It’s been a busy week for the New York Islanders. First came the trade with the Vegas Golden Knights in expansion to protect their players followed by the acquisition of Jordan Eberle from Edmonton. There is still work to for the Isles. The question remains who is the team’s second-line center.
Make no mistake this has been a good week for the New York Islanders. While the Isles had to sacrifice their 2017 first-round pick (plus a 2019 second round pick) they only lost J.F. Berube in expansion who will be an unrestricted free agent on July, 1st.
Landing Jordan Eberle gives the Isles a proven 50-60 point producer on one of their top two lines. In addition, having Vegas take Mikhail Grabovski in the expansion deal, freed up $5 million in cap space which was much needed.
But now the Isles need to solve their second-line center question.
Eberle wasn’t the only big target the Islanders and Garth Snow were after this past week. The team is looking to acquire a proven center for their second line.
The number one target was Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. That deal seems unlikely as Avs general manager Joe Sakic is insisting Mathew Barzal be part of the package that is sent to Colorado. That is not happening and rightfully so.
New York Islanders
So who are the in-house candidates to be the Isles second-line center?
The Isles could go with Brock Nelson. He is the most established choice on the roster. Nelson has posted three straight seasons of at least 20 goals. Incidentally, Duchene has only scored three more goals than Nelson over the last three years.
Nelson biggest problem has been consistency. Despite his solid scoring prowess he has been far too inconsistent and has been invisible many nights. This is a big year for Nelson as he is a restricted free agent after the season and a big year will mean a large new contract.
The other in-house choice is to go with one of the kids, either Mathew Barzal or Anthony Beauvillier.
Depending on the Isles roster Beauvillier could play wing or center this year. Barzal could handle and flourish as the Isles second-line center this season. The key word is could. Ideally, having the rookie Barzal be the team’s third-line center and play with veteran Andrew Ladd would be the best way to go.
There are three options in free agency for the Islanders. The 29-year old Nick Bonino is a two-way player and a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Martin Hanzal also brings a two-way game and will be available on July 1st. However, he did not make the impact the Minnesota Wild were hoping for especially given the draft picks they gave up for him.
Finally, there is Sam Gagner who spent last year with Columbus. The Jackets got Gagner off the scrap heap and the 27-year old put a 50-point season.
The problem with free agency is how much it costs in terms of dollars and more importantly years to one’s cap. The Isles are only $5.5 million under the cap and still have to sign Calvin de Haan.
Nick Bonino would be a great pick-up but he will be very sought after and will land a hefty new deal. So far Garth has had a strong off-season. He is still one key move away.