As the New York Islanders try to create more cap space, they should in no way trade their first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
As the NHL and NHLPA start discussing how to begin the 2020-21 NHL season, GMs will soon restart their work in shaping their rosters for the upcoming season, whenever that happens to be. For the New York Islanders, they have two key priorities for their 20-21 roster (1) extend Mathew Barzal and (2) clear cap space.
That first priority hinges on the latter one. The Islanders need to clear cap space to get Barzal under contract and give themselves some breathing room. But while the Islanders very much need to clear cap space, they shouldn’t have to deal that first-round pick in 2021 to facilitate a trade.
Not a Great Pipeline
We’ve seen other teams move first-round picks in order to clear cap space. The Toronto Maple Leafs did it at the start of the 2019-20 season to clear Patrick Markeau’s cap hit from their books.
But the Islanders need to keep this first-round pick in order to restock a thin and aging prospect pool.
At the top end of the Islanders prospect pool are guys like Sebastian Aho, Kieffer Bellows, and Oliver Wahlstrom. The jury is still out on Simon Holmstrom even if he’s taken big strides since beginning his pro career this past season. Neither Aho, Bellows, or Wahlstrom are on pace to be top tier players.
The two wingers could be top-six players at the NHL level while Aho could be a good third-pair player. Again, that’s the best of the best in the Islanders system.
With an aging NHL squad (the third oldest in the league with an average age of 28.33 years), what’s coming through the pipeline is vital to the ongoing success of the franchise.
A single first-round pick, especially one that might be in the latter end of the draft won’t likely single-handedly fix the Islanders situation*. But having the pick would certainly help restock the cupboard.
*Then again between 2015 and 2013 Brock Boeser (2015), David Pastrnak (2014), and Shea Theodore (2013) were plucked with picks later than 22.
Teams will certainly try and pluck that first-rounder from the Islanders. But with a weak prospect pool, and having already given up a first-round pick in last year’s draft to land Jean-Gabriel Pageau (a worthwhile transition), the Isles need to keep their 2021 first. Sending the two second-round picks from the Devon Toews trade is what needs to happen to clear cap space.