The Ultimate Deadline Pickup
Butch Goring's acquisition by the New York Islanders in 1980 is generally seen as the most successful deadline deal in history since it led to the Islanders' run of five straight Cup Final appearances and four straight Stanley Cup wins.
NHL general managers ever since have hoped to catch deadline lightning in a bottle but have not succeeded. Major trades are usually costly in assets and rarely alter a team's course for the better.
The Boston Bruins, for example, won last year's Stanley Cup in spite of the very costly acquisition of Tomas Kaberle.
Kaberle cost the Bruins a blue-chip prospect as well as a first and a second-round pick but did nothing to help their very weak power play.
Deadline deals that succeed are usually more in the tweaking category. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins needed veteran leadership as well as an effective linemate for Sidney Crosby. They got both with a third-round pick when they traded for then-Islander captain Bill Guerin. He was a key piece in their successful Cup campaign.
Of course, the biggest decision a general manager has to make is whether his chances of making the playoffs are good enough that he should consider buying talent at all, whether he should stand pat or whether he should sell off talent for draft picks and / or prospects.
The Islanders are in between. While some aging veterans like Brian Rolston and Steve Staios may be shopped, more valuable pieces like Frans Nielsen, PA Parenteau, Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya will stay.
The real question is whether the Islanders should be buying at all. Snow has said that he will make deals that make sense to improve the Islanders. I would translate that to mean deals that will obtain useful talent under contract past this season that will help the team in the future.
Potential deals fall into three categories: The Big Tuna (megastars), Defense and Offense.
Rick Nash is starting to look like the Ernie Banks of hockey.
Banks was one of the greatest players in baseball history and made the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he was on some very poor Chicago Cubs teams none of which made it to the playoffs, much less the World Series.
Nash may become one of hockey's all-time greats. His scoring instincts, puck control and skating speed are incredible. He is one of those special players who can dominate a game.
Unfortunately, he is on a Columbus team that never seems to do anything right. Whether it's disastrous draft choices like Nikita Filatov or equally catastrophic trades and contracts like Jeff Carter and Fyodor Tyutin, the Blue Jackets franchise seems to be going nowhere fast.
Adam Proteau, among others, believes that it would benefit both Nash and the Blue Jackets for Nash to be traded. Nash would go to a contender and have a much better shot at the Cup. The Jackets would get a very good return on Nash, and without him on the roster, would be more likely to get the sort of transformational picks that would help them turn things around.
Nash would certainly make a big impact on the Islanders. Add him to the top line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and that line would be unstoppable. That would be the best line in the NHL and it would make the Islanders a sure-fire playoff team and bona fide Cup contender.
With their enormous cap space, large pool of quality prospects and core of talented players, the Islanders would seem to be ideally suited to make a play for Nash. There are, however, some issues.
Nash's presence on the roster has not prevented the Jackets from getting top picks. Other than 2009 when they made their one trip to the playoffs and last year when they foolishly traded their eighth overall pick for Jeff Carter, the Jackets have never picked out of the top ten and have had 4 top five picks, including Nash. This year, they appear poised to get the first overall pick for the second time in their short history.
Nash is a rare talent, and the face of the franchise. Trading him would be an incredibly risky move, and Jackets' management has understandably been reluctant to do it. I suspect that, in the end, they will not move him.
Even if they did, however, I doubt the Islanders would bite. Snow has said all along that he would not take any short cuts on the path to building a champion. This would be a major one. It would likely cost the Islanders at least one front-line player, one or more blue-chip prospects and several quality draft picks.
Apart from the Ryan Smyth trade in which Snow gave up a mid first-round pick in a weak draft and a poor first-round prospect from the Milbury era, he has not made that kind of a trade. And Snow does not seem like the sort of general manager who would convince, say, Kyle Okposo to sign a long-term deal and then trade him as would certainly happen in a deal to get Nash.
All in all, this is a non-starter and will not happen.
Rick Nash has apparently given the green light for CLB to at least kick the tires on a possible deal to trade him. It's a matter, at this point, of what CLB would want and what teams Nash would be willing to go to.
The Islanders would certainly be on the short list of teams CLB could make an acceptable deal with that could also handle Nash's cap hit. Whether Garth Snow would pull the trigger on such a deal is another question. I am doubtful as to that.
The other question is whether Nash would want to go to the Isles. I am sure that he would LOVE to be John Tavares' linemate and that he would also be impressed by the Islanders' prospect pool.
The big issues are the arena and the related issue of the Islanders' long term future. If such a deal were to get to that point, I could see Nash's agent using his leverage to get Charles Wang to make a commitment on moving to Queens or Brooklyn by a date certain if no deal is forthcoming for the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. If that were to happen, I could see Nash's coming here in a positive light even with the loss of assets it would entail.
