It's been quiet around the Islanders lately - a little too quiet - with a new ECHL affiliation and the termination of a longtime financial obligation being the biggest "news" to come out of the organization in a while. That might change soon.
Less than a week before the NHL draft in which the Islanders have no picks until the third round, Newsday's Arthur Staple reports that winger Kyle Okposo "could be on the trading block," according to a couple of outside sources. Staple also writes that multiple sources have Michael Grabner as being "actively shopped" by GM Garth Snow.
Okposo offers a tantalizing combo value meal for cap-strapped teams; a top-six player at an almost bottom-six price:
The 27-year-old wing has posted the best back-to-back seasons of his career, but Snow might not be interested in ponying up for a long-term deal for Okposo, who missed 22 games after emergency surgery to repair a detached retina in January.
Both sources indicated that nothing appears to be imminent. But with eight teams already committed to at least $63 million on a projected $71-million salary cap for 2015-16, player moves could come fast and furious during draft weekend, and Okposo's extremely modest $2.8-million cap hit could be enticing.
There are a couple of ways to interpret this other than "OMG DONT TRAYDE OKIE I LUV HIM!!1!!" One, a player being "on the trading block" usually means a general manager is doing his job, trying to keep all avenues open for improving his club. Snow has said that exact phrase so often since 2006, it's probably tattooed on his chest.
Second, it's unlikely that Snow would trade Okposo just to get back into the first round. Losing and not replacing another first liner after already trading Matt Moulson and the guy he was traded for, Thomas Vanek, would put an immense amount of pressure on John Tavares. Moving Okposo would probably be for an immediate upgrade on a longer term deal, which leads us to point three.
Okposo's contract ends after next season and as Staple notes, he could be in line for a ginormous payday that management needs to weigh thoughtfully. Snow has done a great job of crafting very reasonable longterm deals for Tavares, Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy, and paid market price for Johnny Boychuk. Okposo's next contract could be a tricky one.
It's not known what Okposo is seeking for his next deal, but given his age and production, it seems logical that he could be looking for as much as $7 million per season on a six- or seven-year deal. It also seems logical that the Islanders would want to get something back in a trade before letting Okposo go elsewhere for nothing in a year.
"Every contract has a last year to it, so I don't feel we have any pressure or timetable that a move has to happen this offseason," Snow said. "Every team has players with expiring contracts. If a move presents itself that will help both in the short and long term, we'll take a look at it.
As for Grabner, Staple has mentioned before that he believes he is very much available and could be moved at the draft. Like Okposo, he's also a UFA at the end of the next season. But unlike his longtime teammate, Grabner is coming off of a season wrecked by injuries and with a spot in the line-up very much in doubt. Between the stints on IR and the regular additions of Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, Grabner had few regular linemates and very little traction.
When healthy, Grabner remains a freakishly speedy weapon few teams can match. If he's hurt, unable to get in the line-up and likely to walk away for nothing next July, he might be better utilized as a trade chip.
That's not to say I want to see Grabner gone. I don't. I love the guy and want to see him as a productive, regular member of the Islanders. But if Snow is looking to make a make a splash on a draft day without any prime picks, Grabner could be the easiest cannon to fire.
There's no indication in the article of what the Islanders are looking to get back for either player. Snow is tight-lipped as usual, but I hope his sights are set high. A step back heading to new building after a 101 point season is not an option.