The Islanders’ protected list for next week’s expansion draft is due to the league office at 5 p.m. Saturday. A roster and trade freeze goes into effect at 3 p.m. Until those two deadlines, things are very much up in the air for general manager Garth Snow and a squad that could lose a very useful player to Vegas.
There’s been plenty of trade chatter involving the Islanders heading into the weekend. Various reports have the Isles shopping defensemen Travis Hamonic or Calvin de Haan and the Isles have been linked to Oilers wing Jordan Eberle, who appears on the move from Edmonton. The Isles have long been interested in Avalanche center Matt Duchene but that would be a taller task to pull off.
Without any deals before Saturday’s protected list deadline, the Islanders will have some real choices to make. Teams may either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender or eight skaters plus a goaltender. Snow has a glut of defensemen and will likely choose the eight-plus-one route so he can protect four defensemen.
Nick Leddy is a given as is Johnny Boychuk, who has a no-move clause and must be on the protected list. That leaves two slots for Hamonic, de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Ryan Pulock, the 22-year-old prospect who played just one game for the Isles last season but still requires protection.
Among the forwards, John Tavares is a given to be protected, as is Andrew Ladd, who has a no-move. Anders Lee almost certainly makes the list as well. That leaves a choice between Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, two talented young forwards who have had their ups and downs in recent seasons.
“I think it’s a good thing to have to make those kinds of decisions,” Snow told Newsday two weeks ago. “It means we have a pretty good depth of talent. There’s a lot of teams that would love to have that problem.”
A trade, especially one that sends a defenseman out, would seem to alleviate some protection concerns. But despite all the names being tossed around the league, only one deal has been made, with the Lightning sending talented young forward Jonathan Drouin to the Canadiens for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev on Thursday.
The wheeling and dealing may wait until Vegas announces its expansion-draft choices during Thursday’s NHL Awards show, though Golden Knights GM George McPhee can make deals with teams to either avoid selecting a certain unprotected player or to target a certain player, enticed with extra draft picks or other players.
It will be a wild week heading into the NHL Draft in Chicago next weekend. Snow and the Islanders can’t afford to be left behind, coming off a season without a playoff berth.