Ever since it was confirmed by the NHL that the New York Islanders did not have an expansion exemption on Ryan Pulock, it appeared Garth Snow would go the eight skaters protection route. That would mean, however, the Islanders would only protect four forwards. Due to recent play on the ice and off-ice moves, Pulock could be traded.
Despite the fact that Pulock had only played one game with the New York Islanders by Thanksgiving, it was safe to say that he would be protected for expansion. The 15th overall selection in the 2013 draft, has size (6’2″, 215 lbs), is projected to be a good defender, and could be terrific on offense and the power play with his skills, instincts, and electric slap shot.
One thing is for sure if Garth Snow leaves Pulock unprotected in expansion, there is a strong probability the Vegas Golden Knights will scoop him up. Over the summer on the Vegas Hockey Podcast (I am a co-host) George McPhee stated: “he really liked Pulock”. A 22-year old defenseman with Pulock’s assets and the fact he is on an entry-level contract would make him a no-brainer selection for McPhee.
New Expansion Variables
Over the last three weeks, a couple of new variables have come into play. First, Anders Lee looks like once again the player he was two years ago. That 25 goal season netted Lee a four-year deal with an annual value of $3.75 million the following off-season.
Heading into late November, Lee had only one goal. But, since that time Lee has been on fire and now has eight goals, tied with John Tavares for the team lead on the season.
This past week the Islanders also agreed to a five-year extension with Cal Clutterbuck (does not include a no-move clause). Clutterbuck brings a lot to the table. He’s a two-way player, he’s physical, gets under the oppositions skin, draws penalties, is a penalty killer, and dependable secondary scoring.
These two variables open up a new set of questions for Snow in terms of expansion. If Pulock is protected, along with the Islanders top three defensemen, that would leave only four spots for forwards. John Tavares and Andrew Ladd have to be protected because of no-move clauses. Brock Nelson is a no-brainer. That leaves only one open spot for Lee, Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas (signed a five-year deal in the summer), and Ryan Strome. Which begs the question: Is Pulock going to be in the mix?
Pulock on the Move?
If Pulock is traded the Islanders can go to the seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie protection route. That solves all the protection problems for the Islanders at forward.
Everyone knows the Islanders need more offense both on five on five and the power play. A recent article by yours truly was about making a pitch for Toronto Maple Leafs James Van Riemsdyk. A package of Pulock and Strome would be a good deal for both organizations.
The one downside of trading Pulock and opening up a bunch of forward spots to be protected in the expansion draft is that it probably means Calvin de Haan is heading to Las Vegas.
Under that scenario, the islanders would be down two defensemen in their organization. Keep in mind, the 35-year old Dennis Seidenberg is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and Thomas Hickey becomes one after next season.
The Islanders do have depth on the blue line in their organization. It appears both Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech are ready for full-time roles in the NHL and Devon Toews could be ready sometime next year.
Given the Islanders needs, depth on defense, and the expansion draft, a Pulock trade could happen.