Garth Snow has been on the hunt for some sort of help for the Islanders. He’s talked with any number of fellow GMs in recent weeks.
Given his team’s 2-10-2 skid, there’s room to add just about anywhere, but here are a few names that have been mentioned around the league as trade bait and where, based on conversations with several people across the NHL, the Isles might stand in trade talks:
Jonas Hiller: The Ducks’ longtime No. 1 goaltender has recently become expendable with a glut of young goalies surpassing Hiller on the depth chart. Viktor Fasth, last season’s surprise for Anaheim, is currently out with an injury, meaning Hiller is getting some burn to see if he can improve his play/improve his asking price. That price was a draft pick and a prospect before the season began, which may be too much for Snow to part with, given he’s conditionally traded the team’s first-round pick in June plus a 2015 second-rounder for Thomas Vanek. If the price comes down to, say, a mid-round pick, Snow might be more inclined to add Hiller, who would be a big upgrade over what the Islanders have now.
Ryan Miller: Snow and fired Sabres GM Darcy Regier talked plenty last summer and into the early part of the season about both Vanek and Miller. With Regier gone and Pat Lafontaine now Buffalo president, plenty of teams are still inquiring, but the price is still high -- believed to be a decently high pick and an A/B level prospect, all for the chance to rent Miller for the rest of the season. And yes, Snow and Lafontaine have a fine relationship, despite Lafontaine leaving the Islanders’ management team when Charles Wang fired Neil Smith and hired Snow back in 2006. If the deal were right, they’d do it. But I’d consider this a long shot.
Anton Khudobin / Justin Peters: The Hurricanes are carrying three goaltenders right now as GM Jim Rutherford is wary of trying to send Peters down -- he’d certainly be claimed on waivers, and almost as certainly by the Islanders or even the Oilers, who are without recently signed Ilya Bryzgalov indefinitely. So Rutherford is reportedly shopping Peters and Khudobin, who was on the Isles’ free-agent radar in the summer. Khudobin hasn’t played in nearly two months, though, and would be a risk. Peters is a risk because he’s a mostly career AHLer. Neither would cost much, though, and would be attractive options if Snow feels the need to add. A bonus is that Khudobin idolizes Evgeni Nabokov, so those two could work well together if need be.
Joey MacDonald: The onetime Islander has bounced around plenty already this season. He’s available for almost nothing, so if there’s a crying need in goal, he might be in the mix should Snow simply want to add a more veteran body.
I started with goaltenders because I believe that’s where Snow is focusing his limited assets to make a deal. Calvin de Haan, his very noticeable undressing by Sidney Crosby hanging out there at the end of Tuesday’s game notwithstanding, could be a better option than flipping an asset for a struggling defenseman from somewhere else.
All teams, not just the Islanders, want their own prospects to succeed. Almost all of you are aware of that. A few would love a trade just for a trade’s sake, and that flies in the face of everything Snow has done in seven-plus years as GM as well as in the face of what 29 other GMs do every day. The NHL is not a trading league anymore, so the trade-happy Twitter folks should try to accept that. Apologies.
Anyway, there are some defensemen available:
Jake Gardiner: The promising Leafs defenseman hasn’t seemed to fit with former coach Ron Wilson or current coach Randy Carlyle, so GM Dave Nonis is shopping Gardiner. The ask is a top-six forward. The Islanders have a couple of those they’d happily unload, but I don’t think any team is interested in taking on Josh Bailey’s new five-year deal, nor even the remaining three years on Michael Grabner’s deal. Trading a top-six guy only works if the other team believes the guy they’re getting is top-six. I don’t see that with Grabner or Bailey right now.
I believe Snow has talked with Nonis about Gardiner -- I believe Snow has talked with just about every GM who has a D-man or goalie to trade -- but I don’t think there’s a match right now.
Michael Del Zotto: Yes, Snow and Glen Sather talked a few weeks ago. I don’t know what the offer was, but Snow wasn’t interested. Del Zotto doesn’t exactly stabilize the Isles in their own zone, though I still think he’s worth giving up something to get. There aren’t any 22-year-olds who were once Calder Trophy candidates floating around.
Tim Gleason: No chance -- too much money and time left on his deal. With the prospects the Isles have coming in a couple of years, they don’t want to be saddled with a high-paid 6/7 D-man.
John-Michael Liles. See Gleason above. Same situation.
So there’s a little breakdown. My feeling is a goalie deal of some sort is on the horizon, even with Nabokov back on the ice. The season is too far gone to still hope one of the three goalies the Islanders currently have finally starts to seize the No. 1 job.