(Editor’s Note: A few minutes before the following story was published, Katie Strang of Newsday posted a more thorough piece with quotes from Garth Snow. The timing was purely coincidental, even if it is draft time. You’ll want to check out Katie’s story for on-the-record information).
4:30 pm: For the first time since the Collapse-and-Rebuild began in 2008, the Islanders are dangling their first round draft pick as trade bait. NHL sources have told Point Blank that general manager Garth Snow will listen to offers for the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
The team is determined to upgrade the current roster in order to make next year’s playoffs. Snow, chief deputy Doug Weight and owner Charles Wang have prioritized adding at least one productive and experienced forward capable of shifting the slow and steady rebuild into overdrive. If the right player is made available, the Islanders will not hesitate to relinquish their rights to draft a talented 18-year-old prospect on the draft floor in Minnesota on Friday night, June 24.
Flyers center/right wing Jeff Carter fits the profile in terms of age (26) and ability (he has averaged 38 goals over the last 3 seasons). However, his salary ($5.2 million cap hit), DiPietrovian term (he is signed for the next 11 years) and temperament (sometimes pouty) should rule him out. Carter does not seem like a player willing to be part of a struggling franchise’s solution.
There will, however, be other players available. The Islanders have said it’s a challenge getting Grade A unrestricted free agents to take their money. Therefore, trading for an established and accomplished player makes a lot of sense.
The Islanders are unwilling to trade any of their top prospects. Their young players failing to play well consistently currently have little trade value. The fifth overall pick, in a draft with a strong top ten featuring a balance of gifted forwards and defensemen, has immense value.
Cap-strapped NHL teams will be able to make their best offer, as long as their GMs do not demand the Islanders give up a No. 5 pick strictly for salary cap relief or overpaid players past their prime. If any teams are willing to offer equal value, the Islanders are listening.
Point Blank Take: Despite the Islanders’ best intentions to move up the pace of the rebuild (and spend more money) this summer, it will be a challenge for Snow to find a dance partner willing to pay a fair price for the fifth overall pick. There’s always the chance of Snow moving down in the first round for a lower pick and a key veteran. But in the most likely scenario, the Islanders will step up to the podium after the New Jersey Devils make their selection at 4 and take the player highest on their board.
As we wrote on June 5:
The NHL scouting combine over, look for the Islanders to have meetings between now and the draft with the following top-10 draft prospects, among others: Jonathan Huberdeau (gone before 5), Gabriel Landeskog (same), Adam Larsson (maybe not), Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, Sean Couturier, Sven Bartschi and – per the AP – Mika Zibanejad.
For the Islanders to forfeit their chance to take one player from this impressive group, the trade acquisition had better be something special. Snow is smart to dangle the pick, but it’s a long shot that he’ll find what he’s looking for prior to the first round of the draft. He’ll probably have to reel in the big fish another day.