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Islanders mailbag: Players to protect, trade possibilities, coaching staff, more

Ryan Pulock of the New York Islanders plays the

Ryan Pulock of the New York Islanders plays the puck during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Barclays Center on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple answers questions from Twitter followers on Tuesday, with the first round of the NHL Draft a month away.

Here are 12 answers for this week:

@IslesRW: This time last year we discussed Ryan Pulock’s expansion draft status. Will it even matter? Is he even worth protecting anymore?

Ah, The Pulock Conundrum — no, really, it’s now taught in the better graduate schools.

I think it will matter. Pulock, for those unfamiliar with this oft-discussed topic, is still only 22. He has played 160 AHL games over the last three seasons, along with just 16 NHL games (plus six in the 2015-16 postseason). He MUST be protected in next month’s expansion draft and, barring a trade, I think he most certainly will be.

The trade possibility is simply speculation that any team the Isles would be talking to might want a 22-year-old defenseman with a cannon for a shot and that trading Pulock could be what it takes to get better and deeper up front. That’s not to say Pulock isn’t well-regarded by the Islanders. It’s the opposite — he’s a prized prospect and sometimes you have to give to get.

So I think either he’ll be part of a trade or he’ll have a good chance to start the season on the Isles’ blue line and the power play.

@nyillini311: an outside the box name for who you think could wind up on the isles next year (or an outside the box name for who you think could be gone)

I’ll give you two that both have modified no-trade clauses and could have the Isles on their do-not-disturb list: James van Riemsdyk and Eric Staal.

Van Riemsdyk has been a talked-about trade commodity for a bit, even as he provided a strong presence on the young Leafs. But Toronto clearly needs to upgrade its defense and the Isles have an abundance of defensemen.

Staal just got to Minnesota last year and had a strong season, but the Wild need to shake things up after another quick playoff exit. The Isles have long liked Staal and what he brings — now more so with Doug Weight in charge, since he and Staal were teammates in Carolina.

It’s more likely that neither gets moved, but hey, you asked for dark horses.

@Shomensky: What is going on with the coaching staff? Can they have 3 assistants on bench? Or if they hire Buchburger/Gomez is Cronin out?

They could have an assistant for each player if they wanted, though that would be a tight fit. Greg Cronin’s status still is undetermined with Weight clearly bringing in his own guys — Luke Richardson already is on the staff, Kelly Buchberger is slated to join next month and Gomez is likely to come on board soon.

Cronin is a coaching lifer — he coached Garth Snow in college — so he certainly understands the dynamic at work, and perhaps he’s assessing his options. He’s also a tireless worker, the type of assistant every coach needs on staff. So I bet Weight wants to keep Cronin in some role, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next few weeks.

@knightvine: other than those with nmcs who if anyone do the #isles view as untouchables since they need trades to improve the team?

Untouchable is a pretty strong phrase, considering you never know what sort of trade offers come your way. I’d think the obvious one is John Tavares (provided he decides to sign an extension), then Nick Leddy. Beyond that, they obviously need a goaltender or two, so they’re not moving Thomas Greiss.

As for the prospects, I can’t see them moving Mathew Barzal or Josh Ho-Sang. This team needs core kids to stay cap flexible and more mobile, so packaging one of them for a high-paid forward doesn’t seem like the right move.

They do need to make deals, yes, but there are other expendable players to move. They’re going to unload a defenseman or two from the roster to get a forward, and defensemen are valuable. They don’t need to add in one of their top prospects to make it work.

@y2j1399: Ok I’ll do it, we need a winger. Kovalchuk is there. He “wants” to play here. Odds?

Certainly an option. The Isles talked to Alex Radulov last summer before he signed with Montreal, so they’re not averse to taking a risk like that. Obviously this would depend on the terms of a Kovalchuk deal and whatever the Devils want in a trade, since that’s the only way Kovalchuk gets to the Islanders, but if the trade cost is minor — and I could see the Isles insisting that Mikhail Grabovski’s cap hit go the other way — I would think the Isles have some interest.

