All aboard: OEL to NYI
Why Oliver Ekman-Larsson fits the bill for the Islanders
The New York Islanders are fun and good. It still feels weird to type, and feels even more weird to say out loud. At the beginning of the season on the Obstructed Views podcast, I made one major proclamation about this team: they will score a lot of goals, and will concede a lot of goals. That has held true 23 games into the season: they have five players over 20 points, have 83 goals for (third), and 73 goals against (ninth).
The goaltending has been a big reason for that. Through 23 games, the Islanders goaltending has been below average at best. Per Larry Brooks:
Of the 36 netminders who have played at least 400 minutes, Jaroslav Halak is 22nd in even-strength save percentage (.918) and Thomas Greiss is 23rd (.916). The Islanders are 21st in that fairly important category. But the prospect of trading for a goalie to push them over the top seems negligible.
And he’s right, there is almost a zero percent chance the Islanders make a move for a goalie. With Jaroslav Halak a pending UFA, the Islanders tandem next year will be Thomas Greis, and either Linus Soderstrom (more likely) or Ilya Sorokin (less likely). Those are some great options, especially when you consider Soderstrom will be on an ELC and the Islanders get some money back with Halak off the roster (we’ll talk cap situation more later). At this point, fans should just hope that either one of Halak or Greiss gets white hot and steals the starting job.
So with trading for a goalie out of the question, the best thing the Islanders can do is trade for a defenseman, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson fits the bill. A bit more about OEL from Gotham Sports Network’s James Duffy:
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that Ekman-Larsson is playing well despite being on the league’s worst team. A team that is currently rebuilding, and won’t even dream about being a legitimate contender in the west for years to come — another reason why trading OEL makes sense. When he’s a free agent at the age of 28, is he really going to want to re-sign with the Coyotes? Most likely no, which means the Coyotes should jump at the opportunity to acquire a boatload of assets for a player they won’t be able to re-sign.
What would the trade be? Here’s what Larry Brooks proposed:
It will cost any team to get OEL, and it could cost the Islanders either Josh Ho-Sang or Anthony Beauvillier, perhaps Brock Nelson, maybe Ryan Pulock or Scott Mayfield, and probably one of the two first-rounders (their own plus Calgary’s) they own in the 2018 draft. The price will be high, but it would be worthwhile.
Coyotes send: Oliver Ekman-Larrson
Islanders send: 2018 1st (from Calgary), 2018 2nd (from Calgary), Ryan Pulock, Brock Nelson
Now I know there are going to be a lot of people upset about this — but it comes down to one thing, and one thing only. The Islanders need to go for it. They NEED to. Currently sitting at third in the Metropolitan, and having yet to lose a game at home in regulation, the Islanders are legitimate contenders. We knew that the Metropolitan division was going to be a blood bath this season. What we probably didn’t expect is the Devils to currently be sitting in first place, and the Penguins, Capitals, and Rangers to currently be trailing the Islanders. That’s neither here nor there — it’s a tough division top down. If the Islanders are finally to make a run, to show their fans that the “never-ending rebuild” actually has an end, and more importantly, to show John Tavares that he should sign long-term with a Stanley Cup contender, they need to make this move.
You have to think that Garth Snow traded Travis Hamonic for picks for just this reason — the opportunity to acquire whatever asset this team needed to make a serious run. Brock Nelson has been more than underwhelming in a bottom-six role this year, notching only nine points in 23 contests. Ryan Pulock, while also underwhelming, still has serious potential. I know a lot of fans are worried about the 23-year-old’s production and growth, but let’s not forget that he’s less than a year removed from 46 points in 55 contests down in Bridgeport. He’s still a very valuable piece, and just the type of defenseman Arizona will be looking for — a young puck mover who will receive way more ice time in Arizona than he’s been receiving in New York. The Coyotes should be thrilled to be able to build their defense around Jakob Chychrun and Ryan Pulock, while also acquiring two top picks.
Now, let’s get back to the Islanders. What would the current roster look like?
Lee — Tavares — Bailey
Eberle — Barzal — Ladd
Ho-Sang — Cizikas — Beauvillier
Chimera — Quine — Clutterbuck
Boychuk — Leddy
Ekman-Larrson — de Haan
You don’t lose anybody from your top-six, and gain a top-four defenseman? Are you kidding me?
Cap-wise, this fits assuming the Islanders move Nikolai Kulemin to LTIR. According to CapFriendly, the Islanders would still be $2,050,833 under the cap for 2017–2018.
Now, let’s not forget that OEL is under contract for 2018–2019 at the same $5.5 million hit.
Next off-season, the Islanders will only have 13 players under contract and ~$28,345,834 to work with. Let’s factor in the need to re-sign John Tavares and Josh Bailey. I’m going to throw a number at the wall here: $18 million to re-sign both Tavares and Bailey. That gives us ~$10,345,834 to work with. Soderstrom will be on an ELC. Kyle Keyser of the Bruins signed his ELC in October and has a cap hit of ~$750,000, let’s roll with that: ~$9,595,834.
They can use the rest of that money to re-sign someone like Thomas Hickey to a team-friendly contract (he’s only making $2.2 million this season anyway). Alan Quine and Scott Mayfield are RFA’s they can bring back, and I’m sure Garth will find another veteran defenseman he’d like to bring in as well.
The math isn’t perfect, because NHL contracts are too hard for my brain to understand, but the point is that trading for OEL works both short-term and long-term from a cap perspective.
We’ve got a ways to go until March 1st, but the OEL to NYI train is already picking up some serious steam. Choo-choo!