The New York Islanders will most likely not make any significant transactions at the trade deadline this season. For once, I actually agree with this course of inaction.
The Islanders are in a transitional phase at the moment. They are on the cusp of becoming a playoff team with 17 games left on the regular-season schedule and currently sit a mere two points out of a playoff spot.
Will they make the playoffs? If they can solve their inconsistency issues and manage to hold onto some third-period leads, then there is no reason they cannot make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
The Islanders are too close to being a playoff team to deal unrestricted free agents-to-be Evgeni Nabokov, Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky and Brad Boyes to the league's top contenders.
They are also not in the playoff mix far enough to warrant trading draft picks or prospects for players like Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan or Jay Bouwmeester.
Back in the 2006-07 season, which was the last time the Islanders made the playoffs, they traded for Ryan Smyth in a move that shocked hockey. The biggest reason for the shock was that the Islanders were adding and not subtracting a significant piece near the trade deadline. A secondary reason was that rookie general manager Garth Snow was able to pull off acquiring such a high-quality NHL star.
The Islanders responded to the Smyth acquisition by falling out of the playoff race until they won the last four games of the season, the last being in a shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils. Keep in mind that this was done on the back of third-string goaltender Wade Dubielewicz. Dubielewicz was needed because of injury to Rick DiPietro and the ineffectiveness of his backup at the time, Mike Dunham.
After the regular season, the Islanders had earned the privilege of playing the Presidents' Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders briefly made a series of it by splitting the first two games in Buffalo. The Islanders could not capitalize on the incredible atmosphere of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, however, as they dropped the next three games in succession, losing the series 4-1.
During the summer, Islanders general manager Garth Snow made his best attempt to re-sign Ryan Smyth to a long-term contract. It was not to be, as Smyth wound up signing with the Colorado Avalanche for roughly $1 million less than the Islanders had offered.
In short, the Islanders lost two prospects and a first-round draft choice for a guy who played 23 games for them. It very nearly was only 18 games, but the Islanders managed to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.
This reason in of itself is why you do not trade for players that are in the last year of their contracts, unless you are sure of your entry into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Once your place in the playoffs is secure, anything can happen. Last season's Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, proved that fact by demolishing through the competition as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
On the other side of the coin, trading veteran players when you're just a couple of points out of the playoff race sends the wrong message to the hockey world. It tells everyone that you have given up, and that is a message the Islanders absolutely cannot give to their fans.
The Islanders are improving. They have at least five prospects playing in the minor leagues who, by all rights, should be in the NHL next season.
The prospects are center Ryan Strome, who should fit in nicely as the second-line center. The Islanders have needed a second-line scoring threat behind John Tavares for a while now. Strome could be the answer, which would also allow Frans Nielsen to settle into a third-line checking role.
Forwards Nino Niederreiter and Brock Nelson have flourished in the American Hockey League this season. They are first and second in scoring, respectively, on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. By all appearances, they are ready to claim spots on the Islanders next season.
Defensemen Scott Mayfield and Griffin Reinhart are both 6'4" blueliners who can give the Islanders much-needed mobility, skill and size on the blue line. Both defensemen are projected to be a part of the Islanders defense next season.
Islander fans have long waited for the potential that is in the Islander organization to come to the forefront. General manager Garth Snow knows he cannot part with young talent for an outside chance that whatever veteran he would trade for will re-sign with the team. He has to stay the course and hopefully reap the rewards of this long rebuild, which, by many indications, seems to be coming to an end.
The Islanders will stand pat this season at the deadline and for once, it is entirely the right decision.