Have you ever felt sick, but just didn't feel like going to doctor's office because setting up an appointment gets to be a hassle? You rationalize to yourself that whatever's ailing you will calm down and ease up, but you let it fester and it only gets worse.
That's kind of like what the Islanders are doing with their defense this season.
It's been written about and discussed ad nauseam, but this team's blueline has been, to put it nicely, not up to snuff. The eye test is not pretty, and the numbers back it up.
Fifty-seven games into this season, and the Islanders are dead last in the NHL in terms of goals allowed per game (3.67), total goals allowed (209) and shots against per game (35.5). Taking away the brief stint he had in relief against the Red Wings, Jaroslav Halak has faced exactly 40 shots a contest over the four other times he's played in February. Over the course of the whole season, he's seen over 33 shots come at him a night. In other words, this isn't a way to create sustainable success.
With 25 games left in the regular season, the Islanders sit one point out of a playoff spot. The postseason is within their grasp if they can improve the defense. But what exactly can be done?
Calvin de Haan is out for the year and a potential replacement in Devon Toews is also on the shelf for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury. Sebastian Aho has been a stop-gap option, but if the Islanders want to take that next step, they need to do a little more than plug-and-play. To do that, they should look externally. Luckily for them, there's an option looking at them right across the East River.
Rangers GM Jeff Gorton and team president Glenn Sather essentially waved the white flag on the season when they issued a letter to fans last week about the current state of the team. One of the big names being thrown around in trade talks since this letter was sent out is defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
He's been linked to both the Bruins and Lightning, and though might not be the best defenseman available on the market (especially since his Corsi and possession numbers have been in slight decline), he could make a lot of sense on this Islanders team as it currently stands.
First off, he has a strong skating ability and can move the puck when need be. At 28 years old and with another full year left on his contract, he could help fill the void if de Haan decides to jump ship after the season ends. He has 26 points this season (two goals, 24 assists) and can chip in the offensive end, as he has 238 points in 516 games.
From a durability standpoint, apart from his rookie campaign and the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, McDonagh has logged no fewer than 71 games in the five other full seasons he's played, and he's on pace to eclipse that number again this year. He's used to playing top-two minutes and has 96 games of playoff experience. Not just that, but his cap hit sits at just $4.7 million for next season, which is definitely an affordable number.
Especially being a controllable asset with a decent price tag, I'd imagine the Rangers' asking price would be somewhat high.
But luckily, the Islanders control two first-round picks for the year's upcoming draft, which could be enticing to a "rebuilding" Rangers, so Garth Snow could get creative with a potential deal. The asking price is potentially steep, but it really seems like the Islanders and Rangers really could benefit from a trade.
At first glance, you might scoff at dealing with a rival like the Rangers, and this might be an unpopular opinion among some. But a deal like this could be the one that helps the Islanders gain some stability and become true contenders in the playoff race.