Graziano: Questions On The Islanders As NHL Season Is Still In Limbo

The League Is Still Shuttered Due To The Coronavirus Outbreak

Andy Graziano
March 24, 2020 - 1:16 pm

This week, as the National Hockey League and the Islanders continue this season in limbo, we reach into the sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating world of Twitter to bring you a Q&A in response to reader submissions from the weekend.

Keep in mind these are simply my opinions in response to these questions. There has been little out of the NHL or its players during this trying time.

Q: We have heard the NHL wants the 2019-20 season to be a regular, full season, yet we have also heard we could be living this way for four to eight months. What impact would that have on the next season and do you foresee a scenario where the season opens with no fans in the arena? (@knightvine)

A: At this point, being straight, I would be amazed if there was a continuation of the 2019-20 season. I have to think April is just about out the window, and the idea of starting with a mini-camp in May doesn’t seem plausible to me, due to growing concerns over ice conditions and building availability as we head into June/July. Are players going to sacrifice their summer to play straight through into a 2020-21 season even if venues can be somehow worked out? The players submitted a wild proposal via the NHLPA which pushes back the start of next season, something the league right now doesn’t have an appetite for. Once May hits, if I’m Gary Bettman, I call it and start the off-season on time in preparation for a full 2020-21 season. Tough to call all players back unless you’re 100% sure the coronavirus is completely eradicated. And I don’t see that as being a logical scenario. But, hey, it will still be the scenario I’m wishing for.

Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot battles with Islanders center Brock Nelson in the third period on March 5, 2020, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.
Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Images

Q: I think a good question that we likely all know is “have we seen the last of the best fourth line is hockey?” Is trading Clutterbuck and not resigning Martin in the cards? (@Scottiooo)

A: This is definitely becoming a more likely scenario by the day. The Islanders are not working with a ton of cap room and have to sign Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews this summer. Plus, they need upgrades on the offensive front. It’s harder to fathom a team taking on Clutterbuck, with his injury history, even though his contract, by current NHL standards, isn’t horrible ($3.5 million for two more years). As valuable as Martin is in the dressing room, he isn’t worth $2.5 million with Ross Johnston around and signed for two more years at one million.

Q: Do you believe the NHL would base qualified playoff teams on points percentage over total points if the season were to play out with only the playoffs? (@michaelmannucci)

A: If you don’t play the rest of the regular season, that would be the only reasonable way to award playoff spots, although I don’t think there is much of an appetite for it among league officials. As per my opinion above to question one, I truly believe, at this point, cancelling the season might be the best and most logical course of action. 

Q: Ladd, Boychuk, Leddy, Bailey, Komarov, Clutterbuck. Other than Leddy, can any of the others be traded for a return? And for the ones not, what would the cost be to “unload” any of those contracts? (mknycto)

A: Short As you note, Leddy is the easiest to deal, as he is still mobile and on a good contract. I don’t see Boychuk or Bailey going anywhere. Komarov is more likely to be bought out and the Islanders almost moved Ladd to Minnesota in the failed Koivu/Parise trade. That would be the type of deal we would be looking at to move Ladd’s deal. Taking on aging players on the downwards arc of their careers on similar bad contracts. I imagine him being more a Bridgeport bury than anything. I mention Clutterbuck above.

Q: What trade package could they put together to get a top-six forward? Leddy seems like a good choice but who else could be included as well as who is targeted? (@frankdemarco11)

A: A top-six forward, for the second straight summer, will be at the top of the Islanders wish list. It’s impossible to determine who might be available, given the trade market is so fluid and changes by the hour and phone call. Mike Hoffman, who I’ve been an advocate of for two seasons now, is an unrestricted free agent. Start there. More often than not, top-six forwards are drafted and developed, not traded.

Q: I think the top two concerns are 1) if Lou has the capacity to act as a GM in this era of hockey and 2) how to create cap relief creatively, since they’ve already booted this draft, why not go all the way and move players with picks to create an immediate asset? (@joshbarely)

A: I have framed my feelings for the way Lamoriello has handled the general manager portions of his job, to date, which is now infamously known on these pages. He ‘seems’ to still be operating with an old school mentality of building an older, slower, grinding hockey club, the type that won back in the 1990s. Today, the game is much faster and much more skill oriented, which is something that, at least it appears, he has struggled with.

He doesn’t give an inch in contract negotiations, which at times can be considered a detriment. He still has a chance, obviously, to make things right and get head coach Barry Trotz what he has publicly said he needs to succeed. The trade for J.G Pageau, while an extremely valuable player in Trotz’ system, cost him a lot and could easily weaken an already weak prospect pool. With the first and second round picks gone in this year's draft, and next year's second, there doesn’t appear to be much flexibility other than moving players out for solely picks, or taking another stab at the free agent pool, which itself is challenging to the cap situation you mentioned.

You can follow Andy on Twitter (@AndyGraz_WFAN)