Given how this season has spun out for the New York Islanders, it was no surprise that GM Garth Snow was going to be a seller at the trade deadline. And getting two decent picks (a second-rounder in 2015 and a third-rounder this summer) in return for a defenseman eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer is pretty good.
But at the end of the day, the Islanders blueline is still a man down…again.
A lack of retention on Long Island has killed New York in the Garth Snow era and Andrew MacDonald is the latest escapee. In Philadelphia, he’ll be reunited with Mark Streit, who was dealt to the Metropolitan Division rival at the 2013 draft. With the way MacDonald has grown, a top four of him, Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky and the emerging Travis Hamonic would be pretty decent right now, especially with youngsters Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan growing into their roles as well.
But it always seems to be a year too late. Visnovsky is the only viable veteran left on the blueline (as Isles fans will attest, the less said about Radek Martinek, the better) now, which can’t be good for the development of not only Hamonic and those mentioned above, but also Thomas Hickey, Aaron Ness and likely Griffin Reinhart next season.
That’s why draft picks would leave me cold right now if I’m an Isles fan. Sure, a first-rounder is a different story if you can get back the one lost in the Thomas Vanek deal with Buffalo, but this team has tons of building blocks – what it needs is veteran stability (and goaltending).
It’s hard to say what would make this easier on Isles management, other than the move to Brooklyn. But even then, if you talk to New York’s players, they will all extol the virtues of living on Long Island, where there’s lots of peace and quiet, but the bustle of Manhattan is not far away. Of course, that’s what they say once they’ve lived there – I tend to think free agents have a skepticism about the area because of the impressions made by visits to the old Nassau Coliseum. Sometimes I jokingly wonder if free hovercraft rides from Manhattan to the Coliseum would entice players to join the team, or if that would be a violation of the salary cap.
There’s also the management itself, which makes a lot of headlines that tend to be of the spectacular nature and not always in the positive sense of the word – the Rick DiPietro fiasco, or the rumor Snow tried to trade every one of his draft slots in 2012 to land Ryan Murray, for example.
Whatever the reasons, this is a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff round in more than 20 years despite five top-10 picks in the past six drafts and the most excruciating part is that they know how to draft talent: Anders Lee was the team’s final pick in 2009 (152nd overall) and he’s contributing. Casey Cizikas went 92nd overall that same year, while Matt Martin went 148th overall the year prior. Donovan and goalie Kevin Poulin were also snapped up after the third round.
With Reinhart and Ryan Strome coming up, the Isles have their future set – especially since John Tavares isn’t exactly a greybeard. But the team can’t keep losing players in the middle of their NHL careers.
So if Vanek does get dealt today, pray the team gets at least one roster player in return, Isles fans. Or, that draft choices are eventually flipped for more help for 2014-15. Otherwise, the future is never.