On the eve of NHL free agency, last weekend's NHL Draft brought quite the shakeup for the New York Islanders' defense depth chart. All remember the infamous seven defensemen drafted, as well as the fabled trade proposal that would have reduced that number to perhaps one (the latest: the Post's Bret Crygalis has an NHL source who disputes the original claim out of Columbus).
And before the draft kicked off, the Islanders acquired Lubomir Visnovsky to improve their top four, likely on the right side. Finally, Monday saw qualifying offers to Ty Wishart, among others. Mark Katic also was qualified, but he's reportedly bound for Germany. Steve Staios has found office employment with the Maple Leafs, and unrestricted free agents Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina are likely headed to the UFA recycler bin. Fellow UFA Dylan Reese is expected to be retained.
Of the seven 2012 draftees, none should be expected in the lineup for 2012-13 -- indeed, two of them will be entering their senior year of high school in the fall. But they do shake up the supply of depth in the system, which also means -- perish the thought -- the Islanders could be in position to trade defensive prospects in their search to acquire upgrades at the NHL level.
They'd surely prefer to add talent the "free" way as free agency kicks off July 1, but July 1 and the days after are a wild world of unpredictable Feasters and Tallons that rarely feels free. Organizationally, here's how things shape up before lines are cast in the UFA waters:
In considering the table below and how it influences moves on July 1 and beyond, I'd be remiss if I didn't point you also to CIL's very well considered chart of the Islanders' prospect depth chart, as well as Afrosupreme's ever-dwindling list of available UFA defensemen.
The following are listed in columns by which way they shoot, but Visnovsky is adept at the right side and Donovan appears to be able to play either side -- and not just in a Mike Mottau sort of way. UFAs Jurcina and Eaton are excluded, but Reese is included because a few different signs point to him sticking around.
|Left-Shooters (signed thru/league)||Right-Shooters|
|Mark Streit (12-13)||Travis Hamonic (ELC 12-13)|
|Lubomir Visnovsky (12-13)||Dylan Reese (UFA)|
|Andrew MacDonald (13-14)||Scott Mayfield (NCAA)|
|Calvin de Haan (ELC -14)||Brenden Kichton (WHL)|
|Matt Donovan (ELC -14)||Ville Pokka (SM-L)|
|Aaron Ness (ELC -14)||Robbie Russo (NCAA)|
|Ty Wishart (RFA)||Loic Leduc (QMJHL)|
|Marc Cantin (ELC-13-14)||Jesse Graham (OHL)|
|Griffin Reinhart (WHL)|
|Adnrei Pedan (OHL)|
|Adam Pelech (OHL)|
|Doyle Somerby (N.H. H.S.)|
|Jake Bischoff (Minn. H.S.)|
|Mark Katic* (Germany)|
Contract info from CapGeek.
Holy cow, that's a lot of defensemen.
I placed Katic at the bottom because he's Europe-bound, though by rights his chances of one day playing in the NHL are still probably higher than those late-round draft picks -- and even pretending they all made the NHL, Katic would be there sooner if he did a Joensuu and came back after a year abroad.
- Going into free agency, there's a desire for one more really solid defenseman -- a "top four" guy would be ideal, though they are scarce via free agency and via trade right now.
- So the free agency/trade complete strikeout scenario would have Reese re-signed and Wishart as your 6-7 defensmen, with one of Ness, de Haan or Donovan entering that group.
- Kichton remains an interesting one. He wants a contract. The Isles sound like they like him. So Bridgeport-bound this year then?
- Unlike CIL's chart based on potential, this one is based on who's closest to the NHL, which is the only reason Reinhart is down the list there. Obviously everyone hopes he one day is in the first or at least second row.
- Streit and Visnovsky are the two guys who enter the year as potential veteran rentals by year's end. You hope that conversation doesn't even happen come February, but from a depth chart standpoint we must look at it that way (or, if you prefer, as UFA's who could walk after a wonderful playoff run).
- On that note, you can really see how the Isles D has shifted younger. Even without prospect hype, you can count at least six defenseman you can expect to be in NHL lineups a few years from now.
So this list is in need of some additions (at least one) for the NHL level for next year, and some of these guys are longshots/uncertainties several seasons away, but you can at least see where if the Islanders are in position to trade for an NHL upgrade, they can afford to pick a name off their non-NHL depth chart as part of the deal.