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Isles mailbag: Trade deadline, playing time, John Tavares and more

New York Islanders left wing Andrew Ladd skates

New York Islanders left wing Andrew Ladd skates against the Washington Capitals in the third period of an NHL game at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers this week ahead of a three-game road trip against playoff contenders.

Here are 10 answers for this week:

@bteuf: Who do we sell at the deadline? I can’t imagine anyone taking on Ladd’s contract.

Staple: Uh, no, no one’s taking Ladd’s contract – now or probably ever. Not unless he flushes this season from memory with a huge turnaround next year, but then I’d think the Isles would want to keep him.

As far as this year’s trade deadline, the pickings from this Isles roster are slim. Thomas Greiss probably is the most attractive rental for a team looking for goaltender insurance, but my guess is the Isles would like to keep Greiss around beyond this year. Trading him hurts those chances.

The only other pending UFA is Dennis Seidenberg, who wouldn’t fetch much to be a depth D-man on a playoff team. The Islanders are still likelier than not to lose a defenseman in the waiver draft, so they certainly could try to deal Thomas Hickey or pending UFA Calvin de Haan for some sort of return rather than lose one of them in June.

But as I wrote last time we did one of these, there’s a chance the Isles front office will look vastly different this coming summer. Players may be viewed differently by new eyes, so we’ll see what the owners have in mind as the deadline rolls around.

‏@JTsHelmetHair: is there any realistic scenario where Snow could give up what Colorado wants for either Duchene or Gabe?

Staple: Sure, if the Islanders are willing to part with one or two of their best prospects, their presumably top-5 draft pick and a roster defenseman. I think, based on some sniffing around earlier this season, the Isles have far more interest in Duchene than Landeskog even with the team’s dearth of elite wingers, but at that price nothing’s happening.

@arnold_mark9: do you think the #isles will place too much emphasis on veterans instead of playing beau or pulock? I.e chimera siedenberg

Staple: Well, Pulock hasn’t been healthy enough to be considered a snub – and to be honest, the steady stream of injuries Pulock’s suffered have dented his value a bit. I’m curious to see how Adam Pelech does with this week of playing in place of Travis Hamonic. If Pelech is steady (and stays healthy, since his health rep isn’t so great either), you have to wonder if Pelech plays over Seidenberg at some point soon.

Up front, it does seem time for Jack Capuano to let go of the long leash he’s given some of his veterans. He referred to some young guys who struggled too last night, but no one looked more off than Chimera, who didn’t play at all down the stretch.

I’d think at this rate, Chimera and Shane Prince are in the most danger of losing regular spots.

@OlegKvasha: Now that the main roster has a reasonable number of goalies, where is JF Berube and will he play?

Staple: He’s going to play, probably this weekend in Raleigh, I’d figure. Greiss certainly hasn’t been bad, so I would think the plan for now is Berube goes in back-to-backs and the odd other start until he steals a game or Greiss lays an egg.

@islesblogger: Do they realize how much they’re not skating? Why can’t they adapt at getting past neutral zone “traps”. Passing utterly poor

Staple: I’d imagine there was some video shown this morning that highlighted this very thing. That second period was such a no-show, it can be hard to wonder if this group of players gets where they are in the standings and how little time is left.

Of course, if they realized that, they wouldn’t be in this dire situation. That’s the trap of being on an underperforming team – you think you can get it together and it’s too late before you understand that tricking yourself into believing that the occasional 10 or 20-minute stretch of success is a winning formula.

Florida really threw that game into neutral in the third, knowing its lack of skill. Doesn’t say much for where the Panthers are at, but they’ve got injuries. As Nick Leddy said last night, they faced a heavy trap, but good teams fight through. The Islanders weren’t good enough and it’s fair to wonder if they’ve got the will to fight through games like last night’s at all this season.

‏@DrG_EMS: any word on why they keep Anthony Beauvillier with the big team if all they do is sit him?

Staple: I’d guess he’s playing Friday and I have to agree that if five- and 10-year vets are coasting through these games that still have some shred of significance, why not let the kid who busts his behind every night get in there and sit the other guys?

