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Islanders mailbag: Power play, prospects, Ho-Sang, contracts and more

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates his third period goal and third of the game against the Arizona Coyotes with his teammates at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Newsday’s Arthur Staple answered questions from Twitter followers for his latest Islanders mailbag Thursday as the team looks to finish strong in the first month of the regular season.

Here are a few answers for this week:

@young_blood_95: who do you think re-signs at the end of the year excluding JT. Eberle, CDH?

@flanoddo: What do you believe is 44/14’s [Calvin de Haan/Thomas Hickey] future with the team after 50’s [Adam Pelech] extension and the rise of prospects aho, Wotherspoon and Toews?

Calvin de Haan continues to impress after an ugly first game. I’d say he’s been their best defenseman the last 4-5 and he and Pelech don’t give up much. He’s going to get paid next summer – I believe he was looking for five years and around $5 million per in talks with the Isles this past summer, but that number will go up if he gets to be a 28-year-old UFA. So $30 million may be his target and I don’t know if the Isles can live with that given the Leddy and Boychuk deals.

Thomas Hickey is a different story – not that he too doesn’t want to get paid but I think he’s viewed differently around the league. If he’s willing to take another short-term deal, 2-3 years at $3 million per or so, I bet he stays. The coaches love him and he’s an easy partner for the younger defensemen.

As for the forwards, I’m sure they would love to lock up Josh Bailey at some point. Him getting the attention and results of late doesn’t help keep those numbers down, but he’ll be over 700 games in an Isles uniform barring injury when the season ends and he does it without complaint or worry. Nelson is an interesting case, considering how contentious his last contract negotiation went. His ask could be high and that might turn the Isles off, given they have Barzal and Beauvillier as potential Nos. 2 and 3 centers.

Eberle really depends on the asking price. And Tavares we’ve covered extensively around here — when and if he’s ready to sign, they’ll just hand him the piggy bank.

@TimJones9342: Realistic at this point only see all rookies in same game if player injury? Thoughts on moving 25 [Jason Chimera] to L4 so 66 [Josh Ho-Sang] can play L3? Sit 86 [Nikolay Kulemin]

I think Ho-Sang will get back in shortly and either Jason Chimera or Nikolay Kulemin may sit. The Isles have enough penalty killers to fill the void there and neither had much of a showing on Tuesday, though there was plenty of company in that department. If Kulemin sits, 25-53-15 makes sense, as does 16-29-66. Nelson and Ho-Sang have pretty good chemistry and Nelson’s line with Ladd and Chimera was just out of sorts all night

@jonnywax: Want to learn more about the PP. Who is primary PP coach? If 6 [Ryan Pulock] isn’t going to play, what do they look for to truly improve?

Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez run the power play and I’m guessing they’re not thrilled with the results so far. I agree there needs to be a shooter ready to go on each unit; Johnny Boychuk joined the top group on Tuesday and the results were very meh. Brock Nelson’s power-play goal came from a screened shot in the off-wing circle, so perhaps that point about shooting pucks starts to hit home.

I think the lack of results coupled with the three SHG against early got the coaches away from one slower-footed defenseman and four forwards. Too easy for a shot block or a bad pass to go the other way, as it did in Los Angeles with Boychuk up top on PP2.

Pelech is a decent compromise there as he handles the puck smoothly, even if he doesn’t have the big shot. The forwards need to have that shooter’s mentality for the two units to work without Pulock and they’re not there yet, clearly.

@ScottColemanCS: With Jaro’s contract up after 17-18, which G in the org/system do you envision joining Greiss next year? Or a 1 yr deal for 41 [Halak]?

I think the hope is still that Linus Soderstrom comes over next season and pushes for a job. He’s not lighting up the Swedish League this season the way he did last year – he has a .906 save percentage and 2.37 goals-against average – but he’ll be barely 22 by next training camp.

Christopher Gibson and Kristers Gudlevskis have been good in Bridgeport, though I’d think Gibson has a better chance of rising up through the ranks. And there are always a dozen capable NHL goalies available on July 1 so I don’t see any pressing need to figure this spot out for next season at this point.

@islesnation92: Do you think that JHS continues this trend of being scratched every few games for the whole season?

@Gsrgoten: Can you see a situation where Beauvillier gets sent to Bridgeport as a means to play everyday?

Bundled these two together since they address players in similar situations. Beauvillier and Ho-Sang don’t need waivers to go to Bridgeport and neither should be sitting out for very long. I asked Weight about Beauvillier once he got to three straight healthy scratches; if Ho-Sang sits again on Thursday it’ll be three straight for him as well. I’d think anything beyond that begs the question: why not send him down to get some playing time?

And if one or both of them has a Bridgeport stint, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s part of the life of every waiver-eligible player, moreso these days with most teams so close to the salary cap. Every NHL GM in recent years has said some variation of this: No player’s career was ever hurt by going to the AHL for a bit. They can’t all be wrong.

