Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
One of the most fluid and insanely unpredictable weeks in recent NHL memory is now over with the conclusion of the 2017 NHL entry draft. Prior to that, we had the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, awkwardly held in the middle of an awards gala, and some good old fashioned wheeling-and-dealing.
General managers have now returned home to celebrate their victories, or size up their losses, with five days before unrestricted free agency, which begins this Saturday, July 1.
For Islanders GM Garth Snow, it was a whirlwind of three transactions that, by most accounts, saw him come out victorious in two with a decision on the third pending.
Snow did well to protect from expansion his most coveted assets on both offense and defense, while freeing up necessary cap space by talking George McPhee into taking Mikhail Grabovski's contract. He then traded underwhelming Ryan Strome to Edmonton for long-coveted Jordan Eberle, before finally reconciling with Travis Hamonic's assumed wishes to be closer to his family.
In swapping an extravagant package with Vegas, Snow was the winner, losing nothing but a 2017 first round pick (15th overall) in a weak draft, a 2019 second rounder, a defenseman who was buried on the depth chart, and a misused and not needed goaltender. He also cleared $5 million dollars in coveted cap space.
Then he turned around and used that cap space to swap Strome for Eberle, a dynamic 27-year old forward who is reunited with junior teammate and Islanders captain John Tavares. Eberle has scored 25+ goals three times in the past six years (he had 16 in 48 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13), hitting a career-high of 34 in 2011-12.
Lastly, after initially wanting two first-round draft picks for Hamonic, Snow instead settled for a lesser, but still impressive, haul of a first rounder and two second rounders from Calgary for the 26-year-old, who has seen his play dip significantly over the past 18 months.
John Shannon of Sportsnet reported after the second round of the Draft on Saturday that Hamonic's mother is still ill and might have taken a turn for the worse, which could have led to the defenseman's renewed desire to be closer to his St. Malo, Manitoba home.
As valued as Hamonic was to New York on the ice and in the locker room, as well as in the community, Snow did right by the player in granting his request while not crippling the organization by making a bad deal.
Prior to completing the move of Hamonic to the Flames, there was plenty of interest in the hard-nosed, competitive and passionate defenseman. Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello engaged Snow in discussions that went far beyond setting initial parameters.
There was a deal reportedly in place that was centered around Hamonic and 28-year-old winger James Van Reimsdyk that multiple sources told SNY fell apart due to the Islanders being on the Van Reimsdyk's 10-team no trade list in addition to concerns over a contract extension, given that Van Reimsdyk will be an unrestricted free agent next July.
What Snow chooses to do with the draft picks obtained in the last trade will be crucial to his final grade on the offseason. With the unrestricted free agent market looking as barren as the Sahara desert, does Snow package those picks in a creative offer to 'unfreeze' Matt Duchene from the clutches of Joe Sakic? Does he call Marc Bergevin in Montreal and get a concrete answer on what Alex Galchenyuk will cost? Does he go back to the well and get McPhee on the line and inquire about James Neal?
With no major assets being traded in Chicago, all options are still on the table for the Islanders, and the belief is they are not 'out' on any trade conversation.
To judge the recent moves individually is where the popular opinion of Snow winning, some even say all three, comes from. However, his next move, or lack thereof, will collectively earn him a final offseason grade as the team takes the ice in September for training camp. At this point, the jury must remain sequestered on the Islanders being a better team.