The New York Islanders have to get creative to improve. Mozart/Shakespeare level creative. It’s going to be difficult, but it is possible.
New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow has a few RFAs to sign, about $6 million in cap space, and still has a glaring need to find another star forward. That’s assuming he wants his team to be a Cup contender this year.
Here’s my best idea on how to do that. But first, a few disclaimers.
It is my best idea today. I reserve the right to come up with a much better one tomorrow, and every single day until they actually win another Stanley Cup.
My “best” idea involves the incredibly unlikely scenario where every GM values their assets similarly to the way I do.
I acknowledge that the key component in this trade, although named often in the twittererse as “available”, is an asset that should not be traded… like I would have said Taylor Hall and P.K. Subban should not have been traded .
Step 1: The Anaheim Ducks
O.K., ready? Let’s start with the Anaheim Ducks. They seem to be ready to trade Cam Fowler, so that they can fit Hampus Lindholm into their budget. I think they like Fowler, but not as much as Lindholm and Vatanen, and not as much as the 5-6 million dollars he might be seeking.
And what assets are the Ducks seeking in return? A left wing. A young left wing. A big, young left-wing. A big, young, left-wing making much less than Fowler’s ask, but who can score some goals.
I propose sending Anders Lee to Anaheim for Cam Fowler. On its surface, it makes little sense for the Isles. New York is filled with competent defenders, and deficient in finishers. The Isles are a small team and Lee is a wide body. So let me explain.
Anders Lee is my least favorite Islander, so know that going in I hold that opinion. I look at Lee and see a guy who can’t skate, can’t pass, never wins a board battle, and doesn’t have a particularly good shot. He’s also old enough at 26 that we have probably seen his skills peak. I don’t see much of a hockey player.
I’m not blind. He has a goal scorer’s knack. And he is one of the few Islanders willing to get his face punched to defend a teammate, both of those factors matter. I’ll also defend him by saying that many players with a similar skill set have gone on to really good careers.
Derek King for the Islanders. Tim Kerr, Dave Andreychuk elsewhere. So please remember, I’m not advocating waiving the guy. Just using him in the first part of a deal, that so far netted the Islanders a solid offensive defenseman.
Step 2: The Buffalo Sabres
And then I turn my attention to Buffalo. They have a talented young winger up there who seems to be wearing out his welcome in yet another city. Evander Kane is making a little over 5 million dollars for each of the next two years. That isn’t much for a guy of his skill level. But that is a ton of money to pay a guy who threatens to corrupt and disrupt a young squad. How eager is Tim Murray to move on AND fill the hole left by a departing Kane?
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Robin Lehner is young, potential-laden, and unproven. He needs a dependable veteran backup. Anders Nilsson is not the reliable rock for the Sabres. If they were willing to accept Jaro Halak they could pacify their locker room, solidify their goaltending, and save about two million cap dollars this year and next. Maybe more if they expose Halak in the expansion draft.
At this point most Islander fans hate me. “You traded our only net-front presence and our starting goalie for a redundant defenseman and an uncontrollable wild child?”
Hold on, I’m not done. If this is where it ends, I’m not happy either.
Step 3: The Colorado Avalanche
Next on my call list is Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche. One of the most brilliant hockey minds in the business today. I’d say: “Joe, old pal, I think I have the answer to your prayers. You know that young puck moving defenseman you’re looking for? I’ve got Cam Fowler available.”
I suspect Sakic would say: “You’re looking for Duchene or Landeskog. If I wouldn’t trade them to Anaheim for Fowler, why would i trade them to you?” But i have an answer ready.
“Two reasons, first, I’m in the other conference, so you won’t have to face the guy you traded very often. And I’ve got more to offer. I can replace much of the offense you’d be losing with a dynamic young winger with extraordinary talent, Evander Kane”
Sakic would be thinking, “Hmmm, that’s the best deal I’ve been offered so far, but I still don’t know because…”
And that’s when I would jump in and close the deal.
“Joe, I’ve got a third asset for you. And I’m going to let you choose. And it all depends on where you think you need to fill. If you still think you need another defender after getting Fowler, I’ll throw in Hickey, or Mayfield. You know where Mayfield went to school, right?”
“If you’d rather have another forward, what about Grabovski, or Bailey”
“Or a prospect, I’ve got a Dal Colle burning a hole in my pocket, especially if you’re sending me Landeskog. And if none of that inspires you, take my first rounder.”
Deal. Fowler, Kane, and a first rounder in 2017 for Duchene.
That would give the Islanders a multitude of choices on how to create an effective top six up front. For instance, if the top lines stay Ladd-Tavares-Parenteau, Duchene can center Nelson and Strome. Or Duchene can play right wing on that first line, and Barzal can center a second-line with Nelson and Parenteau… leaving Strome to anchor line three.
And what about the goaltending? I’m not worried. Let’s just go with the assumption that Greiss and Berube are simply holding down the fort for a year until Ilya Sorokin joins the team and becomes only the second Russian goaltender to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I don’t see how any of this could go wrong.