UPDATE: Well, we seem to be at that point with the news that Ho-Sang was indeed sent to Bridgeport today ahead of the Isles two-game road trip. We haven’t heard from Weight on this move yet but even without that, it’s clear the coach didn’t envision getting Ho-Sang into the lineup in St. Paul or Nashville and that means a demotion.

I can’t imagine it’s more than a few days. I couldn’t have necessarily pictured the move happening at all when camp began, but things are always changing. And the important piece for Ho-Sang is to not take this too hard. If he does, there’s trouble ahead. If he takes it in stride, plays well this weekend and comes back ready to grab a spot and not let go, then all is well.

@McBertos: Who was in your opinion the biggest surprise in the first 9 games? Do you see any trades happen until Christmas?

I’d have to say Pelech, since I figured he might not show as well in camp and could have found himself at the back of that crowded pack. Doubt we’ll see many more three-assist games from him but he is steady. “There’s no panic in his game,” is how John Tavares described him on Tuesday night. When a defenseman gets painted with that “steady Eddie” brush, sometimes it’s a nice way of saying he’s using every ounce of talent just to go unnoticed. But I think Pelech has really improved since he first came up a couple years ago. He’s physical, his skating isn’t bad and he’s trying to get shots or passes through to dangerous areas often.

That stuff keeps you in the lineup. And if de Haan gets that big contract elsewhere next summer the Isles can feel a little more confident that Pelech will be able to handle some of those minutes.

And no, I don’t see them making any trades unless there’s an offer that knocks some socks off. The Isles have some assets they could move but I think they like the depth they have and see no reason to change right now.

@Harry4naris: anything internally w isles on bellows doing well in WHL (compared to ncaa year). think #isles give real look next year?

I do, sure. Kieffer Bellows is putting up solid numbers for Portland of the WHL (9-11-20 in 12 games), but that’s what he should be doing. He’s 19 and the WHL is a crazy stats league, so just under two points a game is about right. It’s hard to project what the Isles forward group will look like next training camp with so many pending free agents, but they could always use a young talented winger who’ll be cheap against the cap. Everyone could.

@Bleuchz: Do you see scratches as teaching moments to be Weight’s MO or has Ho-Sang found himself in the doghouse despite coach speak? Also... How good have Mayfield and Pelech been? Feels like Pulock may have missed his chance at a spot on this roster...

1) I think he’s not looking to make examples of the young guys and I think you need to believe Weight when he says that there’s no underlying issues with Ho-Sang, who was sent down to Bridgeport on Wednesday afternoon. This is a young man who most people find difficult to dislike – he has a lot of personality and it’s a different one than most young NHLers, but he’s not looking to get under people’s skin. When Ho-Sang and Weight say that Josh just loves playing hockey, they mean it – he really, really loves it and while he’s a confident person, he genuinely seems to enjoy the fact he gets to do this for a living.

Of course, Weight means it a little differently than Ho-Sang does. Weight wants the pure joy and creativity that comes from that love, but also the other parts that aren’t so lovable – skating hard without the puck, being in the right spots on the forecheck and backcheck and coming off the ice when your 40 seconds are up. So there’s still work to do there, but truly nothing about Ho-Sang being a distraction or a pain.

2) They’ve been pretty good and I think this comment gets to the heart of what the coaching staff has in Pulock: He had a chance in camp and the preseason to rip that spot away and make it his own. He has the upside, he has the big shot. But he just didn’t play confidently in the preseason and Mayfield and Pelech did.

The “just give him a chance” crowd makes a decent point, that you need to play to feel confident. But this is Pulock’s fourth pro season and there are lots of people – coaches, development guys, the GM – who have watched him for a long time. Mayfield and Pelech have taken major strides since they joined the organization; Pulock less so. That’s why he’s not playing regularly.

@rich_lunder: Does DW have 100% control of the line-up sheet or does GS have major input?

Yes, Weight controls the lineup. His office isn’t far from Garth Snow’s office and they’ve worked together for a decade, so I bet they do talk. But not about daily lineups. Jack Capuano was his own man in that department too, by the by. I think it’s a common conception fans have of the team’s setup – that Snow tells the coaches what to do with lineups. Not really the case.

@Schultz88: Which alum were you most surprised to see & also not see on Saturday?

Since I saw the list earlier in the week I was looking forward to seeing John Tonelli, who hasn’t had the best relationship with the organization since he left it in the 1980s. I don’t know the specifics but I do know they reached out to him often over the years, so seeing that he’d accepted an invite was definitely a change. It’s too bad he couldn’t make it.

And unless you were some sort of fan back in the dark days of the late 1990s, you couldn’t tell you knew Petr Mika. Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin haven’t just extended invites to the big names, they want everyone who ever wore the jersey to feel welcome. That was cool to see.

Keep up with #StapeChat and @StapeNewsday on Twitter all season for more Islanders news and mailbags.

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