CHICAGO — After spending his first-round pick in Wednesday’s expansion draft to avoid having Vegas pluck one of his young NHLers, Islanders general manager Garth Snow took one of those young players and swung a deal for a four-time 20-goal scorer Thursday.
The Isles acquired Oilers wing Jordan Eberle for wing Ryan Strome, the fifth pick in the 2011 draft. Eberle, 27, was an Oiler for seven seasons and has crested the 60-point plateau three times, with a career-best 76 points in 2011-12.
Eberle could be the top-line wing Snow has been looking for — and it helps that Eberle and John Tavares have been friends for years, dating to their chemistry on a line together for Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior tournament.
“It’s a team where I know a lot of guys,” Eberle said. “I’m excited to be part of that, get a bit of a fresh start. John is a generational player, he thinks the game better than anyone in the league. We’ve had some chemistry together in the past. I think the way he plays suits my game.”
Strome, 23, hardly was a bust, but he lost his way the past two seasons after posting 50 points in 2014-15. He was sent to the AHL for three weeks in November 2015 after a horrifically slow start and suffered a season-ending wrist injury this past March. He had 58 points in 140 games the past two seasons.
Jack Capuano often singled out Strome for benchings. When Doug Weight took over as coach in January, Strome saw an uptick in his playing time but didn’t make it translate into points.
This is Snow’s third trade in the last three years with Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli, and it’s safe to say the Isles have come out looking awfully good from the previous two.
While still running the Bruins, Chiarelli sent Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders in October 2014 for a pair of second-round picks.
On the draft floor in June 2015, with Chiarelli newly installed as Edmonton’s GM, Snow sent defense prospect Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for the 16th and 33rd picks.
The Islanders drafted Mathew Barzal with that No. 16 pick, and the dynamic young center may have solidified his spot in the Isles’ 2017-18 lineup with Thursday’s trade. The Isles still have assets, particularly on defense, to swing another deal for a high-end forward, but they appear unwilling to part with Barzal, which could scuttle any plans to acquire Avalanche center Matt Duchene. So Barzal could be the answer at a top-nine center spot this coming season.
The Islanders still have a glut of NHL defensemen and are without a first-round pick after Wednesday’s involved expansion draft trade, in which they sent the 15th pick in Friday’s NHL Draft, a 2019 second-rounder, injured center Mikhail Grabovski and his $5-million salary-cap hit, and defense prospect Jake Bischoff to Vegas to have the Knights select goaltender J-F Berube, a pending free agent.
That move cleared enough cap space for Snow to make Thursday’s deal. Eberle has two seasons left at a $6-million cap hit and Strome has one more year at $2.5 million, after which he will be a restricted free agent.
Travis Hamonic or Calvin de Haan appear to be the most attractive trade targets for other teams among the Islanders’ defensemen, and there was strong chatter Thursday that Hamonic could be on the move, possibly for a young forward and a draft pick.
Jordan Eberle file
Born: Regina, Saskatchewan
Draft: First round, 22nd overall, in 2008 by Oilers
2016-17: 82 games, 20 goals, 31 assists
2011-12 (best season) 78 games, 34 goals, 42 assists
Career: 507 games, 165 goals, 217 assists