Normally I don't get too deep into NHL Trade Deadline frenzy until the Girl Scout cookies arrive to provide an awful diet through that nerve-racking day. (To quote Louis C.K.: "I don't stop eating when I'm full; I stop eating when I hate myself." But Garth Snow has been so busy checking items off his list since late December, by the time Feb. 28 arrives there may be nothing left to do. I half wonder if his early trades of James Wisniewski (the latest victim of Islanders Face) Dec. 28 and Dwayne Roloson Jan. 1 helped shake other GMs into actually making roster decisions well before the annual Click Refresh At TSN holiday.
Which, honestly, is the way to go if you can swing it. There is value to waiting as long as you can to gather all available information, but there is also the danger of making decisions under the gun or after the best bidders have already made theirs elsewhere. As my favorite college psychology professor (God rest her rockstar soul) told us: "Don't make important life decisions when you are: on little sleep, hungover, or have just been dumped."
Deadline deals are a highwire act unless you're confident the GM on the other end of the line is the guy doing the panicking. Neither the Wiz nor the Roloson deals were blockbuster deals, but they were good deals: It's anyone's guess whether the same materiel and demand would've been available two months later. For all we know, Snow may have been adjusting to last year's deadline, when there were no adequate bidders for (admittedly lesser assets) Sean Bergenheim or Martin Biron.
Regardless, with the re-signing of pending UFA's Matt Moulson, Milan Jurcina and P.A. Parenteau, Snow has done most of this season's typical trade deadline work already. But there are still some assets potentially in play, and there might even be some opportunities to improve the team's depth chart beyond collecting picks.
So let's set the stage first: The Islanders' thin margin of error this year was exposed by major preseason injuries to two of their best players, plus a ridiculous parade of injuries to depth players on the blueline and the wings. But since Dec. 16 the Islanders have a more respectable record (16-12-1, including three SO "wins"), despite still more injuries in goal that have created a lot of time for Mikko Koskinen, Nathan Lawson and Al Montoya. In theory the team will be better next year as is, with a few internal promotions along the way.
Meanwhile, the long-term goal is still to continue building for the future, compiling draft picks/prospects and shepherding them through the system so that when injuries strike, the Islanders aren't as thin as this year and Bridgeport isn't left scraping the want ads for players.
Can both goals be accomplished by shedding any of the remaining trade deadline targets? Can the Isles sell pending UFA Radek Martinek and hope to replace him this summer?
#24 / Defenseman / New York Islanders
Aug 31, 1976
Status: UFA ($1.5 million cap hit)
|GP||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||PPG||TOI||PKtoi||GTG||SOG||Corsi Rel QoC rank
|2010-11 - Radek Martinek||47||1||8||9||-3||19||0||20:40||2:37||0||63||3rd of 9
*Note: Corsie QoC is a "Quality of Competition" based on the average relative Corsi of opposing players, and just used to here to show how a player is deployed. Basically, at even strength Martinek is used as a second pairing player, while logging the most PK minutes among Isles defensemen.
Outside of Rick DiPietro, who spent the early 2000s in the minors, Martinek is the longest serving Islander. His demeanor and service is as legendary as his injury history. I won't repeat what I said about him the other day in my campaign to demand a 2nd or else, but suffice to say he's a smart, steady defenseman who can move the puck well and even provide some offensive punch when he's put in that situation.
Parting ways with him really entails two factors: 1) If the injury history is too much of a concern to bring him back on what would surely be another inexpensive deal, and 2) If the club is confident his contribution can be replaced via free agency or within.
Given the Islanders' injuries to an already average blueline this year, I'm not confident in either of the above propositions, which is why I'd hold out for a 2nd round pick or else retain him. All of this, of course, turns on hypothetical contract demands that we cannot know.
