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New York Islanders Off-Season Blue Line Options

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 12: Oscar Klefbom
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 12: Oscar Klefbom
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The New York Islanders will enter this off-season asking themselves should they acquire a proven NHL defenseman? Let’s examine their blue line options this summer.

The New York Islanders have struggled defensively this season, especially after losing Calvin de Haan in mid-December. Also, losing Johnny Boychuk for the month of January did not help matters.

Do the Isles need to acquire a proven defenseman this offseason? It would be a wise move if they want to get back to becoming a possible Eastern Conference contender.

Calvin de Haan

The last three years de Haan has established himself as a solid second-pairing defenseman. The Isles have really missed him since he was lost for the season with an injury.

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The Isles second selection in the 2009 NHL Draft (12th Overall) has sustained another major shoulder injury. When de Haan was developing as a prospect he went through a couple of major shoulder injuries. There were serious questions at that point and time if health would end his career.

If de Haan gets a clean bill of health from his doctors he is still a big injury risk moving forward. If he is willing to do a one-year deal, that can work for the Isles as they continue to develop their young crop of defenseman both on the main roster and in the prospect pipeline.

Trades

Another avenue the Islanders could explore in terms of acquiring a defenseman is a trade. There are three players to discuss in this regard.

Okay, let’s talk about Erik Karlsson. The 27-year old superstar is signed for one more season ($6.5 Million Cap Hit) and then becomes an unrestricted free agent after next year’s 2018-19 season. Considering the number of high-quality youngsters the Isles would have to give up and then pay Karlsson to an enormous contract, this doesn’t seem like the smart route for the Isles to travel.

Earlier in the year, yours truly wrote about pursuing Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. The three-time Cup winner plays a complete game and is exactly what the blue and orange need. The price will not be cheap as Arizona is known to drive a hard bargain. If that’s the case then Hjalmarsson is not a match, as he also will become a UFA after next season.

Then we get to Oscar Klefbom. The 24-year old Swede is having a disappointing campaign after his breakout season last year (38 points & plus-six). There has been a lot of talk that Klefbom’s play has taken a big dip because he is playing with a bad shoulder.

If Klefbom is available and the Isles brass think a healthy off-season will turn him back into the player he was two years ago, then they should be very aggressive in their pursuit of him.

Good things tend to happen for the Isles when they make a trade with Peter Chiarelli.

Free Agency

If the Isles decide to pursue this year’s blue line crop of UFA’s they will find three players who could fit the bill in John Carlson, Mike Green, and Jack Johnson.

Carlson is an offensive dynamo on the blue line. However, his minus-seven for the Caps this year concerns me. He doesn’t seem to be an ideal fit for the Isles and it will take a monster contract to bring him to Long Island.

At 32, Mike Green’s best days are behind him. He is not the answer for the Isles on defense.

Jack Johnson seems to have been lost in the shuffle in Columbus. The 31-year old, 6’1, 227 lbs defenseman, could be a good fit for the Isles as long as the term of the deal doesn’t go past three years.

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My first choice would be to trade for Klefbom. Does either Pulock or Pelech, one of the Isles second-round selections in 2018 and Robin Salo get a deal done?

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