NHL Rumor Mill – March 29, 2018
Updates on the New York Islanders and New York Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
KEYS TO THE ISLANDERS OFFSEASON
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan recently explored potential offseason moves by the New York Islanders. Re-signing John Tavares, of course, is the priority, though general manager Garth Snow did himself no favors by failing to address the Isles’ porous defense and goaltending this season.
Signing a starting goalie should be next on the “to-do’ list, Kaplan suggests St. Louis Blues pending free agent Carter Hutton might serve as a good short-term option until prospects such as Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom are ready for full-time NHL action.
The defense must also be addressed. If Snow is unable or unwilling to spend big on someone such as Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson, Kaplan proposes serviceable veteran free agents such as Ian Cole, Dan Hamhuis or Jack Johnson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have over $47.3 million invested in 14 players. Assuming the cap ceiling reaches $80 million for 2018-19, they’ve have over $32 million in cap room. If they’re willing to spend toward the cap maximum, they’ll have more than enough to re-sign Tavares to a big raise and pursue a starting goalie and perhaps a couple of quality defensemen.
Of course, that’s all easier said than done. There’s not many quality goaltending options available via free agency. Kari Lehtonen, Cam Ward, Ondrej Pavelec and Antti Niemi are past their prime as starters, Antti Raanta will likely be re-signed by the Arizona Coyotes. Even if he’s available he still hasn’t fully established himself as a reliable starting netminder. The same can be said for Hutton, Jonathan Bernier and Anton Khudobin.
Beyond Carlson, the depth in quality free-agent defensemen significantly declines. Age would be a concern for Hamhuis (35) and Detroit’s Mike Green (32). Johnson (31) struggled at times this season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cole, 29, could provide reliable depth but the Isles would still need a good top-four rearguard.
With two picks in the first and second rounds of the 2018 draft, Snow could perhaps package one from each round in hopes of landing a skilled d-man via the trade market.
RANGERS “OPEN FOR BUSINESS”, SAYS McKENZIE
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie’s appearance Wednesday on NBCSN discussing possible moves by the New York Rangers, who carry 10 selections in the 2018 NHL Draft, including seven in the first three rounds, with three of those in the opening round.
McKenzie believes they’re “open for business” just as they were leading up to the 2018 NHL trade deadline. He feels Rangers GM Jeff Gorton will consider his options, including perhaps packaging some of those picks to move higher in the draft order. He also believes Gorton could be open to acquiring a good young NHL player – “a really good 21 or 22 or 23 year old” – using those draft picks as currency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie acknowledged some fans believe if the Rangers are indeed rebuilding they should retain those picks and use them to draft and develop young talent. I don’t think Gorton intends to peddle most of those selections. However, if there’s an opportunity to move, say, a first- and a second-rounder for a young player who can immediately improve the roster, he could seriously consider it. If the Rangers don’t land in the top-three in the opening round of the draft, I can see Gorton using one or two of those picks to move up.