Rob Schremp Hockey
Rob Schremp Hockey
#44 / Center / New York Islanders
Jul 01, 1986
Status: RFA ($750,750)
|2010-11 - Rob Schremp||42||10||12||22||-18||12||2||15:02||1:57||48.4||58||17.2%|
The clock on Schremp isn't necessarily ticking, but the depth chart is. The Islanders have two superior centers in John Tavares and Frans Nielsen, plus another who is already a better three-zone player and likely to be a better overall player in Josh Bailey.
This situation has finally resulted in Bailey's move back to center and Schremp's move, after initial reluctance, to the wing, including some time on the fourth line. Fourth-line time and lesser PP minutes doesn't improve Schremp's trade value any, but if Schremp can carve a role as a top-nine winger, he's a cheap, skilled asset to retain.
Still if the Isles feel it's time to move on from that experiment, they can listen to bids. Since he's an RFA though, there is no urgency to move him at the deadline, and I'd only move him for another hockey player.
#57 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Feb 18, 1986
Status: RFA ($650,000)
|2010-11 - Blake Comeau||53||15||19||34||-16||24||3||19:16||2:45||2:13||139||10.8%|
I'm reluctant to even put Comeau here because he's an NHL player used on on the PP and PK whose rights are still in the Islanders' control. We all have our nitpicks with his game -- the COZO (Comeau Offensive Zone Orbit) being one -- but he provides depth on the wing that can't be replaced by simply saying, "I want" on July 1. In short, the Isles can't go about casting off non-UFA NHL players unless there's another NHL player coming back in return.
If the Isles were going to part ways with Comeau this month, it would have to be "a hockey deal," period. I wouldn't recommend it and don't expect it, but I have been wrong more times than Matt Cooke's moral compass has said, "Know what? I don't care about that guy's career."
Other Flotsam, Low Hanging Fruit
As for other Islanders free agents who might not be part of the future, Zenon Konopka might be in play but has carved out a rather heart-and-soul role as well as faceoff man. ... Bruno Gervais is listed as an RFA by CapGeek, but I don't know what contending team would want to rent a defenseman who is periodically a healthy scratch on an injury-depleted 28th-place team's blueline.
Any other free agents are essentially done (Doug Weight), part of the program (Jack Hillen) or so low in the organization as to not fetch bids (insert your favorite Bridgeport European scapegoat here).
What Kind of Hockey Deals Are out There?
This is the trickiest area. It's pretty easy to sit at home in front of EA NHL '11 and say, "The Islanders should sign Brad Richards!" but the reality is free agency is where rich men overspend, and the Islanders are neither rich men nor a destination of interest for the summer's most highly sought targets.
So aside from the draft, which Snow has been steadily using to restock the pipeline from the NHL on down, the other avenue for depth improvement is via trades for real players who, due to other circumstances, cannot be retained by their existing teams.
The Wisniewski trade last summer is one example, where Anaheim didn't like him at that salary slot at that ability in their budget, so they moved him like a distressed asset. The Isles rented him for a while, had his fun Avery moment, then flipped him for a pick upgrade.
Another hypothetical example that didn't come true was the rumor that the Bruins, in order to make room for Tomas Kaberle, would ship Mark Stuart to Chicago for a pick. Turns out they didn't have to do that because they found "a hockey deal" in sending Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Richard Peverley and Boris Valabik. Looking at the Islanders roster, I don't see an analogous offer that could've taken Stuart and Wheeler off the Bruins' hands. (Even if you equated Schremp with Peverley, which may be a stretch, there's till the matter of finding your Valabik.)
Which is why this is tricky business that's more easily played out in the video game in our heads.
I'm not much of a rumor monger, so I'm not going to start throwing out names. But if there are hockey players under contract past this summer and being moved by teams like Ottawa, Florida, (or St. Louis? -- would you take on Brad Boyes' contract for the theoretical wing upgrade?), or if there's a contender looking to make room for a sexier acquisition, then Snow should listen to the market.
Chances are there isn't that kind of match, but you never know when the right offer will arise. I certainly never thought Wiz and Roli would be gone by New Year's Day.