With the Islanders' ever-dwindling playoff hopes getting dimmer and dimmer each day, the NHL Trade Deadline could have been the time to help pivot in one direction or another.
They could have pulled off the going-for-it move like the Lightning and added key pieces for a playoff run. Or they could've acted like Tampa Bay's trade partner in the Rangers and sold off assets in an attempt to retool.
Instead, GM Garth Snow did much as he usually does around this time of year -- less than the bare minimum.
On Saturday, he called his favorite trade partner Peter Chiarelli and acquired depth defenseman Brandon Davidson. Before the deadline expired Monday, there was a minor deal with the Ducks that sent the aging Jason Chimera to Anaheim for depth forward Chris Wagner. Essentially the biggest move was an addition by subtraction. Par for the course with this organization.
While I'm not going to deny the fact that the asking prices were high at this year's deadline -- because they absolutely were -- that didn't deter some teams from attempting to get better.
Tampa Bay improved. Winnipeg got a strong player in Paul Stastny. San Jose picked up Evander Kane from Buffalo. Even the first-year Golden Knights with former Islanders vice president George McPhee at the helm went out and got Ryan Reaves and Tomas Tatar, although I'd argue the latter was a heavy overpay. But the point is, there were players available and a deal could have been worked out with the right leadership. The Islanders do have two first-round picks this year, for what it's worth.
But the Islanders sat on their hands. Not since February 2007, when the team brought in Ryan Smith, Richard Zednik, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, has the team really sought to improve in a marked way at the deadline. The biggest names the Islanders have brought aboard at the deadline over the last few years have been Shane Prince, Tyler Kennedy, and Michal Neuvirth. Really, that's it.
This year didn't even come close to diverging from the status quo. This team's defense needed improvement, and while Davidson will give this team some minutes and probably more physicality, it doesn't come close to aiding a blue line that's verging on historically bad.
If you want to make the argument that this team should have ditched the idea about the postseason and looked to rebuild, that's fine and I understand the sentiment. But if that's the case, assets could have been sold off to acquire some younger talent or even some draft picks.
The easy choice would have been the pending restricted free agent Brock Nelson. He has a manageable cap number at $2.5 million this season, and while he is one of the streakiest players on this team, only has three fewer points than the talented Tatar. I can guarantee some contending team out there would have valued Nelson's abilities during a postseason run.
Instead, Snow didn't do much of anything, and the Islanders essentially sit in the middle of nowhere. Yes, the Josh Bailey signing was a nice step, but it doesn't eliminate the fact that John Tavares could easily walk this summer.
And at this point, it's hard to blame the Islanders captain if he decides to head to greener pastures. This team hasn't improved enough around him to become a true contender over the course of his career. Even when there was ample opportunity to make improvements for a possible Stanley Cup run (2015 and 2016 come to mind), nothing was really done.
With the Islanders splitting games between Brooklyn and the Coliseum in the coming seasons and the front office continuing to be a mess, it's hard to sell Tavares on staying with this franchise.
Snow has done a nice job over the last few years taking advantage of some cash-strapped teams and acquiring some talent, like Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, and Jordan Eberle. And yes, there was the trade that eventually led to the drafting of Mathew Barzal.
But that doesn't give the GM a free pass on failing to make this team better during other opportunities. Plenty of other teams have done it, and there's no reason this team shouldn't be doing it. It's not only hurt this team's chances at greater success, but it also might have cost the Islanders one of the team's top talents.