One of the strengths of the New York Islanders is the depth they have on defense throughout the organization. Where the players will fit in the short and long term is a good problem for Garth Snow to have. So what is the plan for the blue line now and moving forward?
When healthy the New York Islanders current starting six defensemen are Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, and Dennis Seidenberg. There is no doubt the backbone of the defense is Boychuk, Leddy, and Hamonic.
There are questions regarding the other three. Seidenberg is 35 years old and signed to a 1-year deal this season. His role is to help the Islanders this year and then he will move on. Thomas Hickey is signed through next season ($2.2 million cap hit) and then he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Finally, the 25-year old de Haan is a restricted free agent at season’s end and will probably be a $3 million-plus player at that point. There is a possibility that de Haan gets scooped up by Vegas general manager George McPhee in expansion.
A Trade Between Now and March?
It’s no secret the Islanders have struggled mightily at times this season to score goals. With Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech (currently on injured reserve) seemingly ready for full-time duty in the NHL. Snow could move a defensemen for more offense.
The most likely trade candidate is de Haan. The former 12th overall selection plus either a draft pick or a prospect could land a scoring forward. The trade deadline is March 1st but Garth would be wise to make a move sooner to help this offense.
The fact that de Haan could be lost in expansion for no return is also a big consideration to be taken into account. The Islanders need to give Pulock the opportunity he is ready for. He has size (6’2″, 215 lbs), is a solid defender and would be a huge boost to the offense and the power play with his electric slap shot.
Over the next year plus the Islanders could have as many as three spots open on the blue line. Already mentioned Pulock and Mayfield but don’t forget Pelech as well in terms of any openings in Brooklyn on the blue line.
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The last seven days Mayfield looked great in games against top teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. The big question for Mayfield has been his skating. If that question is answered the Islanders will have a rock-solid physical defenseman.
The Islanders have four additional blue line prospects in their organization, the closest being Devon Toews. Toews is currently with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and is second in team scoring (14 points in 22 games). He will spend the entire year in Bridgeport but could be NHL ready sometime next season.
The other three defensive prospects, the Islanders have in the pipeline will need a bit more time. Parker Wotherspoon and Mitchell Vande Sompel will finish their junior hockey career this season and then head to Bridgeport next year for a full year of development. Doyle Somerby is finishing his senior year at Boston University and will head to Bridgeport next year as well.
These four kids are talented and could wind up being really good players in the NHL. Would not be surprising to see Garth use one of them as a trade asset between now and the deadline.
Snow has a lot of assets on the blue line now and moving forward. The big question is what is his plans for them.