The New York Islanders currently have nine forwards for six spots on the third and fourth line. If someone is moved to make space, Cal Clutterbuck is the most likely.
Lou Lamoriello started his tenure with the New York Islanders in odd fashion, adding bottom-line forwards Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin to the existing roster players Nelson, Cizikas, Ladd, Johnston and Clutterbuck.
Assuming that the 23-man roster will hold two goalies, seven defensemen and fourteen forwards, and assuming that none of the prospects make the opening-night NHL roster, that means a forward has to go.
With several prospects like Kieffer Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang ready to make the jump to the big club, it stands to reason that more than one of the veterans could be on the way out soon after.
But if it’s just one spot, who is the most likely to go?
Let’s start with who is not going anywhere.
Because they were just brought in from other teams by Lou Lamoriello, and in some cases given no-move clauses, Martin, Kuhnhackl, Komarov and Filppula are going nowhere until at least the 2019 trade deadline.
Ross Johnston was given a four-year deal because Lou and Trotz liked something about him, so there’s a vote of confidence there.
Casey Cizikas is a Lou guy even if they just started working together. He wins faceoffs, skates with drive, excels on the penalty kill and plays an end-to-end two-way game.
If he had been a free agent from another team, Lou would have given him a four-year deal five minutes into free agency.
Ladd could move in spite of his hefty contract and no-trade clause. There’s no doubt Lou has explored it, and if given the option between a healthy scratch every other game or waiving his no-trade clause, Ladd would likely take the money and run.
But there are enough factors to keep this from happening before the season.
Nelson is sitting on an easily movable new contract but Lou and Trotz likely see necessary goal-scoring potential in Nelson that is otherwise lacking on this roster. He could be a trade deadline player on the move, but not just yet.
Cal Is Odd Man Out
But Cal Clutterbuck is the one player that seems the most likely to be moved.
Clutterbuck neither provides the offense of players like Nelson or Ladd, the defensive responsibility of players like Komarov, Cizikas or Filppula or the pure physical presence of Johnston or Martin.
The moment Leo Komarov signed, Cal Clutterbuck likely started packing a bag. Komarov brings most of the same key talents – a feisty two-way player and penalty-killer who is happy to throw his body around.
But what Cal most importantly doesn’t have is Lou Lamoriello’s trust. Komarov has that, which is why he was brought in right away in free agency. Matt Martin, another one of Lou’s guys, fills another skill-set that Clutterbuck also overlaps with.
While he’s expensive for a fourth-liner, $3.5 million is not going to break the bank for some teams looking for a veteran leader. With enough value on the PK, handing out hits and the occasional goal with his wrister, someone could see value there.
Sure, he is a fan-favorite and has four years left on a $3.5 million AAV deal, but for a seasoned GM it is certainly not immovable.
If a prospect like Bellows or Ho-Sang make the jump, we would likely see a Kuhnhackl or Johnston demotion to the AHL, but until then, let’s keep an eye on Clutterbuck’s travel plans.