This summer the Islanders made a decision -- or Mark Streit made it for them -- based not on whether Streit could be a good defenseman next season, but rather how good he can be over the next four years.
The Isles reportedly offered three years, at a hefty price but one commensurate with unrestricted free agency price inflation. The Flyers, needing help right now, were prepared to offer more -- a price commensurate with Flyers inflation, let's say -- and even spent a fourth-round draft pick for the chance to do it.
Though how the contract turns out is uncertain and subject now to only educated guesses, it's a fairly safe bet that Streit will be a point-producer in 2013-14. He led the Islanders in defensemen scoring in all four healthy years of his five-year contract with the team. So the Islanders will want to replace that production.
Where will it come from?
Before you answer, "whoever takes his place on the powerplay," remember that Streit's total of 27 points last season -- 13 more than the next Islanders defenseman -- was far from powerplay dependent. He was also the Isles' best blueline producer at even strength:
|GP||Pts.||Off. Zone St%||ESP|
That said, defensemen scoring is not completely reproducable year after year, and it's not crazy to think other players who get Streit's team-high offensive zone starts (outside of Brian Strait, in less than half as many games) could pick up the slack.
(Similarly, scoring from the blueline is a good and desirable thing, but it is by no means something with a magical threshold, where you need X number of blueline points to have a good season. But that's a topic for another day.)
Two seasons ago, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic each put up notable even strength points (17 and 18, respectively, compared to Streit's 24). Last season Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey took over much of the even strength driving-play role with high offensive zone starts and some production.
The general expectation is that Matt Donovan or the dark horse Calvin de Haan will get first crack at replacing Streit. Certainly if Streit's missing offense is to come from someone currently under contract, it won't be Matt Carkner or Joe Finley.
Reasonable safe bets here are Hamonic and MacDonald, since they have been the Top Blueline Scorers Not Named Mark Streit ever since they joined the team full time, and they finished 1-2 with 27 (MacDonald) and 26 (Hamonic) points the year Streit missed with his shoulder injury. Caveat: In even strength points, Jack Hillen finished between them with 20 ESP in 2010-11.
That said, MacDonald and Hamonic are generally used in a shutdown role (the quality of which Garik went into recently).
Could Višňovský or Hickey pass them up? Does Matt Donovan win a job and take on a role he's excelled with in Bridgeport? Or is this going to be a replacement-by-committee thing, with Hamonic and MacDonald still piling up the plurality of points but the others also stepping up their game (and opportunity) in the meantime?