DEADLINE DAY – Should the Islanders Trade Mark Streit?

Kevin Schultz

Update, 9:25am: Welp, that’s some timing. Darren Dreger reports that “Garth Snow says he has no intention of trading Mark Streit. $500,000 gap per year (3 yrs) in contract talks with his captain.”

Original story: The trade deadline is fast approaching, set for today at 3pm ET. Most likely, the
Islanders won’t be buyers or sellers; they’re caught in a middle ground where they shouldn’t sell for draft picks and shouldn’t give up a lot to buy.

With last night’s win, the team moved into a tie for seventh in the standings with New Jersey. It’s precarious — only two points up on the ninth place Rangers – but the team has won five-of-six and is in playoff position. To sell off NHL assets would jeopardize the closest the Islanders have been to the playoffs in the five years of this slow, slower, and still slower rebuild. On the other hand, the Islanders aren’t in the best position to buy. They have a lot of young prospects who are ready to jump into the lineup next season. Is it worth selling off some of those pieces to make a run at seventh or sixth in the conference? No, it’s not (also keep in mind the first names on opposing GM’s tongues will undoubtedly be Strome, Nelson or Niederreiter if Snow were to call about a rental). So today, the Islanders will probably be quiet neither selling nor buying but there is one exception: Mark Streit.

In Streit, the Islanders have a very serious question to answer; is it worth trading off their captain in the midst of the playoff hunt despite the fact that he will never have greater trade value than he does now and the market price on defenders is high?

Over the past few days, it’s become very clear that the team and Streit are not likely to come to a contract agreement prior to the trade deadline. Whether they can come to an agreement before July 1st when Streit becomes a free agent isn’t known, but you would have to assume it’s not entirely likely.

The decision whether to trade or hold onto Streit is going to be a very tough decision and one of the toughest Snow has faced thus far. A lot of GMs are likely to be inquiring about the 35-year old, as Snow is faced with the possibility of losing his captain and a substantial asset for nothing over the summer. On the other hand, Snow could seriously disrupt a locker room that finally seems to be gelling and winning close games.

After a season of randomly getting blown out and giving away third period leads, the Islanders have finally found their stride and look like a playoff-bound team. With a team so close to the playoffs for the first time in quite a while and less than a dozen games to go, Snow likely won’t want to jeopardize destroying his locker room by trading away the captain. Regardless of how effective or vocal Streit is as captain is irrelevant, the sheer act of trading the captain would signal a white flag in the locker room and be a major disruption. It’s just not something you do if you’re looking for late-season leadership on a young team struggling to make it.

And all that isn’t to say it’s a cut and dry decision. There are a number of factors suggesting Snow take an offer. Streit, at 35, will never have more trade value than he does now and the league-wide value of defenders is high, as evidenced by the Regehr and Murray trades. Streit is clearly in demand, with name has popping up all around the league for the better part of a month in both legitimate trade rumors and fan fantasy trades. Even if Streit does re-sign for a year or two with the Islanders, we’ve all witnessed his skills declining. While Streit is still the team’s power play quarterback, Lubomir Visnovsky and the emergence of Thomas Hickey have relegated him to the third defensive pairing. Whatever the offers are now, they’ll be halved down the road.

It will surely be tempting for Snow to take an offer now, but another inherent problem will be that teams will be offering prospects and — more likely — draft picks, as they did for Regehr and Murray (both brought in two second round picks).

The Islanders have a lot of prospects as it is – save for a stud kid goalie – and they certainly don’t need draft picks that won’t help the team for 3-4 years. The Islanders need an NHL ready prospect or veteran in return, and they aren’t likely to get it. Teams interested in Streit aren’t likely to part with a roster player, that’s simply swapping deck chairs. They want to add Streit to their NHL lineup without taking someone else off of it.

While the Islanders would risk losing an asset for nothing by holding onto Streit at the trade deadline, they could also jeopardize their precarious playoff chances by moving their captain. Streit, while declining in skill, is also an integral part of the league’s 7th best powerplay. It’s not an easy decision and the situation certainly isn’t black or white, right or wrong, but holding onto Streit may be the best scenario.