I’ve stated here before that this coaching staff has perhaps been too slow to recognize these issues in the past in the name of development, but if you’re sitting a kid making honest mistakes rather than a vet making lazy ones, that doesn’t send the greatest message. Perhaps that changes for good today.

@cultureoflosing: Where in the World is Jon Ledecky?

Staple: He was there last night, same as always. Even chatted with our Neil Best about the legend Jiggs McDonald, whose ceremony was handled well by all involved (it was Ledecky’s idea, by the way). But I think Ledecky isn’t making any major pronouncements about his team until this season is done.

That doesn’t sit well with you fans, I’m sure, but we’ve been over this one – Ledecky and Scott Malkin invested their big dough, so they’re scouring the hockey world for lessons and guidance. That doesn’t mean quick moves to save already fading seasons, much as it pains the paying customers.

If this season ends as it’s gone, there will be changes. There’s no doubt of that.

@FullMetalJack3d: do you get the same sense that Tavares isn’t going anywhere?

Staple: Well, that was my sense a few weeks ago based on talking to people in both camps. I’d say the Isles camp, from the owners on down, is not going to change – they want him back, of course.

Tavares’ side isn’t committing to anything now, also obviously. The captain says and does the things that a captain says and does – I doubt we’ll ever hear a word of discontent from him because he’s the sort of player and person who looks in the mirror before he calls out anyone else.

That’s one of the reasons the Isles want him here for life.

But even he needs to see what’s going to happen in the offseason. He’s got until July 1 to watch what Ledecky and Malkin do with the front office, the roster, everything – I doubt he’ll have direct input but they can certainly show Tavares they mean to turn this thing back around quickly.

If they hire his agent, Pat Brisson, to run the show, that would be pretty convincing too, I’d bet, long shot though it may be.

Here’s one more tidbit to consider when the “stay or go” question is bandied about with Tavares: He’s a very, very strong and loyal union guy. The players association and what it stands for and fights for means a lot to Tavares, especially with another potential work issue looming in September of 2020.

Now, if one of the stars of the league and a good union man were to spurn the biggest offer he could get – eight years and, say, $84 million – to sign a shorter, cheaper deal with a contender after the 17-18 season, the union would be livid. It needs its stars to max out deals to lift all the players’ boats.

Not to say that’s a huge factor, but it could be something to pack away for when the time comes.

@sab31nyi: In your opinion, what’s the % of the room that have already mailed it in?

Staple: Easy: Zero. Us non-playing, regular folks like to throw those phrases around, but they are taboo in the athlete business. You’re done if you stop trying, in game 1 or game 82 of a last-place season.

If you really, truly think Chimera or Ladd or Jaro Halak or Doug Weight or Jack Capuano has stopped playing or coaching because they played poorly or their team performed weakly, that’s your business, I guess. I’ve been at this long enough to know you can try to tell people what you know and sometimes they choose to believe otherwise.

But no one quits. Good luck getting a job selling elbow pads after you do that.

@jeffbeil: How about: Your posts describe a team hemmed in by big contracts and scarce talent. Is there a path forward?

Staple: There’s always a way – it took a long time, but this organization dug out from one of the worst 10-year stretches of any franchise in any sport. So it can be done.

I don’t think they’re far off, truthfully. If there are sweeping front-office changes coming, that’s a new team president and GM (possibly two different people), new coaching staff, new scouting staff and all that with Tavares, Beauvillier, Barzal, Lee, Nelson, Ladd, possibly Dal Colle/Ho-Sang, Cizikas, Clutterbuck and possibly an elite player from this year’s draft up front; Leddy, Hamonic, de Haan/Hickey, Boychuk, Pelech, Pulock, Mayfield, Toews on defense (or one prospect fewer and a bona fide top-line wing added); and, ideally, Ilya Sorokin and Greiss in goal.

That’s a lot of change at the top, but not so much on the ice. Which is an interesting place to start a “rebuild,” or whatever you call this sort of potential upheaval.

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

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