Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The NHL's annual trade deadline (Monday at 3 p.m. ET) entertains, or pains in some cases, fans around the league with rumors galore of what it would cost to improve your team heading into the home stretch of the 2017-18 season.
The reality of the situation is typically much less dramatic than the chatter leading into it, with the market flooded with more sellers than buyers, prices very expensive and the fluidity of discussions themselves that seem to change by the hour, often leading to nothing getting done at all.
In fact, it could be argued that the biggest deals involving the most stars occur before the trade deadline or way after it, at the entry draft. Since 2010, when 31 trades were executed involving 55 players, there has only been an average of 18 deals with 35 players exchanging teams in the subsequent seven years. And the names are hardly earth-shattering when looking back.
After ending November at 15-7-2, the New York Islanders defensive blunders and goaltending woes have led to a 14-19-4 mark over their subsequent 37 games, with only eight regulation wins. They have allowed 143 goals in that span, a goals against per game average of 3.86, putting them dead last in the league in goals allowed with 219 over 61 games. The next most porous defense is the Ottawa Senators, who have allowed 207 goals in 59 games.
The offense, fourth in the league with 203 goals, is the only reason they are 29-26-6 and just outside of the playoff picture as we enter the final quarter of the season-- one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving a game in hand.
Fans have been clamoring for a deal that will improve this team down the stretch and allow them to possibly sneak into the playoffs, where they would likely meet with the top team in the Eastern Conference, currently a three-way battle between the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Multiple sources tell SNY general manager Garth Snow has been active on the phones, reaching out and inquiring about just about everyone and anyone, but that hardly guarantees anything will get done. There are a couple of reasons why making a trade is more difficult than pressing the 'X' button and executing.
Lack of difference maker
It's hard to imagine that anyone, outside of the miraculous returns of Rod Langway, Larry Robinson, Scott Stevens or Denis Potvin, is going to come in and magically turn this defense around. Get forwards to backcheck harder and properly play their position in the defensive zone, block more shots, clear pucks effectively, tie up opponents in the low slot, etc - all the issues we've seen rear their ugly head all season long.
On the TSN trade bait board, the defensemen listed as being available are Erik Karlsson, Mike Green, Jack Johnson, Ryan McDonagh, Johnny Oduya, Matt Hunwick, Ben Hutton, Xavier Ouellet and Danny DeKeyser.
Only Johnson, Hunwick, Hutton and Ouellet are without no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contracts. The rumored cost for Karlsson is said to be upwards of five to seven pieces if you don't take on Bobby Ryan and his four-year, $7.25 million contract. Can you see Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton helping out not only a Metropolitan Division rival, but the cross-town Islanders in a deal? Yeah, I can't either.
Snow has already indicated to The Athletic's Arthur Staple that he doesn't plan on being in the rental market, and with the team not even close to competing for the Stanley Cup, it's hard to argue in favor of moving a first-round pick for Jack Johnson, the 'top-rated' pending unrestricted free agent.
If you're dipping into the forward market, and the Islanders, even with their aforementioned offensive prowess, could certainly use some help on their third and fourth lines, it beckons back to Snow not being interested in rentals. Teams rarely get their 'asking' price, we all understand that, but they are also starting much higher for borderline players than ever before.
The Detroit Red Wings are reportedly asking a second-round pick for Luke Glendening. LUKE GLENDENING! It's very possible that Edmonton will request a first-rounder for 29-year old Patrick Maroon, who has 14 goals and an edge to match. Evander Kane? The Islanders already have one problem child in Joshua Ho-Sang, they're certainly not looking to add another.
Are you bringing Michael Grabner back for a reunion? That will cost you too, and again, require you to make a trade with the Rangers. You want to take a chance? Call Arizona and see what they would want to give Max Domi (RFA) a fresh start. New York could sure use the 22-year old's grit and make no mistake, he has a ton more skill than his famous father, Tie, ever did.
Maybe you get Antti Raanta from Arizona, who just traded for, and extended, Darcy Kuemper. But, again, at what cost? Sure, Raanta is only 28-years old, but he has never played a full starter's workload before this season, appearing in 25,14, 25 and 30 games. Didn't the Islanders just cross that road with Thomas Greiss?
Navigating the cap
John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey lead the unrestricted parade this summer. Ryan Pulock is restricted as is Brock Nelson and a decision on his future is sorely needed. New York will only have one NHL goaltender under contract, Greiss, as it's very difficult to see Jaroslav Halak re-signing.
You're paying Johnny Boychuk $6 million and Cal Clutterbuck $3.5 million for the next five seasons, Andrew Ladd $5.5 million for the next six. I would imagine (hope?) ownership and Tavares' agent Pat Brisson, will be talking in short order since it seems things have been way too quiet on that front. You can safely assume that Tavares and Bailey are a package deal.
Also, lest we forget, you need to look ahead in this era of cap management. Anders Lee could double his current salary after next season, Anthony Beauvillier will be coming off his entry-level contract and what do you do with Jordan Eberle, already making $6 million against your cap?
Of course, things being what they are, and the market being so fluid, Snow could reach down and pull off a miracle this weekend or at the buzzer on Monday afternoon. That's certainly possible, but given the uncertainty of the factors above, it's hard to imagine the Islanders looking much different after they play New Jersey on Saturday in their last game before the deadline.