@sab31nyi: Things are quiet on the “Team President” front, does that mean the idea has been abandoned?

For now, yes. I think everyone in the NHL understands that Garth Snow needs to win next season to keep his gig, but the owners heard enough good things and saw enough good things to keep from a major shakeup this offseason.

I would guess — and that’s all this is — that if the Isles stumble out of the gate again next season there will be a change, and that president of hockey operations job would simply be a new GM.

@Bleuchz: The re-signing of Seidenberg seems to be a repeat of past ‘safe’ off-seasons. Think this year is any different from the past two?

I do, because there’s going to be some movement on the roster for sure. Hard to see a scenario where all of these defensemen come back to training camp and vie for the same spots. Snow has long searched for that elusive, veteran D-man who comes in and provides stability and he got a decent year out of Seidenberg. We’ll see where that leads in September.

@BaltimoreSpurs: Any chance the isles ask boychuk or Ladd to waive their NTC for the exp draft? Particularly Ladd.

Tough to say, but as I wrote in my season review of the defensemen, it’s a difficult ask. Especially so soon after signing both players. Ladd and Boychuk aren’t dumb guys, they know what the waiver would mean — still almost zero chance of being claimed — but there’s a principle behind getting a no-move clause, and no one forced the Islanders to give them out.

It’s essentially an earned benefit. Why hand it back? And what does that do to the morale of a player if he’s asked to waive? It’s a business, yes. But part of Snow’s job is managing people who are a little more complex than we give them credit for most times.

@ZmanIsles: Any Locker room issues that could hamper the Isles next season? Did one or two go away last year in the second half of the season?

Still seems to be a tight-knit room and Jaro Halak’s return from the AHL was probably an important step for next season, provided both veteran goaltenders are still here. It’s no secret Halak’s relationship with his teammates wasn’t great before he was waived and sent down, but everyone seemed focused on the task at hand when Halak returned. That should serve everyone well to start next season.

@CraigJDixon: Gut feeling, does Snow go with the 7F-3D-1G or 8F-1G protected list for the expansion draft?

I think they protect four forwards and four defensemen. Even with the need to upgrade the forward depth, the way the contracts shake out there’s just more reason to expose forwards than D. I can’t see Vegas choosing the Clutterbuck/Cizikas contracts, Josh Bailey and Jason Chimera are on expiring deals which make them less attractive and you’re basically choosing between Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome on whom to protect (I pick Nelson).

So if you’re going with the roster as currently constituted, here’s my list: Tavares, Ladd, Lee, Nelson, Leddy, Boychuk, Hamonic, Pulock, Greiss. Honestly, I think there’s even a case to be made that you protect Calvin de Haan over Nelson, but I’ll go 4-4-1 for now.

@ScottyPecs: Hey Arthur, what is the status of Mikhail Grabovski? Is Garth going to put him on LTIR to free up some space for moves?

Grabovski had been skating on his own for part of the second half of the season and is still hoping for a return to health. He won’t be cleared this summer so the Isles can’t buy him out, but they can trade his remaining cap hit if someone would take it.

As far as long-term IR goes, no one needs that in the summer, when you can be over the salary cap by 10 percent. It’s rare to see it used when rosters must be set in October, because once you use it, you’re done — if the Isles put Grabovski on LTIR before opening night, they get only whatever extra space is given at that moment. If the cap is $73 million and the Isles number is $71.5 when they put Grabovski and his $5 million cap hit on, they get an extra $3.5 million of space to use for the rest of the season.

Between potential trades, short-term injuries and call-ups with different cap hits, they’d be hurting themselves to do it so soon. Which is why you don’t see it used until it’s absolutely necessary.

@Bageloid: 1) Isles first round pick, keep it or trade it? 2) Does JHS make the opening night roster or do the isles do isles things?

I think they keep it, given that it’s not the most attractive draft pool and I don’t think the 15th pick will put them over the top to get a deal done. Given my track record in predicting the keep vs. trade pick debate, this certainly means Snow is trading the pick in the next few hours.

Ho-Sang will make the Isles, barring some sort of training camp calamity. He proved he belongs.

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