Garth Snow Does Not Have To Trade For A Defenseman

Today marks the first day of September, meaning that New York Islanders training camp will be opening up in the next few weeks. This time of year gives the coaching staff an opportunity to observe the types of players they have developing in their system, test out line combinations, and see which prospects are prepared to take on full-time roles in the NHL.

Presently, the Isles have 16 forwards and seven defenseman on one-way contracts, including two legitimate NHL goaltenders who do not have to worry about fighting for their job.

That leaves the Isles with 25 players on their roster.

The 16 forwards is the number that got every hockey expert on the twitter-sphere proclaiming that Garth Snow was absolutely going to trade someone in order to bolster his blue line.

In fact, a few media outlets even said that a trade would likely be in the works, but that it probably wouldn't take place until around this time of year when other team's would try to shed salary to get under the cap before puck drop in October.

But does Snow really need to make a trade?

Many fans and sports analysts will support that the Islanders did a great job adding depth to their offense and clearly solidified their goaltending.

Although Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin are not tremendous threats on offense, they will provide veteran stability while players like Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Ryan Strome emerge as top-six forwards.  Additionally, Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson are not Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek, but they are an overwhelming upgrade between the pipes when compared to last year and bring a wealth of experience and promise.

However, for the most part, the defense has not changed. Here is where the answer from anyone would be "yes, Snow has to make a trade to upgrade his defense," since this is the only remaining hole in the Islanders' line-up.

Snow signed T.J. Brennan to a one-way, one-year contract, but he is not the answer. He's only appeared in 40 NHL games in his career, totaling 11 points between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers. But when looking at his AHL numbers, the 31st overall pick of 2007 proves that he has potential to be an offensive blue liner down the road.

In 76 AHL games with Toronto last year, Brennan scored 72 points. This was after putting up 9 points in 19 games with the Florida Panthers the year before. At 6'1 and 213 pounds, he also brings size and physicality. 

With all of that said, he has yet to earn a full-time spot in the NHL. He will be competing with a deep pool of defenseman this year, but mostly with Matt Donovan and Griffin Reinhart. The latter does not need to be rushed due to the crowded spots on defense and can easily start the year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Donovan also recently signed a two-way contract, making it easier for Snow to send him back to Bridgeport. Brennan, on the other hand, would have to pass through waivers if called up from Bridgeport during the year due to his one-way contract.

Therefore, Brennan might be an easy decision to place as this team's seventh defenseman, giving the Isles some added depth on their blue line going forward.

But he does not address the gap that has been missing for years.

Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carkner and Brian Strait are the apparent six d-men that Jack Capuano will likely start the year with, barring any roster changes between now and the start of the season.

Hamonic and de Haan will likely become this team's top-two defense pair; both are young and talented, but an already proven defenseman with plenty of gas left in the tank should be playing with Hamonic instead of de Haan.

As already stated, Donovan, Reinhart and Brennan do not fit the bill either.

So a trade including one or two of the 16 forwards would make the most sense, right?

But what's to say that Garth Snow gets the deal that he wants? He doesn't have to make a move, despite his overcrowded roster.

If Snow really wanted to, Ryan Strome and/or Anders Lee can be sent back to Bridgeport since they are on two-way contracts; Colin McDonald, who had a terrible 2014 season, could be sent to Bridgeport and would likely pass through waivers as well; the same can also be said for Eric Boulton.

There are four forwards that could quickly be cut from the team and get the Islanders at or under the 23-man limited roster.

It's also always possible that some gets injured during training camp or during pre-season games (fingers crossed that this isn't the case).

This doesn't mean that Snow won't find the right deal to improve his defense. It's doubtful that he is unaware of that glaring need, and surely he is feeling the pressure of providing a winning season for Islanders fans as his team is preparing to leave the only building they've called home.

And you can bet that the soon-to-be new owners will be watching with a close eye as their product hits the ice in preparation of the move to a new market in Brooklyn.

A trade should happen to make this team's defense better. But it doesn't have to happen.

And as most Islanders fans know, just because something should happen, it doesn't mean that it will.

-Rob McGowan


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