CALGARY — Travis Hamonic is entering an intense few days. And we’re not just talking about the remaining hours until Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Hamonic’s preseason trade request to Islanders general manager Garth Snow was to get the defenseman closer to his boyhood home just outside Winnipeg. Calgary, where the Isles played on Thursday, and Edmonton, where they play on Sunday, are two of the closer NHL cities to Winnipeg, where the Isles round out their five-game Western Conference jaunt a week from Thursday.
So the conversation may come up a bit more, even though it’s quite clear that Hamonic is staying an Islander beyond Monday.
When asked what it would be like playing in Calgary and Edmonton the next few days, Hamonic said, “Maybe more media attention, I don’t know. Just try to go out and do my job best I can. Really, it’s out of my mind, honest to God. It’s a unique situation but it hasn’t been on the front burner for me at all.”
The Islanders are in a unique situation for their recent history. They have, in Hamonic, a key young player who’s asked out; they have, in Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, three pending unrestricted free agents who are fairly important parts of the team, on and off the ice.
And there’s Monday’s deadline, by which several teams will try to unload their pending UFAs for draft picks and/or prospects. But not the Islanders, who came into Thursday’s game 6-1-1 in their past eight games and trying to move up the Metro Division standings.
“I don’t expect us to be subtracting from what we have, especially guys who have been such big parts of our club, not only on the ice but in the room,” John Tavares said. “Such valuable guys, their voices, the way they carry themselves, their work ethic. We’re trying to win and build on what we’ve done to this point.”
Okposo, who appears the most likely of the pending free agents not to return if he gets to July 1 without a deal, is far too important to be moved for futures. Snow and Kevin Epp, Hamonic’s agent, were working on potential deals for months without any deadline pressure to no avail.
Epp told TSN Radio in Vancouver on Wednesday he didn’t expect his client to be dealt by Monday, which jibes with the feeling coming from the Islanders. Hamonic, as usual, was reticent to discuss his agent’s comments, but considering how well he and the team have played since word leaked out -- the Isles are 22-13-4 since Hamonic held his news conference on Nov. 19 -- he’d prefer to keep it quiet.
“I’ve said it before and it’s still the same. I’m proud to be an Islander, I’m proud to be here and that’s first and foremost,” he said. “I love it here. Everybody’s well aware of that and that’s probably the most you’re going to get out of me.”
As for what the Islanders may add by Monday, it wasn’t going to be Jets captain Andrew Ladd — and that was before Winnipeg sent Ladd to the Blackhawks for a first-round pick and young forward Marko Dano on Thursday night.
Snow may be thinking small, same as he did at last season’s deadline when he added depth pieces in goaltender Michal Neuvirth and forward Tyler Kennedy.
But unloading potential UFAs is for teams out of the playoff chase, not in the thick of it.
“Everyone understands this time of year, but at the same time where our group is, the importance of a lot of those guys, the impact they make with our group, I’d be shocked, certainly,” Tavares said. “We’re trying to win the Stanley Cup.”
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