The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 3, and the New York Islanders are seen as unlikely to be very active. But we are taking a look at why they are expected to stand pat and where they sit as an organization in the three positional areas.
It doesn't matter that Butch Goring keeps saying Evgeni Nabokov is the team's MVP, and it doesn't matter that we are entertained to the hilt by Nabokov's frank post-game interviews. Hell, it doesn't even matter that Nabby has all 17 of the Islanders' wins this season to his name. The underlying numbers -- things as simple as save percentage (.905) and even strength save percentage (.910) -- tell us he's clearly below average among starting goaltenders in the NHL.
That doesn't mean he can't help win them games (like Monday night), and it doesn't mean he isn't the best option in the organization to win games right now. But it does mean they will need a better successor as Nabokov gets closer to age 40.
At present, Rick DiPietro is trying to recapture his pre-injury form in AHL Bridgeport, a quest that is both admirable and Quixotic. Kevin Poulin has been up with the Isles in his place but has started only two games and failed to impress in either. Anders Nilsson is only now returning in the AHL from a seasonlong malady whose identity was elusive.
Basically, the Islanders' future in goal is quite uncertain. With three once-praised prospects in Poulin, Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen, none has been able to make a strong case that they will be The One. And Cody Rosen isn't walking through that door.
Word is the Islanders are looking at an extension with the pending UFA Nabokov, so truly no goaltender is a candidate to leave the Islanders organization at the deadline.
The bigger question would be who could the Islanders make available to acquire a goalie? (And really, aren't they more likely to re-evaluate in the summer?)
Well, someone younger and better and more proven is needed -- and man, do the above examples demonstrate how hard that is to identify, much less acquire.
The NHL is littered with goalies signed to multi-year deals only to have their teams discover they weren't as good as they thought. It's also littered with goalies who came out of relative obscurity to earn praise (and, often, the same contracts teams later regret).
Ben Bishop -- The hottest and best example of this phenomenon at this trade deadline is Ottawa Senators goalie Ben Bishop (.922 save%, .927 EV save%). There is lots of interest in Bishop, according to RDS' Renaud Lavoie, which makes NHL GMs just like average fan forum participants: Bishop is big (6'7"), relatively young (27) ... and he has all of 36 NHL games to his name.
In short, he's promising but far from a proven commodity. The Blues dealt him to Ottawa for a 2nd-round pick last season because otherwise they risked losing him as a Group 6 UFA. The Senators will eventually deal him -- though they could easily wait until summer -- because they have (currently injured) Craig Anderson and goaltender of the future Robin Lehner in the fold. Must be nice.
Jonathan Bernier -- Bernier is an example of someone who has sped through the Bishop life cycle at an accelerated pace, and now at age 24 is less hyped than he once was. He has 59 NHL games spread across five NHL seasons. Once the Kings' goalie of the future, he was surpassed by Jonathan Quick and became L.A.'s Goaltender of the Perpetual Trade Chip.
He's definitely in demand though. if the Kings decide they're ready to ride without him as Quick insurance, they'll find takers.
Alex Stalock -- You don't hear too much about Stalock, in part because his career was delayed by a freak nerve injury that took him out for over a year. But he's part of a three-goalie crowd in the Sharks organization with Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss, and if the Sharks ever wanted to part with Stalock there would be bidders.
Ryan Miller -- For some reason Miller's name keeps coming up in trade rumors, as if Buffalo needs a change just because. He's still good, but he has a no-trade clause and can select his team.
Miikka Kiprusoff -- Kiprusoff is 36, coming off an injury, has not been good this season, has a comically low-priced final year of his contract next season, and has a NTC where he can control his future. He's not the answer now or tomorrow.
Roberto Luongo -- This isn't happening, but it's still fun to entertain given his unique history with the club, and his current contract that's making him so hard to deal.
The Isles are going to run with Nabby to take this playoff push wherever it leads them. He is their goalie of the present. Unless something falls into their laps at the deadline, the question of who will be their goalie of the future will carry into summer.
For the You Tubes: Trade Deadline Themes
Oddsmakers have the over/under on trades Wednesday at 16 1/2. Will the Islanders be among them?