What will the Islanders trade deadline strategy be? It's anyone's guess, but ESPN's Craig Custance suggests GM Garth Snow should entertain being an aggressive buyer.
In his Eastern Conference trade season preview, Custance says that, while he would normally advise teams as out of it as the Islanders are to sell off some useful parts (Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are two pieces he mentions by name), he thinks the John Tavares situation complicates matters.
"If the Islanders start selling off parts and continue the slide backwards, it gives Tavares little reason to commit long-term, even for someone who has been as loyal as Tavares has been to the team that drafted him," he writes. "Keeping Tavares has to be the priority, and Snow has to give him a reason to stay. Instead of selling, the better strategy would be to aggressively pursue another cornerstone to add to Tavares long term."
Custance makes it sound like adding another franchise cornerstone is easy to do, or at least an attainable goal. That's hardly ever the case, especially in-season.
I think if the Islanders felt they could get another franchise player to pair with JT, they wouldn't hesitate. But who's available? Matt Duchene? Is he worth paying the steep price the Avalanche are asking? I'm not so sure.
This mini two-game slide may have come at the perfect time. The Isles can't really fool themselves into thinking that they may find a way to sneak into the postseason, so Snow needs to spend the next month identifying which of his players have the most value, and making moves that set this team up for next season.
While I like them both, there's no reason de Haan and Hickey shouldn't be moved, especially with the coming crunch created by the expansion draft.
And let's give Tavares more credit than this, too. He's a smart guy. I think he could certainly differentiate between swapping a few periphery pieces before you lose them for nothing than a reboot into another wholesale rebuild.