The Pool Is Deep
The Islanders have had their best string of drafts in the past six years. We are already seeing the talents of Pulock (2013) and Toews (2014) in the NHL. Their last six draft classes have either produced or will produce at least two full time NHL players.
Still on schedule to be NHL players are:
2014 Ilya Sorokin, Linus Soderstrom
2015 Mitch Vande Sompel, Parker Wotherspoon
2016 Keiffer Bellows, Otto Koivula, Anatoly Golyshev
2017 Sebastian Aho, Robin Salo, Arnaud Durandeau, Logan Cockerill
2018 Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Bode Wilde, Ruslan Iskhakov, Jakub Skarek.
Can They Afford To Rent?
Sure they can. They have enough of a talent pool now to start shipping some of those “prospects” out for rentals, or vets that can make them better now. But throwing away too much for a high impact rental should not be a trend they start without careful consideration.
CBA Economics 101
Expiring assets from other teams will be available for no added cost in July. When you are looking at renting a player you really have to evaluate the economics of the deal. All of the players mentioned above except Toews($700K AAV) and Pulock ($2M AAV) are still on their Entry Level Contract (ELC) deals. Usually their first RFA contracts are under $2M. It’s those players that contribute the most for the least from ages 22 thru 27. Once a player hits 27 they become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) and the one guarantee is that YOU WILL OVERPAY for their services.
As the team ages, players like Lee and Nelson are moving to their UFA status. These are the kind of players who produced on team friendly deals, and have earned value in free agency. One could say the same thing for Jordan Eberle, who has been a very productive player, even at his barely leveraged $6M AAV.
The structure of the league dictates that you be mindful of your salary cap structure. If you want to retain high end UFA’s and priced RFA’s like Barzal there has to be a balance. The roster must be supplemented with high potential ELC and RFA prospects. This should be the business model for Lou’s Burger Barn going forward.
Who Should Be Available?
Aho has already shown that he fits into the NHL game. He still has some growing to do, but a team receiving Aho could probably plug him into their NHL lineup upon arrival. His only deterrent with the Islanders is that they are stacked in the NHL and they have two left handed defensemen right behind him. He is a 2017 draftee, but he is the same age as a 2015 draftee because he was drafted at 20 instead of 18.
Both left handed defensemen are in almost exactly the same circumstance as Aho, but they did not have the benefit of pro experience at an earlier age. They both have considerable value though.
He should be on the “untouchable” list due to his talent, but is probably on the “do not touch” list because of his perceived inability to be coached. Who knows the whole story with Josh, all we can assume is that if Lou can get any value for him at all he should do both player and team the service of giving Josh a fourth or fifth “second chance”. If any team would accept him in a rental package they should ship him faster than a Conner McDavid loop around the rink.
The Isles’ prospect list is littered with potential NHLers that are still developing on European rosters. I don’t have enough info on the list of skaters to determine which might be more highly sought after, but I would think that Robin Salo and Anatoly Golyshev head the list.
MDC really turned his game around this year. He had a very pedestrian pro-rookie campaign in the AHL two years ago, then regressed last year. He worked on his game over the off season and has impressed all year. His expendable status is mostly due to the already signed group of forwards. They will also most likely extend Anders Lee. The Isles have a deepening surplus of high end forward talent. Dal Colle is probably the most valued “prospect” to have NHL games on his resume.
I think Bellows and DalColle are eventually mutually exclusive in the talent pool. You do not have room for both in the 5 year plan, but you wouldn’t want to trade both. The Islanders have some time to make an ultimate decision, but they’ll probably lose one of them for nothing if they let Kieffer reach RFA status in the AHL.
I believe Linus had shoulder surgery last year and a major setback this year. He has no trade value, but if he can recover he should be in Bridgeport for the Isles next year.
There is no way he is going anywhere for a rental. So this is where we really have to draw the line on trade deadline availability.
He was a player to watch this year as he was going to be playing his first season of North American hockey. He had a decent start, but exploded as soon as he was moved from wing to center. You rarely find centers abundant among NHL prospect lists. Koivula has a tremendous amount of value right now, even though he may be more than a year away from being a full time NHLer. We might see him in the NHL for a few games towards the final weeks of the season. This would give him a feel for the NHL game. It would also prepare him for an emergency call up in a deep playoff run.
2018 Draft Class
The Islanders didn’t have a top ten draft pick. They did manage to get two players that were ranked in the top 10 (Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson). They also acquired a defenseman thought to be top 20 in the second round. They weren’t finished there either. They were able to pick up one of the highest ranked goalie prospects and some late blooming talent in the later rounds. Much like Arnaud Durandeau and Logan Cockerill from the 2017 draft, these are kids we might want to let develop a little to before we sell them off the bargain table. They aren’t “untouchable” per say, but they should be put off to the side. You never know when you might stumble upon a hidden Matt Moulson or Michael Grabner in your own garage.