Draft Season brings about a certain sense of wonder, “who will my team select,” or “man, I hope [Prospect X] drops to my team” or even ‘I hope the rumors about this trade come true.” For Islanders fans the Draft is usually an event with a big party at the Coliseum (which I’ll be at this year, come track me down, say hi or call me a jerk, doesn’t matter to me), and an internal debate over who the Islanders will pick with their top 5 pick. This year is different, There won’t be a top 5 pick, and there’s every chance the Isles could even trade the pick with players to address other needs. I’m of the thought that the pick would be more valuable sent out for help to keep the Isles playoff push alive and to push deeper; there was no “end of rebuild” trade to signify that the Isles were done “Building” and ready to push further, I think this summer is the time for that. That said, the Islanders and Garth Snow play closer to the vest than any other team in the league, Garth lets his guard down for no one and always has something on a burner. I wouldn’t put it past him to make a splash at the draft, here’s a few options.
Option 1: Keep the Pick/Move up or down to grab “THE guy”
This years draft is incredibly deep and the Islanders will have plenty of talent to pick from at the 15th pick to land a player who will be an eventual contributor. Names mentioned in this field would be Valentin Zykov, Anthony Mantha, Alex Wennberg, Josh Morrissey, etc all provide the Islanders another prospect who will spend a few years developing and add to the already impressive pool of prospects the Islanders have. This is probably what will happen and someone like Mantha may well be the pick after his 50 goal season at Val d’Or. The Islanders could just as easily move up using a prospect and the 1st to try and land a Max Domi, or Nikita Zadorov or Kirk Shakinhurk, if they believe that’s the best option; alternatively, The Isles could ofer the pick to a team behind them confident that one of the guys at 15 will surely be available later and they can get a 2nd rounder to replace the one lost in the Lubomir Visnovsky trade last year. This option/s seems the most likely and the one I’ll probably be expecting, but not necessarily what I want.
Option 2: Get a Superstar, a Goalie, help a Cap-strapped team
The Anaheim Ducks currently have about $8M in cap space with 19 guys on the NHL roster, but there’s a small caveat: Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne aren’t 2 of those 19 players. Every year the Ducks go through a methodical dance to get Selanne signed, and it’s always well worth it, but if he takes his usual 1 year $4M contract, that’s 3 roster spots and $4M dollars to work with before Koivu and RFAs: Kyle Palmieri and Matt Belesky. This is all even before the Ducks contemplate whether or not they want to bring back Dave Steckle or Matt Lombardi, who are UFAs and Defensemen Toni Lydman. Even without Teemu and Koivu, the Ducks cap situation isn’t pretty. In Goal, the Ducks have a building conundrum as well: Jonas Hiller’s been supplanted by Viktor Fasth and the hugely talented John Gibson’s not far off from breaking into the NHL, so they could use an out, and Jonas Hiller’s $4.5M cap hit being dealt could do a lot of good for the Ducks.
One trade mentioned over and over in the Twitter-verse by Isles fans (Particularly @BUIslander) is the Islanders making an offer for RW Bobby Ryan and Hiller. This makes sense for both teams as the Islanders could desperately use the talented Ryan lined up with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and seem to be looking for a replacement for Evgeni Nabokov or someone to go in tandem with Nabby, who was good in the shortended season, but fizzled in the playoffs. So for the Islanders this makes perfect sense. The Ducks as mentioned are cash strapped and shedding $9.6M in cap space would answer all their questions as they could use the players from the Islanders and the savings to re-sign all their players in question if they choose or give them some extra beathing room for deadline deals.
So what do the Islanders give up for Ryan and Hiller? The answer starts with local malcontent Nino Niederreitter and the 15th overall pick. From there the options get a little bit more tougher. To me, the playoff preformance of Kyle Okposo, while a huge bonus could make him easily available in the event the return is Bobby Ryan, he’s a top 6 forward who would flourish in Anaheim lined up with any of their Cs (especially Getzlaf or Cogliano). His team friendly $2.8M cap hit should also be useful to the Ducks as it gives them some cost certainty. If you want to shy away from Okposo, Josh Bailey makes for a good piece, though an RFA that would need to be given a deal (I assume close to his $1M this past season), but it won’t kill any new found cap space. One could also imagine Okposo and Bailey linemate Frans Neilsen offered, or a young player like an Anders Lee or Casey Cizikas (of those three I’d deal Lee, but that’s just me). We can get caught up in the “But what if Lee blows up into a great player?” debate, but the answer is simple: this would be a win now trade and the Islanders would be getting back Bobby Ryan, I can suffer the loss of Anders Lee in such a trade because there’s still a ton of Talent in the pool and if you can make a trade where you are giving up a borderline for us top 5 Prospect, a lesser prospect (assuming Lee), and a 1st rounder for Bobby Ryan and a Goalie, I take it. Preferably the trade breaks down as:
RW Kyle Okposo
F Nino Neiderreiter
1st Round 2013 (15) Draft pick
F Bobby Ryan
G Jonas Hiller.
This is the best possible “big” NHL draft I can think of for the Islanders to pursue. If there was one to be made, I’d hope for this one over Roberto Luongo.
Option 3: The Matt is freaking Nuts and THIS WON’T HAPPEN TRADE
So, if you’re looking for some crazy, then read on here folks! This is the trade that makes some sense, but won’t happen, because, why the hell would it; it’s so crazy I’m going to get flamed to kingdom come just for suggesting it. Before you blast me, notice who I’ve prefaced this, it’s not going to happen, I’m playing with House money, I’m playing arm chair GM (incidentally the chair I’m writing this in, has no arms). So, you ready:
New York Islanders trade:
1st Round 2013 (15) draft pick
F Nino Neiderreiter
F Brock Nelson
D Andrey Pedan
LW Brandon Saad
D Nick Leddy
Why is this trade not going to happen; well for one, the Black Hawks don’t need to make any trades to make over their roster. They passed on Nelson (no sure thing he was was on their radar in ‘10, but they picked up 2 players in the second at the expense of drafting Nelson at 30) and trading away two players that helped win a cup, who are young, for younger un-proven talent doesn’t really jive with what Stan Bowman’s done since fixing the mess of Dale Tallon. It’s a completely superfluous trade for the Hawks. But man does it look good for the Islanders. It’s not that it’s a pillaging, all three Islanders prospects are highly rated and Pedan offers size and grit, a but more than Leddy, who found himself in the doghouse during the Stanley Cup Finals. Also Nelson and Nio could find their way into the Hawks top 6 eventually, and may be as good as the offerings on the second line, over time. Nelson can also play a physical game in the bottom 6 to bide his time and could work out well with guys like Shaw and Kruguer. So this isn’t the Isles offering junk for gold, it is however, not a likely trade by any stretch of the imagination. Saad and Leddy would provide the Isles with a top 6 F and a top 4 D which ar both needed. Saad could play in Josh Bailey’s spot and his rights (or decent contract) could be dangled for additional help.
Okay, okay, before anyone gets too hot and bothered over the third “it’ll never happen,” trade option, these are just the opinions of this writer, the Isles do need to make a statement trade, the draft should provide the venue for such a trade and man Bobby Ryan would look amazing lined up with John Tavares.
We await Sunday and what will happen, and please refrain from showing Blackhawks fans that trade, they’ll hunt me down...or something, it was a joke, and meant to be.