Latest on the Islanders, Leafs & Ducks – December 20, 2016
More speculation over John Tavares’ future with the New York Islanders and a look at which Anaheim Ducks defenseman might resolve the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defensive woes.
TSN: Analyst Jamie McLennan observes the New York Islanders’ messy situation this season, its current location in Brooklyn and questions over the club’s identity could affect captain John Tavares’ future with the franchise. Tavares is eligible in July 2018 for unrestricted free agency. McLennan notes the departure in recent seasons of Tavares’ former linemates (such as Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo) could leave the Isles captain wondering who his linemates will be in the future.
FANRAG.COM: Chris Nichols cites TSN’s Bob McKenzie also weighed in on the Isles struggles this season and the potential effect it could have upon Tavares’ long-term future with the club. He notes Tavares is publicly saying he still wants to remain with the Islanders and there’s no indication he’s changed his mind. However, the team’s current decline and the departure of some key players in recent years could affect his decision to remain beyond 2018. “So if you’re John Tavares and you come to July 1 and you’re eligible to sign a contract, you’re going to want to see what direction the team is headed in. And is this a trend that can’t be reversed, or is it one that can be reversed?”
NEWSDAY: While the trade deadline is still over two months away, Arthur Staple believes it’s time for Islanders management to get a jump on the trade deadline action. He recommends they start thinking about and offering up any roster players they can to contending teams to free up roster and salary-cap space for next season. They currently have over $65 million invested in 19 players.
With the trade market currently stagnant and so many players signed beyond this season, Staple admits it’ll be difficult finding trade partners right now. He believes pending UFAs Dennis Seidenberg and Thomas Greiss could only fetch a mid-round draft pick in return, and wonders if other clubs could consider Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey (either of whom could be lost to next year’s expansion draft) as top-four defensemen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring a significant second-half reversal, the Isles will miss the playoffs this season. That could prompt the new ownership to consider significant changes in the front office, behind the bench and on the roster.
While Isles fans are fed up with hearing all the speculation over Tavares’ future coming from the Toronto media, there’s no question that this season’s struggles and how the front office deals with it could have an effect upon their captain’s long-term plans. The Isles can open contract extension talks with Tavares next July and you can bet those negotiations will attract considerable media attention and speculation.
SPORTSNET: With the Anaheim Ducks in Toronto yesterday to face the Maple Leafs, Luke Fox suggests the Ducks could have the assets to address the Leafs’ defensive woes. With the Ducks pressed for cap space and a large number of opponents eyeing their young blueliners, Fox believes they’ll be forced to reach a decision in the near future. He believes Ducks GM Bob Murray could covet the Leafs’ prospect pool (containing such assets as Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen) and draft picks. They could also lose one of those young blueliners to next June’s expansion draft.
Of the Ducks young blueliners, Fox notes Cam Fowler was the subject of trade speculation during Hampus Lindholm’s contract stalemate. He doubts Fowler gets another contract with the Ducks because of young, cheaper rearguards such as Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour in their system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks made long-term investments this summer in Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, so I doubt they’ll be on the trade block. Fowler still seems the logical trade candidate. However, unless the Leafs are willing to part with their first-round pick in 2017 (which could be first-overall again), I doubt Murray parts with Fowler for a high pick and a top prospect. He’ll be looking at someone like William Nylander. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are untouchable.
If Murray dangled Fowler for Nylander, the Leafs could take a serious look at that offer. However, I think the Leafs prefer keeping Nylander and instead offering up left wing James van Riemsdyk. He could be a good fit with the Ducks but he could cost them over $6 million annually on a new contract starting in 2018.
Bear in mind that Fowler to Toronto is no certainty. If he hits the trade block, there will be a bidding war for his services. The Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings were all reportedly quite interested in Fowler last summer.