Islanders are a desirable NHL franchise for players
Believe it or not, but the New York Islanders are no longer one of the most veto’ed destinations on no-trade lists in the NHL.
Just four years ago, the New York Islanders were in the top three of undesirable NHL franchises for players. The Isles were third at the top of a poll measuring teams that appear more frequently on no-trade lists. Only the Winnipeg Jets and the Edmonton Oilers ranked higher than the Islanders.
Players just wanted to stay away from the Islanders. Even though they were successful on the ice. Remember, in 2016 the Islanders had already accumulated 101 point season in 2014-15 and were on pace for yet another 100 point season in 2015-16.
It was off-ice issues that disinterested players. The Isles didn’t have a set home base. The move to Brooklyn was an unmitigated disaster. Not only was the Barclays Center not a hockey first venue with poor sightlines and a whole host of other issues, but in less than a year together both sides were looking to split.
Issues with where the franchise was going play in a few years as well as questions around the Islanders ability to pay and retain players were keeping players away from the Island.
But with new ownership investing in players, top tier management, coaching, practice infrastructure, and a brand new home at Belmont Park the Islanders are turning into a desireable franchise.
Almost prophetically, Craig Custance (then of ESPN) believed that with strong ownership, the Islanders could disappear from the list of teams players don’t want to go to.
"It’s quite possible they [Islanders] get a new arena deal done and sign Tavares to a long-term deal. They could bring in a new high-profile team president to run things. There appears to be a strong commitment from ownership. If those things happen, the Islanders will disappear from this list."
With a new arena at Belmont Park secured, Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz as well as showing they are able to re-sign UFA’s, the Islanders have in fact disappeared from the list.
In the latest poll of player agents by Custance (subscription required), now with The Athletic, the Islanders are nowhere to be found. Within four years, the Isles went from the third to not even being mentioned. All thanks to that strong commitment from ownership Custance was talking about in 2016.
It’s easy to see why a strong commitment from ownership was what it took to get them off the list. Long Island is at the perfect crossroads for NHL players. If you made a Venn diagram of what NHL players look for in a team the Islanders would be the intersection.
Playing in a big market would be on one side. New York is the biggest sports market in North America. On the other side would be the ability to lead a normal life. Long Island gives players the ability to lead a normal life where you can freely go about your business in obscurity.
The Islanders clearly aren’t the top destination for NHL players. And that’s OK. Places with warmer climates will always have a decided advantage. But it’s clear that with a sorted house, the New York Islanders are a franchise that players are now willing to play for. We’re no longer at the bottom. And that’s what matters.
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The Isles are no longer at a disadvantage when it comes to player acquisitions. No longer do we have to look at players with no-trade lists and immediately believe the Isles are one of the teams listed. It feels good.