On Sunday, the New York Islanders sent Thomas Hickey to the AHL Ontario Reign. The NHL veteran is in the final year of a four-year $10 million contract, Hickey has spent the last 3 years in Bridgeport. So why move him now?
Keep in mind this wasn't a trade. He was just reassigned to the Ontario Reign. So the Isles don't shed a contract nor do they create cap space here. They're just having Hickey play somewhere else. Why?
New York Islanders: Why send Thomas Hickey to another AHL team?
It comes down to playing time. On both fronts. The Bridgeport Islanders want to open up some playing time and they want to make sure Hickey gets playing time as well.
We can't forget that the AHL is a developmental league. Its purpose isn't as a stashing ground for unwanted vets. Its purpose is to allow a team's youth to develop and grow before getting to the NHL. They even have a rule to ensure this happens.
The AHL's development rule states that:
"Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season."- The AHL
Look at the Bridgeport Islanders most recent game-day roster. Of the 18 skaters exactly 12 have 260 (or fewer) pro games:
Samuel Bolduc (70)
Mitchell Vande Somple (148)
Grant Hutton (88)
Paul LaDue (209)
Kyle MacLean (22)
Otto Koivula (255)
Simon Holmstrom (72)
Erik Brown (16)
Blade Jenkins (13)
Robin Salo (237)
Arnaud Durandeau (35)
Jeff Kubiak (142)
Putting Hickey on the roster wouldn't allow them to hit the 12 required skaters with 260 (or fewer) pro games. Which can't happen. So Hickey sits, or the Islanders have to take out someone like; Seth Helgeson (team captain), Austin Czarnik (8 points in 4 games), Andy Andreoff (3rd in points on the team), Chris Terry (leads the team in goals and points), Cole Bardreau (vital center), or Jeff Kubiak
Not to mention that the B-Isles signed NCAA UFA Trevor Cosgrove to an ATO today. That's a player they clearly want to see on the ice (maybe not regularly). Cosgrove, who doesn't have 260 pro games, can slide in without forcing a veteran to sit out in order to meet the AHL's development rule.
With the Ontario Reign, Hickey should get more playing time. He was already out there for Ontario on his first day with the club. Even picking up a secondary assist on the game-winning goal.
This also kind of closes the loop on Hickey's career of sorts. Hickey was drafted by the Kings fourth overall in 2007. Returning to their organization effectively does that.