Islanders Trade Deadline Preview

The NHL trade deadline is scheduled for March 5th, just a few days shy from officially being one month away. Typically, that would leave for plenty of hockey to be played between now and then, but that isn't the case this year with the Winter Olympics coming up in just a little over a week.

In fact, there are only seven Islanders games to be played between now and then.

They currently hold a 21-28-8 record that is good for 50 points and 14th in the Eastern Conference. They are also 10 points away from the eighth placed Philadelphia Flyers.

With the Islanders having lost their last five games in a row, all signs point to this team becoming sellers at the deadline.

One of their biggest impending free agents, Thomas Vanek is set to captain Team Austria at the Olympics. He is without question a player that the Islanders will have to move if he elects to head to free agency this summer instead of signing a long-term extension.

GM Garth Snow simply gave up too much to let him walk. Vanek is supposed to inform Snow of his intentions within the next few days. So far, all Vanek has said is that he would keep the Islanders as a team of high consideration if he were to hit the market on July 1st.

My argument is if the Islanders are that high on your list, then why not just stay and get the deal done now? My bet is that he isn't signing a contract before the deadline and will be moved.

But should the Islanders really wait until March 5th before they start wheeling and dealing? There is always the possibility that Vanek could sustain a serious injury during the Olympic games and not return to NHL ice until after the deadline, making him impossible to trade.

Don't be surprised if the Vanek trade rumors start to swirl through Long Island's blistering snow storms over the next few days.

It would be greatly disappointing from a team perspective to see Vanek go. Although many Islanders fans despised the trade that removed Matt Moulson from the team, who was a genuine Islanders forward at heart, Vanek has proved his value to the organization. The top line has never been this productive in the past and it is clear that John Tavares can elevate his game to another level when he has another dominant sniper on his wing.

And if you look at the Islanders stat sheet, you will see that there is a lack of forwards that are ready to step in and fill his shoes. In fact, no one can.

But if he chooses to test the market, Snow would have no choice but to do his absolute best to replenish the assets that he lost in the trade with Buffalo.

Then we can turn to Andrew MacDonald. Despite putting up decent numbers from the blue line, A-Mac has had probably one of his worst years in regards to his defensive zone coverage (Photo credit: Lets_Go_Pens/Flickr).

He has 23 points in 57 games played which is already four shy of his career best of 27 in 60 games played back in 2011. However, costly turnovers in his zone has given him a -13 rating and hasn't been a help to any of his goaltenders.

MacDonald is clearly a valuable defenseman who can move the puck well on the power play that has been forced to play above his level due to a lack of depth on the blue line. On a team with a truly established top defense pairing, A-Mac could be a reliable 4th or 5th defenseman that earns extra time with the man-advantage.

That is why someone like Calvin de Haan, who has been excellent since his call up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, might slide into his spot on a full-time role going forward if Snow opts to trade A-Mac. I doubt that the coaching staff's decision to pair de Haan with Travis Hamonic, (who was MacDonald's traditional defense partner) was a coincidence.

Trading A-Mac could possibly help Garth Snow land a better defenseman, or possibly a number one goaltender.

Evgeni Nabokov has been okay at best and is clearly not going to be a starting goaltender for this team next year. He has shown that he is a back-up goalie at best, given his age and inability to stay healthy over an 82-game season.

But a young team heading into the playoffs could want a goalie like Nabokov to help them make a push. He is a veteran with tons of playoff experience and could play a similar role to that of Tomas Vokoun with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. When Marc-Andre Fleury was unable to withstand the pressure, Vokoun was there to propel the Pens to several wins. Nabby would be an excellent 1-A goaltender on any young playoff team.

Other impending UFA's such as Peter Regin and Eric Boulton will not net much in return if they were traded and are only notable mentions at best for this post. The same goes for Pierre-Marc Bouchard (hey, remember him?!) who has been playing for the Sound Tigers since his demotion earlier in the season.

With over a month to go before the deadline, Snow does not have to rush to trade Nabokov or MacDonald. But don't be surprised if Vanek's fate with the Islanders is decided sooner rather than later.

-Rob McGowan
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