BUFFALO — Things have been quiet around the Islanders this week, but that could change when Garth Snow and the rest of the team’s front office get to the First Niagara Center on Friday for the opening round of the NHL Draft.
While Snow made his way from Las Vegas, site of the Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday, to Buffalo on Thursday, the rumor mill was churning away, with big names such as the Canadiens’ P.K. Subban making the rounds.
Snow has been heavily involved in trade talks with his fellow general managers during the past few weeks, according to sources, in a search to add a top-six wing to replace Kyle Okposo, who is set to become a free agent on July 1 and is unlikely to return.
Okposo, a longtime Islander, is “100 percent gone,” according to a league source. The window for teams to contact pending unrestricted free agents begins one minute after midnight early Saturday, and Okposo and Matt Martin likely will be in contact with a handful of teams.
Frans Nielsen is the one pending unrestricted free agent the Islanders want back. There has been no further progress between Nielsen’s camp and Snow since late last week, when the two sides closed the negotiating gap considerably. Nielsen may yet reach July 1 unsigned, but it appears there’s a deal to be made that will keep him an Islander for the long term.
As for the draft, the Islanders’ 19th overall pick certainly could figure in Snow’s pursuit of a top-line wing. The Islanders have no second- or third-round picks when rounds 2-7 commence on Saturday, so if Snow doesn’t find a deal for a current NHLer that includes the No. 19 pick, it appears more than likely he’ll try to trade down from that spot to pick up an extra pick on day two.
There are a few young players the Islanders like in the middle of the first round, but all of them could be gone by the time No. 19 comes up. Among them are Long Beach native Charlie McAvoy, a defensemen entering his sophomore year at Boston University; forward Kieffer Bellows, son of former NHLer Brian and an incoming freshman at BU, and Western League defenseman Jake Bean.
Should the Islanders choose to move back in the first round, there are a couple of intriguing forwards on the radar: Alex DeBrincat, who posted back-to-back 51-goal seasons with Erie of the Ontario League but has questions about his size (5-7, 160 pounds), and Tage Thompson, son of Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who has risen steadily up the draft rankings after a 14-goal freshman season at the University of Connecticut.