When last I addressed the Islanders forward situation, I discussed Anders Lee's chances of making the club out of training camp. One of the surest ways to boost his chances of being on the Opening Night roster is the trade of a top 9 forward.
It's no secret Garth Snow has looked to try and improve the defense via trade, and it seems he is making two top 9 forwards available.
There have been strong rumblings that Snow was shopping Josh Bailey, and even a word or two that he had gauged interest in Michael Grabner (link not available. Bad job, Chris!)
The two main questions with trading either of those two are:
- Who of the two forwards is better for the Islanders to keep?
- Which of the two forwards will be the more desirable (i.e. provide a greater return) for another team to acquire?
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of keeping, and dealing, Bailey and Grabner.
There has been a lot of debate about Bailey's 5 year/$16.5 million contract which began last season. With four years left on the deal and a $3.3 million cap hit each of those years, the deal is reasonable, but only if you're sold on Bailey being the answer for your team long term If you believe Bailey is a player who you'll be looking to upgrade each year, the deal doesn't make sense to hold on to.
So if Snow is indeed shopping Bailey, then he has been deemed expendable, or at least someone the Islanders are willing to part with for a more important piece for your club.
Grabner's contract is on par with Bailey's in terms of dollar amounts at $3 million per season, but term-wise his contract is shorter, with only two years left. So a team looking to take on Grabner would only be on the hook for half the amount of years they would be if they acquired Bailey.
When it comes to the penalty kill, Grabner is your man. Last year, out of players who averaged more than one minute of PK time a game, only Max Pacioretty had a better On-Ice Corsi than Grabner on the PK. And Grabner was tops in the league when it came to players who averaged more than two minutes of shorthanded time per game.
While Bailey can kill penalties, he's probably not going to be one of a team's top four options. In fact, Bailey's average penalty kill time has dwindled each year since 2010-11. That year he saw 2:21 of PK time a game, compared to a meager 0:27 per game on the penalty kill this past season.
When it comes to the power play, Bailey is your better option. While he'll never be a top unit player, Bailey can be a serviceable power play winger. He was 87th in the league in On-Ice Corsi for players who averaged at least a minute and a half of power play time. But it's his rate of production that takes a little shine off Bailey's power play resume.
Over the past three seasons, Bailey has a whopping 3 goals and 15 power play points. This total is while averaging nearly 1:30 of PP time a game over 195 games. Not exactly world-beating numbers.
Best for Frans?
Maybe the most important factor in who to keep on the team is which forward plays better with Frans Nielsen. With Nielsen being the two forwards' most likely playing partner in the middle, the ability for the pairings to produce is key to the Islanders' success next season.
If you're on Team Josh, the following chart will undoubtedly make you happy:
|Goals For/20||Goals Against/20||Corsi %|
|Frans w/ Bailey||.872||.793||51.1%|
|Frans w/o Bailey||.653||.770||47.4%|
|Frans w/ Grabner
|Frans w/o Grabner||.831||.831||50.6%|
As much as it pains me to say it, Frans Nielsen seems like a much better player when he is playing along side Josh Bailey. His numbers have been substantially worse when he is instead playing with Michael Grabner. If these numbers are taken into consideration, and they should be, it could mean curtains for Grabner's days on Long Island.
Both Bailey and Grabner have been known for their power outages during the season. Each forward had a streak of over 30 games last season where they failed to score a goal (Grabner 31, Bailey 36). Grabner also went 24 straight games without scoring a point, while Bailey had separate streaks of 12 and 10 games without being on the score sheet.
Bailey also has the reputation of disappearing between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28. In 107 games over the past three seasons during the November-February months, Bailey has all of 9 goals (.08 per) and 33 points (.30 per).
Both bring different things to the table. Grabner is a goal scorer, who's breakout ability is second to none. His speed has the ability to change games.
Bailey brings the flexibility of moving to the center position if need be. He has also improved over his career at taking faceoffs. Plus he does that neat spin-o-rama thing on aging goaltenders in shootouts.
The age factor may play a part in it as well. Josh Bailey is a full two years younger than Michael Grabner. So if a team were looking to add a player for the long haul, Bailey could hold a certain edge over Grabner in that department.
When it comes down to it, with a player like Anders Lee, and to a lesser extent Cory Conacher, waiting in the wings, and Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski added to the forward mix via free agency, 2013-14 may have been the final season in an Islanders jersey for either Grabner or Bailey. Because if the right defenseman comes available and is too great for Snow to pass up, odds are it's one of these two who will be sent packing.