Team depth is extremely important in today’s NHL. Injuries and suspensions are a huge factor and teams have to prepare for the worst. The Islanders are no exception. Their insurance behind the crease is in the form of veteran backup Tomas Greiss, who is more than ready to step up whenever Jaroslav Halak goes down. Up front, it is obvious the team’s depth around John Tavares has improved over the past through seasons and is a huge reason why they made the playoffs. And although the defence corps have six NHL-ready players, it might be a good idea to sign a veteran defenceman still available in free agency who can provide some assurance.
Johnny Boychuk, Travis Harmonic, Nick Leddy, Calvin de Haan, and Thomas Hickey have cemented themselves as NHL regulars, but Brian Strait is still a little bit of a question mark as the sixth defender. I do believe Strait is NHL-calibre, but I am not sure if the 27-year-old who has 21 career points should have a secure spot on the team heading into training camp, especially considering they are pretty young on defence. It is probably a better idea to bring in an experienced veteran from free agency whom he can platoon his playing time with.
There are defense prospects in the organization who could battle Strait for the sixth spot. 22-year-old Scott Mayfield’s time may come this season, and 2013 15th overall pick Ryan Pulock could make the jump as well. However, for a team that is finally in a win-now mode, it is probably a good idea to bring a cheap veteran on board in case they are not ready.
At the very least, the Islanders should bring a veteran from free agency on a professional tryout. The Maple Leafs and Blues have already invited Devin Setoguchi and Scottie Upshall, respectively. Cody Franson is an unlikely option because he will probably be getting more than $2 million next season, and is reportedly close to signing with the Sabres. It is also hard to see them bring back 38-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky, his head injuries as of late may limit the amount of time he plays. Andrej Meszaros, who is still only 29, could be a low-risk, high-reward pickup, while Anton Volchenkov can help mentor the younger defenders like how he did last year with Seth Jones and Roman Josi on the Predators.
I think the best thing the Islanders should do is invite veteran Tim Gleason on a professional tryout. He is a typical defensive, team-first, puck-blocker the team could use. He sort of reminds me of Johnny Boychuk, but without the shot and speed. He can only help the team, and he will be cheap.