Defense was key to the winning ways of the Dynasty era teams Goring played on. Defense has been sadly lacking for the current Islander team. They have been consistently toward the bottom of the NHL in goals against recently and are currently 21st.
This problem is partly due to the sad decline of first overall pick Rick DiPietro as franchise goalie. It is also the byproduct of Mike Milbury's disastrous trades. He traded away Zdeno Chara and Eric Brewer, for example.
The struggles of the Islander franchise which stem from the terrible Milbury era have also made it difficult to acquire quality defensemen via free agency. Dan Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff are just two recent examples of elite defensemen who have refused to sign with the Islanders.
Snow did sign quality free agent Mark Streit and has built up a solid pool of defensive prospects. Two of them, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, are currently on the roster and doing well. In a few years, as Islander defensive prospects develop, the defense should be a strength.
For the moment, however, Streit is struggling in a year in which he has returned from a season-ending injury at the start of last season and MacDonald and Hamonic are still learning the ropes. The other current Islander defensemen are unimpressive free agents.
The Islanders need another top-four defenseman and could stand an upgrade on their third pairing. This is important not only for their 21st-ranked defense but also for their 27th-ranked offense. Their blueline production is about 30 points less than the average for Eastern Conference playoff teams. Upgrading their defense could kill two birds with one stone.
Colorado beat writer Adrian Dater believes the Colorado Avalanche will trade defensemen Kyle Quincey and Shane O'Brien because they will be unable to upgrade their salaries this summer. The Avs are a bubble team and will soon likely be in sell mode anyway.
Quincey is a legitimate two-way top-four defenseman who can dish it out—as the clip shows—and score. His 23 points make him 36th in the NHL among defensemen, which would also good for second on the Isles.
O'Brien is a big and physical defenseman who would add snarl and ability to the third pairing, a positive presence in the locker room and a scoring touch as well. His 14 points would be third on the Isles if he and Quincey were added. His and Quincey's collective 37 points would put the Isles right in the mix with Eastern Conference playoff contending bluelines.
The Avs lack a quality right wing prospect so Islander forward Rhett Rakhshani—former University of Denver standout—together with a free-agent defenseman and a second- and a fourth-round pick should be enough to seal the deal for Snow.
Of course, Quincey is an RFA and O'Brien a UFA in July, but Snow has done very well in convincing players to re-sign once he has them in the blue and orange, The one notable exception is Ryan Smyth. Ironically, Quincey was part of the package the Los Angeles Kings used to acquire Smyth. Trading for and re-signing him would be a fitting way to complete the rebuild that Smyth's decision set in motion.
The Isles' bottom two lines have been a disappointment this year.
Offseason acquisitions Marty Reasoner and Brian Rolston have been particularly unimpressive. Tim Wallace is an AHL-quality player. Jay Pandolfo has been good on defense but has not produced offensively. Josh Bailey has been his usual inconsistent self.
Rookies Nino Niederreiter and David Ullstrom have shown promise, but have been plagued by injuries. Only Matt Martin has been a consistent offensive and defensive force, leading the NHL in hits and producing respectable 6-7-13 numbers.
What the Isles need is a skilled, spirited veteran who will offer energy, grit, leadership and scoring on the bottom two lines.
Islander great Bobby Nystrom's son Eric, born on Long Island during the Dynasty years, is such a player. Like the Avs, the Dallas Stars are a bubble team likely to slip out of contention in the next few weeks and be ready to sell. Nystrom might be had for a third rounder. There is, however, one hitch. Bobby Nystrom.
Bobby was the heart and soul of the Dynasty teams and a huge fan favorite. He has also been, along with Mike Bossy and Ken Morrow, a major figure in promoting the Islanders in recent years. He is not someone the organization wants to alienate.
Nystrom was concerned that his son would not fare well if he came back to the Island to play when he became a free agent a few years ago. He was especially concerned that fans would expect Eric to play up to his standards. He actively discouraged Eric from signing with the Islanders. He would likely not be pleased if the Islanders traded for his son.
If Snow can arrange such a trade, he should first meet with Bobby and smooth things over. Younger fans are more familiar with Eric than Bobby anyway. Older fans also know Eric as a player and, apart from a few idiots, will not be expecting the second coming of Bobby.
What they will get is Bobby Nystrom's son who is also capable of providing energy, leadership and scoring big goals. He could help put this team over the top and bring the glory back to the Island.
While no reasonable person would expect Eric to be his father's reincarnation, he is the same kind of player Bobby was and could play the same role on a future Islander Cup winner. Rather than regard such an eventuality as a trap, Bobby should encourage Eric to embrace it as an opportunity.
Could the right deadline deals by Garth Snow complete a championship core on the Island and bring the Cup back? Stay tuned.