The New York Islanders are off to a remarkably hot start and could push for the playoffs this season. If they falter, however, there will be a need to solidify the top lines and GM Garth Snow has the pieces to do so.
The New York Islanders are off to a terrific start this season. Entering this week, the Isles had a record of 6-2-0, putting them atop the Metropolitan Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference.
ESPN.com’s Craig Custance fielded a question from an Islanders fan wondering if the club might pursue a top-six forward like Carolina’s Eric Staal or a top-four defenseman. With over $63.5 million in payroll, the Isles have the space to take on a star player, as well as depth in promising young players to offer up as trade bait.
Custance, however, doesn’t consider such a move necessary right now, pointing out GM Garth Snow already made two significant trades by acquiring defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. That’s not including Snow’s earlier off-season additions of goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, along with forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.
It’s the Isles homegrown talent Custance believes should lead the way. So far, they’re doing just that. Young forwards John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson are among the NHL’s leading scorers. 21-year-old center Ryan Strome and long-time Isles forward Frans Nielsen are also among the Isles scoring leaders.
If the Islanders falter at some point, Snow could go shopping for depth. Should his club remain in postseason contention leading up to the March 2 trade deadline he could pursue an affordable rental player. It’s unlikely he’ll swing for the fences as he did with Thomas Vanek last season.
MYERS TO FLYERS COULD BE AN OPTION
With veteran defensemen Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald (lower-body injuries) currently sidelined, the Philadelphia Flyers called up promising blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere.
Flyers GM Ron Hextall would’ve preferred keeping Gostisbehere in the minors to develop his game. However, Hextall told CSNPhilly.com’s Sarah Baicker there’s not a lot of quality blueliners available via trade or free agency. Baicker also notes the Flyers options are further limited by a lack of cap space, possessing less than $1 million to work with.
That limited cap space likely prevents Hextall from bidding for Buffalo Sabres blueliner Tyler Myers. The 6-foot-8, 24-year-old Myers has the potential to blossom into a solid top-two defender, something the Flyers have been lacking since Chris Pronger suffered career-ending concussion and eye injuries three years ago.
The Flyers have depth in young forwards that could prove enticing to the Sabres, but unless the Sabres agree to pick up a significant chunk of Myers’ annual $5.5-million cap hit, it’s doubtful Hextall can land him.
It was reported Hextall reached out to the agent for former NHL defenseman Ryan Whitney, who recently signed with KHL team HC Sochi. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio cites Whitney’s agent claiming the Flyers haven’t made a contract offer to his client.
If the Flyers – or another NHL club – attempt to sign Whitney they’ll have to move quickly. If he plays a single game with a professional team overseas during the NHL season, he’ll have to pass through waivers before coming back to the NHL.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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