Kevin SchultzThe final 10 games of the 2013-14 are approaching — the 11th from the end takes place tonight — and the way this year has gone they’ll be best used as evaluation on decisions for next year.
For the younger players, it’s a chance to make an impression for a roster spot and get a jump on training camp. Anders Lee is pretty clearly at the head of the pack right now, with 10 points in 11 games. Of course small sample size warnings apply, but anywhere in the real of a point per game, or above half a point per game, would be excellent from him at this point. Ryan Strome has played well since his recall with six points in 11 games and another summer of training will hopefully do him well.
On defense, the Islanders have quite a few names to evaluate and most of them you would imagine are already penciled in for next year’s roster given; A) their performance and B) the lack of depth at the defensive position. Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan and Thomas Hickey should all be in the fold in the fall. Both Donovan and de Haan, along with Lee, are going to be restricted free agents and owed new contracts over the summer.
When it comes to the veterans, it’s a bit trickier. The Islanders need a starting goaltender in the worst way and I think that’s evident after this season. Neither Kevin Poulin nor Anders Nilsson have stepped up to the occasion of being given regular NHL playing time. Evgeni Nabokov is quite clearly not the caliber of a starting goaltender (he’s not ranked in the league’s top 50 (!) netminders in save percentage with at least 10 games played).
In today’s Newsday, Arthur Staple wrote about the possibility of Nabokov returning as the team’s backup:
“I feel like I can still do it,” Nabokov said. “[NHL defenseman] Rob Blake told me, ‘When it’s time, you’ll know.’ I don’t know yet.”
Another veteran who has had questions asked of him is Josh Bailey, who is amazingly still only 24 years old. Eyes on Isles writes that it may be time to buy him out of his contract that runs through 2017-18:
This leaves Bailey out of a job.
In my opinion, Bailey has one a year to prove himself before the idea of a trade or buyout is thought about.
Bailey, while having a down year, is a player I can’t see being bought out unless the Islanders have so many prospects/young players on the NHL roster that there just isn’t room. While he’s not had a good year and is inching ever-closer to the ‘bust’ label, he’s still a useful player on the third or fourth line for depth. He’s certainly better than the failed experiments of Pierre Marc-Bouchard, Peter Regin and Marty Reasoner so I don’t see the value in buying him out.
On the trade front, well, he’s not got much value. You’d have to hope he improves to raise his value and then it’s another conundrum; do you trade a guy who finally seems to be coming into his own?
Brock Nelson, as the writer said, has already jumped Bailey on the depth chart. If Lee, Strome and others do as well then we can certainly start to think about exit scenarios. I’m just leery of giving up on depth for the sake of it not being top-six talent. The Islanders, while they obviously need top-six talent, shouldn’t forsake the rest of the roster for the sake of cutting bait. If they team ever gets good enough, they’ll need that playoff depth as well.
Not much Islander material in this week’s 30 Thoughts, but Elliotte Friedman notes that the Islanders were in on another college prospect:
The Montreal Canadiens 2nd round draft pick watch is in full effect: