New York Islanders: Sorry Calvin, It Might Be You.

The New York Islanders have expanding expectations, but here’s how that might work in an expansion happy NHL.

It’s never too early for the New York Islanders to get a jump on things. In this case, that would be the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Before we start thinking about it, there needs to be a dose of modesty.

The draft to stock the Las Vegas team with players is still a calendar year away. Perceptions of half of these Islander players maybe be radically altered by then.

A year ago Frans Nielsen‘s weak second half and poor playoffs had many fans calling him a third liner-at-best.  When this year ended, Neilsen was considered to be a first-line left wing.

A year ago Ryan Strome was an ascending star, coming off a 50 point year in his first full season and on the cusp of fulfilling his destiny as the guy who drives line number 2.

A year ago Jaroslav Halak was the indispensable starting goalie the Isles had been searching for the past couple of decades and Johnny Boychuk was a veritable savior on the blue line and the seven-year extension was well worth the risk. 

So we know going into this exercise that what we know now, we will not know a year from now. Today’s truth will be supplanted by new truths. Some of our expectations will be surprisingly exceeded, and some of our hopes will lie in ruin.

But if we let that stop us we would be neither fans nor bloggers.

Who the Isles Might Protect

Goaltending: My best prediction is that the Islanders will keep Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss this year. Hear me out. The expansion rules state that each team must leave unprotected, at least one goaltender who has played a significant number of games this season. If the Islanders were to trade Halak, for the draft pick/cap relief, they would most likely be forced to leave Berube available next Spring because Greiss is a UFA.

Is that avoidable? Sure, sign Greiss to an extension, but that still leaves Berube open. Or just acquire another journeyman goalie late in the year to expose.

However if you keep Halak now, and you don’t have to protect Greiss…  then maybe you can make a decision between Halak and Berube, after Berube has a real NHL year under his belt.

Defense: Boychuck is a mandatory protection under the rules. Hamonic is a mandatory protection because you don’t refuse to trade him for Hall and then leave him unprotected. Leddy, as I see it today, is aa must protect. His skating and breakouts are elite and quite rare on this team.

In his July 7th article in Newsday Arthur Staple reported… that the Islanders said… that they were told by the league… that Pulock is not exempt from selection. Assuming that game of telephone gave us an accurate answer, I would protect Pulock over DeHaan. This is so painful, this idea of exposing a solid top four defenseman making less than 2 million dollars, that I might even consider protecting a fifth defenseman. Depending on how the forwards shake out.

This is so painful, this idea of exposing a solid top four defenseman making less than 2 million dollars, that I might even consider protecting a fifth defenseman. Depending on how the forwards shake out.

Forwards:  I think there are only two shoe-ins. Tavares and Ladd. One of them is the franchise, and the other is the first big name free agent ever to sign with the Isles and he has a No Move clause. Nobody should need any more justification to believe these two are safe.

Here’s where personal biases and prognostication take over.

I think the next forward they protect is Strome. The next most important position is that second line center and this guy has a history of offense and a pedigree of success. On the other hand, he gets benched fairly frequently and played really poorly this year. A second consecutive bad year, playing for his contract, on a playoff bound team, and he becomes available to be someone else’s problem.

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Nelson has been every bit as frustrating as Strome, but if he ends up around 25 goals for a third straight season, he has to be protected. In that case, DeHaan has to be left open.

For most people, the next logical candidate would be Anders Lee. As of today, he doesn’t make my list. I’ve already written in other blogs about why I do not value Lee highly, and I’d rather not make a habit of bashing him in each post.

As a matter of housecleaning let’s make sure you know that no matter where they play this year, guys like Dal Colle, Barzal, Ho-Sang, Beauvillier, Sorokin, Bellows, Soderstrom are all exempt.

Parenteau and Clutterbuck as, as of now, UFAs. So they will not need protection.

Furthermore, let’s acknowledge how unlikely an event it would be if Kulemin, Bailey, Prince, Quine, Grabovski, Hickey, were picked. They won’t be.

Who’s available?

G:  At least one of Halak, Greiss, or Berube.

D:  DeHaan, Pelech.

F:  Lee, Cizikas, Chimera

Next: Islanders Will Miss Matt Martin

Some painful names on that list that would be tough to lose. But remember, each franchise will only lose one player… one. As I look around the league, I think a quality top four defenseman will be the hardest commodity to find in this draft, and DeHaan would be chosen.

That’s a blow. But in this scenario, the Islanders decided to protect four OTHER defenders before him. So maybe it won’t be devastating relative to what other teams surrender.