With only 10 days to go until the March 1 trade deadline, the Islanders traditionally would be a team that’s still on the “buy or sell?” fence, given that they still are on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
But this is not a traditional deadline season and the Islanders don’t really fit the traditional mold right now. With the expansion draft looming in June, general managers are trying to figure out whom they’ll need to protect and who might be lost for nothing when Las Vegas gets to select one player off each of the other 30 teams’ rosters.
And the prospect of a relatively flat salary cap next season, as projected by the league at a recent Board of Governors meeting, could throw a wrench into some teams’ plans.
The Islanders also have only one pending unrestricted free agent in defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Even if the Isles still were last in the Eastern Conference, there’s not much they’d be selling — other than trying to shed Jaroslav Halak’s contract, which seems nearly impossible despite his 11-game winning streak with Bridgeport.
And the Isles’ 20-11-6 record since their 6-10-4 start likely has Garth Snow — who, make no mistake, is fully in charge of decisions as general manager and president heading into the deadline — thinking his team could add, either in a meaningful or short-term way, to continue the Isles’ upward trend.
“We’re in a position where we can really do something,” said Doug Weight, who’s still an assistant GM to go with his duties as head coach. “We had a couple meetings, I talk to Snowy every day, and Claude [Loiselle, hockey operations consultant], we have our eye on the ball of what we can do and I think there’s about 20 teams in our boat right now. Like any coach would say, I want to get as high as we can. Not putting pressure on anybody, but we could do something that could make our team better.”
The Islanders seem happy with their goaltending and defense right now and conceivably could use some of their depth on defense to add a forward. Rookies Anthony Beauvillier and Alan Quine have hit a wall the last few weeks, and it would appear the Islanders would want to add a middle-six forward, possibly a center, to shore up the forward group behind John Tavares’ line and ahead of Casey Cizikas’ line.
So here are a few options:
Patrick Sharp, Stars:
Sharp has struggled this season, much as the Stars have, with seven goals in 33 games. He’s 35, holds a no-move clause and had a concussion this season. For something less than a first-round pick, the Islanders likely would consider adding him, but there’ll be competition for sure.
Radim Vrbata, Coyotes:
Always seems to be a name that comes up around this time. The 35-year-old is having a decent season, but would he make an impact with the Isles? Not sure they feel that way.
Martin Hanzal, Coyotes:
A big center who can score a bit, Hanzal has lots of rumored interest around the league and won’t come cheap. It’s not Snow’s style to surrender a first-rounder and a prospect for a rental.
Matt Duchene, Avalanche:
The Islanders have been on Duchene’s trail since November, hoping that Avs GM Joe Sakic was ready to break up his underachieving core. Duchene would fill plenty of needs for the Isles and has two more seasons at a $6-million cap hit left. But Sakic is asking for big pieces in return: a top-flight defenseman, a good young prospect and a No. 1 pick at minimum. Snow might not want to gamble on that sort of package or be outbid, but Duchene is the player the Isles covet most.
Anthony Duclair, Coyotes:
He’s only 21 and this already would be his second trade, but this is the sort of longer-term move Snow prefers — for a young, unpolished player who’s under cost control for several more seasons. The trade cost could be interesting, given Duclair was the centerpiece of the Coyotes-Rangers deal for Keith Yandle, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance at the NHL level.
NO CHANCE, THANKS FOR
Thomas Vanek, Red Wings:
The one-time Islander is having a solid season in Detroit and is on an expiring deal, but the Isles have seen this show before.
PA Parenteau, Devils:
Can you imagine? We can’t either. Won’t happen. Parenteau has moved on.
Speaking of Parenteau, who signed with the Islanders in July only to be waived and scooped up by the Devils on the eve of the regular season, the 33-year-old didn’t exactly have Saturday night’s game (the Devils won it, 3-2) circled on the calendar for revenge.
“It was so far away, it’s hard to keep an eye on it,” he said. “But it’s a business. I understand that. A lot has happened to them since I left. Jack [Capuano] got fired . . . These games are too important for the Devils to worry about that other stuff.”