Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Yesterday, the NHL created a little drama when they announced, at 9:58 a.m., that protected lists for each team for the upcoming Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, set for 10 a.m., would be pushed back 30 minutes to 10:30 a.m.
The head scratching move, for which no reason was ever officially given, started the wave of social media activity that would not slow for all of Father's Day.
There was plenty of venom spewed towards Islanders general manager, Garth Snow, when the lists were finally made available to the public as New York was the only team in the entire league to protect five defenseman and only three forwards, two of whom were automatic, captain John Tavares and winger Andrew Ladd.
Looking at its face value, given how Snow did his part in the team missing the 2016-17 playoffs, the questions were initially justified. Johnny Boychuk had to be protected, Nick Leddy was as 'no-duh' as there has ever been, and Travis Hamonic and Ryan Pulock were assumed.
With no trade able to be worked out prior, that left New York in a bad spot with Calvin de Haan, Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson. And surprise, surprise, the Islanders once again take the road 'never traveled', selecting Adam Pelech instead any of the aforementioned three.
With the league instructing all the general managers to be silent about any potential trades done with the expansion franchise until selections are announced Wednesday evening, it very much looks like all 31 are strictly abiding. But, that didn't stop a rash of rumors and guess work from hitting social media.
The decision to protect Pelech could be related to a number of things. Sources told SNY, confirming Elliote Friedman's tweet, that New York does have a deal in place with Vegas to stay off some players on the Islanders unprotected list. No, those players are not Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas. More than likely, New York will send their first-round pick (15th overall in 2017), maybe with a sweetener, to Vegas for McPhee's promise to select defenseman Thomas Hickey.
Remember the curious message McPhee put out the night before the lists were to be submitted? He wants picks….all the picks. Some league sources told SNY they wouldn't be surprised to see Vegas with 10 first-round picks in the Friday entry draft.
Second, the Islanders really like Pelech and how he developed this past season after overcoming thoracic outlet syndrome. At 22, they feel he's too young to risk, and has the potential to be more than just a third-pairing defenseman. Is he better than de Haan at present? No, not even close. But the de Haan angle could be gamesmanship.
With de Haan a restricted free agent, all Snow has to do is qualify to retain the steady, shot blocking defenseman's rights, which he will certainly do. Then, he can negotiate when de Haan declines to sign it and likely send it to arbitration. At that salary hearing, the Islanders can try to use the argument that he is outside their top 5, even being left exposed in the just completed expansion draft.
I know they don't believe it, but hey, business is business.
Lastly, it could be to drive up the value of Travis Hamonic, which seems to be in question right now. Hamonic seems likely to move if Snow is able to pull off a big trade for a top-six forward, and he's been in discussions with just about every team who has one on the market. Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Alex Galchenyuk being the most prominent names mentioned, but you can now add James Neal and James Van Reimsdyk to the list.
At the end of the day, the Islanders have quality depth at a position high in demand across the league that could give them a leg up in trade negotiations. Whether Snow has the guts to include the missing pieces (prospects) to make the deals work is another story.
But, the reality is there are still a lot of things in-motion at present. Players on each teams 'available' lists are not really 'available'. Once Wednesday passes and the Golden Knights have announced their roster and all side deals done with other clubs, we move onto the entry draft, which 'should' provide plenty of fireworks with many big names on the move to new clubs.
Will the Islanders be one of those new clubs? They need to be, in my opinion. However, let's all put the pitchforks down until Saturday, and the dust has completely settled. At present, it's still too hard to see past our own faces with all that was kicked up yesterday. There are still plenty of unanswered questions that need to come into focus.