When Dustin Byfuglien signed his five-year, $38-million extension with the Jets on Monday, attention turned back to Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and his preseason trade request to be moved either back to his Winnipeg hometown or closer to it.
With Byfuglien signed, it was mused that the Jets would be more willing to swap defenseman Jacob Trouba, the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft, for Hamonic. It doesn’t appear that the Islanders feel the same way.
Two sources indicated that the Isles’ appetite for trading Hamonic, who has been the team’s most consistent defenseman this season, is still exceedingly low for an in-season move, with the trade deadline now just 15 days away.
Even in the summer, a Trouba-for-Hamonic deal would be problematic for many of the same reasons Isles GM Garth Snow couldn’t find a trade fit in September and October, when he had numerous discussions with his fellow general managers in hopes of accommodating Hamonic’s desire to move.
Hamonic has four years left on a contract that carries a cap hit of $3.857 million per year, with an actual salary of $4.875 million starting next season. Trouba is just finishing his entry-level deal and is reportedly searching for a long-term, big-money contract, possibly in the $6-7 million per year range.
Trouba’s agent is Kurt Overhardt, whose name doesn’t bring a smile to a general manager’s face. Overhardt’s clients include three players who held out after their entry-level deals expired.
Brandon Dubinsky, who held out for eight days before signing a two-year deal with the Rangers prior to the 2009-10 season; Kyle Turris, who held out on the Coyotes, signed a two-year deal in November and eventually was traded to the Senators during the 2011-12 season and Ryan Johansen, who held out on the Blue Jackets for the entire 2014-15 training camp before signing and was recently dealt to the Predators.
That is not a minefield Snow wants to enter, particularly if it means shipping off his most cost-effective defenseman. Perhaps there’s a larger deal to be made in the offseason involving Hamonic, but it makes no sense to jump the gun now that Byfuglien is signed.
Remember, too — as Snow certainly does — that word of Hamonic’s trade request was leaked to the media in November by one of the teams Snow had discussed a deal with. That team, as yet unidentified but believed to be known to the Isles organization, will surely not be at the head of the line when trade talks on Hamonic resume.
Power play gets moving
The way the Islanders power play operated for much of the season, you might have figured on Johnny Boychuk sliding into the point spot on the top unit when he returned from missing a month last week.
Instead, the Isles’ regular top unit, anchored by Nick Leddy, has remained intact and produced steadily. The Isles’ power play wasn’t terrible for the dozen games Boychuk missed (the 11 he sat out plus the one he was injured in, Dec. 31 in Buffalo), but still not great at 7-for-37 (18.9 percent) over that span.
In the four games since Boychuk returned (prior to Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes), the man-advantage was 5-for-15 (33.3 percent).
“Shooting pucks, getting pucks on net,” Jack Capuano said. “We’re not trying to make the sexy play as much.”
Leddy, who is second to Kyle Okposo in power-play points with 14, has definitely adjusted to attempt more shots. His slap shot was tipped in by Anders Lee for a power-play goal in Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Kings.
“I think as a unit we’ve developed that shooter’s mentality a bit,” Leddy said. What changed? “You watch some of the real successful power plays around the league and see that they’re ready to shoot. They have a timer on it, like Cro (assistant coach Greg Cronin) says about the penalty kill. I think that’s helped our approach.”
Tavares: Tough spot for PA on suspensions
With plenty of ink and web space spilled on the 20-game suspension for Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman for knocking down linesman Don Henderson as well as discussions of head shots and strong punishments, John Tavares was asked if he could see a day when the NHL Players Association advocated for strong suspensions the way the officials association did on the Wideman play.
Tavares is one of the Islanders’ PA reps and has immersed himself in the importance of PA negotiations. He is also certainly no fan of recidivist offenders like the Flyers’ Radko Gudas.
“It’s a tricky line for the PA, because they’re representing the guy who’s injured and the guy who made the bad hit,” Tavares said. “It’s a hard job for sure and you have to be careful about making demands. But as players, we all know the hits we want out of the game because we all want to be safer out there and just play.”