Are Some Young Isles On The Trading Block?
It almost seems like it's been the same story heading into the off-season year after year now; the Isles still lack a top-six forward and top-four defenseman that could help make them a competitive team that could be fighting for a playoff spot.
They've tried free agency and have been shot down by guys like Ryan Smyth and Paul Martin. They tried the trade market with James Wisniewski, who ended up being a major disappointment while wearing orange and blue. They even tried that route once more, gaining the negotating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. He didn't want to sign, and I think after seeing how he played under his very luxurious contract, most Isles fans probably don't care.
Although both trades were under different circumstances, they shared one glaring similarity. Not one of them involved any actual players leaving the Island. Ehrhoff's rights were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, and Wisniewski came on board in exchange for a 2011 second round pick and conditional 2012 fifth round pick. Despite the early signs of GM Garth Snow developing a pattern, there is reason to believe that could change heading into this summer's off-season. (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr)
Vinny Piccolo, who goes by the Twitter name @RoseTintedVisor, posted a blog for Puck Buddy's that revealed some of Snow's intentions with his team. One involved the future of the team's number one goaltending spot; Rick DiPietro is not mentioned. Another involved the usual concerns surrounding Nino Niederreiter, as well as where Josh Bailey will start next year; the answer is on the wing (FINALLY).
The biggest, and probably most intriguing piece to take away from Piccolo's report is that Garth Snow praised his team's ability to stock their farm system with a bountiful amount of prospects. Well, after all that's what a rebuild will do. But will every prospect make it onto the Islanders roster in a full-time position? Definitely not. Some will stand out above others; some will fit the Islanders systems and plans while others will not. And let's face it, for some there just won't be any room. (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)
That's why Snow indicated that this summer will be the time to move some prospects for an established top-four defenseman.
“We now have enough assets where we can move pieces to make the team better now through trades. That wasn’t the case a few years ago," said Garth Snow in his meet and greet with season ticket holders last week.
He continued this sentiment in response to another question about improving the second line center position, despite having Frans Nielsen signed to a fresh four-year contract extension:
"That said, if we can pick up a dynamic offensive talent and lessen his [Nielsen's] minutes, we will do that. As for your other point, we need a top 4. They are hard to acquire, but as noted we do finally have the assets to acquire one of those players.”
So which Islanders prospects have their names targeted for some new acquisitions? Snow has been busy signing some of his prospects to new entry level contracts. Most recently was Johan Sundstrom, a 2011 second round pick who did not have a good year with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. He only managed to only score five points in 41 games played in his second season with the team.
He joins Blair Riley, John Persson, and Brock Nelson, all of which who have signed entry level deals with the Islanders this year. (Photo Credit: Sara Melikian/Flickr)
Other names like Justin DiBenedetto and Sean Backman will have some company with guys like those mentioned above challenging for roster spots. Other players like Casey Cizikas, Aaron Ness, Mark Katic, David Ullstrom and Rhett Rhakshani have continued to make some appearances with the Isles here and there but have yet to stick on a permanent basis. Could there cameos with the big club be used for leverage in some future trade talks?
It almost only makes sense that Snow is willing to move some pieces in order to benefit his team now as well as for the long run.
It's difficult to speculate as to who Snow would be willing to part with for an improvement on the blue line, but he certainly does have a large crop of players to use as bait.