There's a crunch coming to the Islanders defensemen. That's because the upcoming NHL expansion draft, set to take place this June, is undoubtedly going to mix some things up on New York's blue line, and it should create some urgency for Garth Snow in the next few months.
The rules of the draft allow teams to protect either seven forwards and three defensemen, or eight skaters overall. Players with no-move clauses must be protected, so Johnny Boychuk isn't going anywhere. The Isles will also undoubtedly protect Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic. And if they choose to protect Ryan Pulock, which they will have to do based on his eligibility if they don't want him exposed, that will leave them room for four more skaters (three once you factor in John Tavares).
It all adds up to the reality that Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey will both be left unprotected, which forces Garth Snow to make a decision. Either trade one (or both) before this year's trade deadline and not risk losing one of them for nothing, or roll the dice and watch his old assistant snatch one up for the Knights' inaugural roster.
Golden Knights general manager George McPhee, whose last job was an alternate governor, vice president and special advisor to Garth Snow before he left the organization to take the head job in Vegas, is plenty familiar with the Islanders' defensemen. And if you caught him in an honest moment right now, he probably knows which one he'd like to grab.
So what will Snow do? It's tough to say. Hickey is due $3.1 million next season, while de Haan is a restricted free agent coming off a $2.5 million salary this season. It's a fair guess to say that their two salaries will be pretty comparable for 2017-18. And based on 5-on-5 Corsi and Fenwick For Percentage, Hickey and de Haan have been the Islanders most effective every-day defensemen (Hickey is first in both categories, De Haan is third in Corsi and tied for second in Fenwick).
How will other teams value them is another question. Do rival GMs view them as top-four defensemen? What would the Islanders take in return for either of these guys? And if the Islanders do have a run left in them this season, can they afford to move one of them?
All of this also makes Adam Pelech's recall on Thursday even more relevant, because the Isles will probably count on Pelech to step in for one of their d-men next season. So keep an eye on the 22-year-old and the minutes he plays moving forward, because they could loom much larger than they look on the surface.