, a 25-minute-a-night defenseman at that, having a big season might help in the team short term, but his future contract value increases with every point, making signing him all the more expensive. MacDonald sat fifth on the team with 19 points entering last night's game.
There's also the Mar. 5 trade deadline, now two months away (with the 19-day Olympic break in there). If the Islanders can't lift themselves out of the Metropolitan Division basement nor come to terms with MacDonald -- GM Garth Snow declined comment when asked if talks with Peter Cooney, MacDonald's agent, have commenced -- then the 27-year-old defenseman could become the Isles' most valuable trade chip at the deadline.
"I think you realize it's there, that it's possible or whatever," MacDonald said. "I'm hopeful things get done. We've dug ourselves a pretty big hole here so there isn't really time to worry about that."
Even if another team doesn't view MacDonald as a top-pair player, his versatility -- now even greater with his power play work -- makes him a valuable commodity in the "you can never have enough D" NHL. Matt Carle, a similar player with better numbers historically, hit the open market at age 27 in 2012; he got a six-year, $33-million deal from the Lightning.
It stands to wonder if the Islanders view MacDonald as a $5-million-per-year player. After getting a steal on MacDonald's current contract (four years, $2.2 million), there won't be any discounts this time around.
Visnovsky still trying to get back
Lubomir Visnovsky's return would certainly soften the blow of potentially losing MacDonald to a deadline deal or free agency and some have wondered whether the 37-year-old Visnovsky would return at all this season after suffering a concussion on Oct. 20.
Neil Sheehy, Visnovsky's agent, said via e-mail that there has been no discussion of shutting down his client for the season. "He wants to get back and play for the Islanders this season," Sheehy said.
Visnovsky may take another baseline neurological exam next week, according to a source; if he passes that, he could resume skating soon after.
Best-case scenario: He returns to play a game or two before the Olympic break. Next-best case: He's back right after the break. Beyond that, it's not a scenario the Islanders want to envision.
Olympic announcements coming Tuesday
With Kyle Okposo's U.S. team snub out of the way, the Olympic attention turns to the rest of the world's squads, set to be announced on Tuesday.
John Tavares is a shoo-in for Canada. Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner are written in ink into the Austrian lineup. The only question mark is Evgeni Nabokov, who has a shot to be part of the Russian goaltending group, though it's unlikely he would see any time.