The narrative that is quickly taking hold for the upcoming NHL offseason can be boiled down to this: Everyone is willing to move their first-round pick, no one is pleased with the summer's free agent class, and big established names are in play on the trade market as a result.
There is already the widely reported Ryan Kesler trade request denial-but-really-yes-please. Added to that are loud rumblings in Ottawa, San Jose and Montreal about possibly moving big-name centers.
A typical collection of reports, via CSN Washington (really annoying autoplay ad warning):
The list of pivots that are under contract for next season, but could be moved this offseason, includes Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks, Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks.
That post also touches on the situation headed into this month's draft, where Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon has loudly proclaimed his willingness to move the first-overall pick.
How does this all relate to the New York Islanders? One, they've already shown they want to be aggressive this offseason, acquiring the rights to both Jaroslav Halak and Dan Boyle (more on him later) before those pending free agents reached the open market in July.
But Isles GM Garth Snow has also been fairly open about his willingness to move the fifth-overall pick. Granted, in his public statements he is always a "we won't rule anything out" kind of guy, but the number of times he's gotten this word out makes you think he is actively shopping the pick for immediate help, rather than doing his traditional tight-lipped, "of course we'd consider anything to improve the club" message discipline.
Whatever Snow is saying publicly or privately, it has the team's most connected beatwriter convinced. Here is Arthur Staple of Newsday, in a brief respite from his Rangers playoff coverage purgatory:
@StapeNewsday hmmm. who do you think snow would be targeting if not dal colle? seems to be concensus #5. or do you see them trading pick?— Blair MacGregor (@blairmacgregor) June 9, 2014
@rtaffofficial No one. Trade.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 9, 2014
To be clear -- and there is a string of tweets and replies you can sort through if you want to parse tea leaves -- Staple isn't saying a trade is happening. He's just saying that's the scenario he'd bet on, if a journalist's salary were anything to bet with.
On that note, there is also the possibility the Islanders will still be in the market for a defenseman. From a writer not connected to the Islanders, but frequently with leaks from agents:
No negotiations between #Islanders and Dan Boyle will take place unless he decides he wants to play there. Decision expected this week.— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) June 9, 2014
Strickland went on to say Boyle is doing due diligence by talking to the Islanders and players he knows about the team (that isn't new news, but it does provide context to the above claim). Boyle, given that he'll turn 38 this summer, was always a longer shot than Halak to get into the fold, as his public statements before the trade were centered around wanting a shot to win the Stanley Cup. But if the Isles can't sign him by the draft, you'd have to think the odds of moving that fifth-overall pick for immediate help increase slightly.
The problem, as always with these scenarios: Finding out which team(s) both 1) has an immediate asset to trade and 2) is in a position where a fifth-overall pick helps their current situation (usually a rebuild) more than that established player?
Last summer's Cory Schneider trade was a unique situation for Vancouver (one that still arguably blew up in their face, since they ended up trading both goalies after all). A few years ago, the Flyers' deals of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards happened under cap pressure and the threat of those guys' long-term no-trade clauses kicking in.
In his 30 Thoughts this week, Elliotte Friedman mused about the Boyle situation ("Can he be convinced the Islanders have a shot [at the Cup soon]?" in thought #13), and also napkin-sketched a draft-move scenario (thought #18) where the Islanders would target brotherly love my moving up to select Sam Reinhart.
Unless they were truly and independently enamored with the younger Reinhart, it doesn't make much sense to give up further assets for the prospect simply for the novelty of having two Reinharts. But the Isles are close enough to his projected draft slot, the top draft-eligible forwards are close enough to each other in talent, and the lottery teams sound willing enough to move, that it's believable something could happen if they liked Reinhart that much. And if they don't find a better return for that pick.
Still, the Isles sound more like they are in improve-now mode after last season's step back. The Boyle trade indicates an urgency to kick tires as soon as possible. While they shouldn't (and won't) be in the market for Kesler, Thornton or Spezza, if there are more trades on the horizon, that fifth-overall pick more likely to go for a real name than merely another slot in the draft.