Sunday afternoon, an unconfirmed rumor made the rounds across Twitter, saying the New York Islanders were close to a deal involving Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, mentioning Ryan Strome as part of the package heading to South Florida.
A league source told IPB that this is not the case at the present time. While it's true that GM Garth Snow has 30 lines in the water still hoping to hook a trophy catch before the puck drops on the 2016-17 season, including one in Tampa, there are a number of reasons why this (and perhaps Tampa in general) isn't a match...
1.) Salary Cap Issues: These are not your Islanders from five years ago, with a roster made up of a star in the making, a couple of low-priced entry-level deals and veterans on show-me contracts. They don't have the cap space to play with like they did back in the grim days.
Currently, generalfanager.com is showing New York $3.658 million under the ceiling, with the aforementioned Strome still needing a contract as a restricted free agent. Christopher Gibson needs one also, but he will not be on the NHL roster, and therefore, won't count against the cap.
Tampa has $8.529 million in available cap space with Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov to sign. The thinking is that Kucherov can approach six million on a long-term deal, leaving GM Steve Yzerman not much room to work with.
2.) Of the three players Yzerman has issues with, why would they move the most talented one? Remember when the thinking was that captain Steven Stamkos was a goner? That there was no way Yzerman could work out an amicable deal? Yzerman has pushed all the right buttons as an executive as he did as a player.
Kucherov is a 23-year-old Russian dynamo who already has back-to-back seasons of 65 and 66 points, with 29 and 30 goals, respectively. He has terrific possession stats and, for such a young player, is playoff tested, with 22 goals in 45 games. This is not the kind of player Yzerman is looking to trade just because it's mid-July and there is no contract yet.
3.) Ryan Strome is still packed with tremendous talent: It's there and has been since he was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 entry draft. You don't have a 50-point season as an NHL sophomore by accident. Sure, there were some issues last year relating to attitude, but are you really using that to claim three strikes against the 23-year-old?
As noted, the Islanders are closer to the ceiling at present than Tampa, and Strome is not going to command the contract Kucherov will. He'll probably get more like a fifth of it.
Make no mistake, last year was a horrid one for Strome. You know it, Snow and head coach Jack Capuano know it, and Strome knows it. The feeling is that he deserves the benefit of the doubt and the 2016-17 season to prove --perhaps at his natural position -- that it was part of the maturation process.
4.) There seems to be no current indication that Snow is willing to gamble on Ben Bishop's salary demands as an unrestricted free agent next year: Right now, Bishop carries a cap hit of $5.950 million and there are rumblings from his agent that he is looking to $7 million on his next contract.
Bishop is one of the best goaltenders in the league, but does have some durability concerns. He's had a couple of playoff injuries the last two seasons and is coming off 60+ game regular season workloads. The feeling around the league is he is not worth the salary he is commanding.
5.) This isn't XBOX one or PS4: You can't just hit the 'X' button and give away your bad, underperforming contracts that easily. The league source told IPB that Snow has been trying to get out from under Mikhail Grabovski's $5 million cap hit, but obviously, teams are reluctant due to recent medical concerns and the fact there is no telling he can make it through training camp.
There is the assumption that the Islanders still view Nikolay Kulemin's overall game as something they would like to hold onto, especially the defensive aspect he brings, to help offset the departure of Frans Nielsen.
The goaltender glut will also likely not be resolved anytime soon, as Jaroslav Halak ($4.500 million cap hit) is in a similar situation to Grabovski, coming off a major injury which lowered his trade value. Both Halak and Thomas Greiss are headed to the World Cup of Hockey instead of training camp in September, but there are no guarantees there either, with Frederik Andersen in the mix to start for Team Europe.
Snow seems to be leaving no stone unturned in the trade market with a lot of different conversations taking place. With the marketplace changing daily, things tend to happen quickly, without warning or any kind of heads up. Boychuk/Leddy, anyone? We could be looking at a repeat this fall.