Thanks to the implosion of the Columbus Blue Jackets' summer splurge, the NHL Trade Deadline has some legs that just might make poor TSN panelists' sleepless weekend worthwhile.
Heading into the weekend, is there anything significant the Islanders will do? Is there anything significant the Islanders can do?
Yes and no. Or rather, no and yes.
Priced To Stay
Attractive Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Evgeni Nabokov, P.A. Parenteau
Warm-Blooded Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton, Steve Staios, Al Montoya, Jay Pandolfo, Dylan Reese
Other Pieces You Can't Afford Not To Buy: Brian Rolston, Rick DiPietro (I kid)
Tight-lipped GM Garth Snow has said he intends to keep Evgeni Nabokov, and that is at least in part a signal of a desire to sign him to an extension and in part a bluff to keep the price high. Problem is, even if a contract is not reached and Snow tries to sell him, the market for goalies is not high. We have at present one declared buyer in Toronto, but there are several options if the Leafs seek an upgrade in goal.
The other desirable card Snow has is P.A. Parenteau, whose agent infamously took to the Twitter to
squeeze leverage proclaim now is the time for playing hockey, not reaching contract extensions. Simply, if Parenteau cannot be signed now, he's too valuable a commodity to not cash in on the trade market, which appears to still be a seller's market.
The "let's negotiate after the season" does not pass the smell test. It'd be a shame to lose Parenteau for nothing, it'd be a shame if he overprices himself or the Isles overvalue his potential prospect replacements; but if no contract can be reached now, prudence dictates selling to the highest bidder.
There isn't much hope for the other UFAs fetching anything at all, but certainly draft picks are never bad to collect for shoot-the-moon and flexibility's sake.
Could Snow Get Creative? Technically, Yes.
Although we tend to associate this time of year with big movement, Snow has actually been fairly quiet most deadlines. Usually, that's because he doesn't have a whole lot to sell -- and possibly, that's because when he names a price he sticks to it.
Conceding that the expiring CBA makes this summer a wild card -- what will the cap be? the floor? will we even know, given the Sept. 15 expiration date? -- that doesn't mean Snow can't review the last few summers and probe for something different. Whereas in the past he has reasonably viewed his cap space as an asset, in practice he hasn't been able to leverage it for very much trade value. James Wisniewski was a smooth move; Brian Rolston was -- in the most generous terms possible -- at best a way to remove the commitment to Trent Hunter (recently waived by Los Angeles) next year.
Take Someone's Cap Mule
But Snow could look through the waters of signed-and-disgruntled talent and try to get something now that he might not get next summer. Roman Hamrlik is no longer the Hamrlik we once knew, but at present he's still better than the stopgap veterans the Islanders have acquired the past two summers. Would his final year at $3.5 million be worth grabbing? Depends on the price, and depends on whether Capitals GM George McPhee sees the recently scratched Hamrlik as an issue to be shed, or a product of his odd choice of coach.
Other suspects with another year of a large cap hit include Sergei Gonchar ($5.5 million), Lubomir Visnovsky ($5.6 million), and Marek Zidlicky ($4 million). Each of those have age and performance flags that, while they wouldn't make you miss Brian Rolston, they'd at least make you relieved Rolston didn't play D.
Calgary has a bevy of onerous contracts at uncomfortable lengths and GM Jay Feaster has been quoted saying the sale is on if the Flames don't have a good weekend. If you're dreaming of cap mules, cast thine eyes that way.
With roughly $2 million raises scheduled to both Frans Nielsen and John Tavares, the cap floor "urgency" might not be as high next summer as it appeared to be in 2011, but there are so many variables here -- will Nabokov sign? Parenteau? And, ahem, where will Rick DiPietro be? -- that parsing a few million under an expiring CBA is a hopeless exercise.
The bottom line is the Islanders need a realistic plan for their blueline next year, one that does not count on solely internal promotion.
The Islanders could also technically take someone's talented but unwanted free agent and hope 20 games on the Island makes them go wowy-gee-gaga over playing on the Island. That's just not happening; one quarter on the Island is not going to convince a disgruntled player to give up the UFA windfall that is so close. Alex Hemsky, Alexander Semin, etc. ... not coming here.
Sorry, P.K. Subban isn't coming. Rats.
Lateral Moves and Asset for Asset
Finally, the biggest obstacle in doing something like the Kings just did -- moving a high-paid (and severely overrated) defenseman for a high-paid forward -- is the Kings have the depth to do it. The Kings have a good blueliner ready to step in (and arguably, one with a better map of his own zone).
In contrast, the Islanders are in that part of their rebuild where their prospects aren't foolproof enough -- there's no Brayden Schenn ca. summer 2011 there -- and moving any good NHL players only creates a new hole.
So they could try something jarring like shop Kyle Okposo or Andrew MacDonald, but no doubt the return would not justify the hole created. The best bet here is checking in on itchy GMs who like to make big moves -- Brian Burke or Dale Tallon, perhaps. But even there ... you really think there's a match that ostensibly helps both teams?
Unfortunately, with the exception of cashing in any expiring assets, this is a stay-the-course kind of deadline for the Isles. What a strange world where Columbus gets to have all the fun.