By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com
The Islanders are heading toward the trade deadline much like how Obi-Wan warned Luke Skywalker in Star Wars about Mos Eisley Spaceport.
“You’ll never find a more wretched hive of rumor and hype on this side of the NHL galaxy.”
OK, I embellished a little, but you get the idea.
The bottom line is, with a new collective bargaining agreement battle looming on the horizon, the Feb. 27 deadline should be chock full of contenders gearing up for a big run before teams are likely forced to a harder line on spending due a salary cap rollback starting next season. Other teams will look to position themselves in lieu of that to have more cap room, adding talent, prospects and picks for established players.
For Islanders fans, the trade deadline is annually almost as frustrating as summer free agency. Fans seem to hold onto the dream that there is some magic pill to be swallowed here that will somehow solve all the team’s problems.
Well, sadly, that will not be the case.
Currently, the Islanders, despite Monday’s embarrassing 6-0 loss to Ottawa, are again six points out of what is a tight race for the eighth playoff spot in the East. But, even though they are still within striking distance with 23 games to play, the Isles will be neither buyers nor sellers at the deadline.
General Manager Garth Snow is reportedly not actively shopping Nabokov, nor any other player this year. It is a market of too many buyers and not enough sellers. This is good news for the Isles IF someone wants to overpay to get a player. If someone should call, Snow will listen to any and all offers on just about anyone this side of John Tavares.
However, you really wouldn’t want to hold your breath over this happening.
One of Snow’s key attributes is his unflappable demeanor, and the fact that he tends to stick with what he intends. Once he sets a price or decides that he wants to go for that playoff spot, which is exactly what he and the Islanders are doing, you can’t tell him the odds. He’s just not interested.
If you wanted the exact opposite of Mike Milbury, well, you’ve got it. While Milbury would talk himself into making deals and reaches beyond all sense and propriety, Snow sticks to his convictions to the letter.
So when P.A. Parenteau chooses to shelf his contract talks until after the season, this will not make Snow blink nor suddenly deal him for anything he can get out of panic. It is far more likely that Parenteau is not moved.
When Snow does negotiate with Parenteau and his agent, Allan Walsh (also known as “Greedo” in certain circles), he will also not blink twice. He will stick to the salary structure and offer a reasonable deal. He will not blow up the salary structure for his emerging star, a free agent, or in some trade.
This is a key component that seems to be forgotten by many in the peanut galley. Teams, especially in a salary cap era, must think about existing salary cap structure and ensure its health, especially when there are so many young players coming up to fuel a rebuilding process.
Unless you are a Stanley Cup contending team, you cannot afford to destroy or at least warp that salary structure. Nor can just afford to deal young players away without replacing them beyond their value. The Islanders, who have been struggling in rebuilding mode while their venue issues continue to inch forward, have very little room for error.
There is a fan post making the rounds on how Nabokov’s stats are inflated, thus creating his value high, and how it makes all the sense in the world to deal him. However, missing from that list are counterpoints worth noting:
It’s about wins. With Nabokov in net the Islanders more often than not have had a chance to win every game. Whatever his stats are, inflated or not, the fact remains with this Russian in net the team has been able to climb to the NHL’s version of .500. This is something that was missing in subsequent years and with a team that has only one offensive line clicking, and a defense with holes the size of the Pit of Sarlacc, this is something far more tangible and why Snow has no intention of moving this goalie at this juncture.
Another glaring issue is the very crowded goalie market. Goalies can be gotten for a song this year. Why in the world would a team consider moving a pick or key prospect when they can get some warm body for virtually nothing? And especially when Nabokov does not have a history of playoff dominance?
The largest issue of all, and seemingly forgotten, is that year after year the Islanders have been buried in the standings. By being far from a contender, they have had very little unrestricted free agency purchasing power when most look to play for a contending team. Whether the Islanders can make the seventh or eighth spot or not, coming in ninth or 10th would still allow Snow to pivot a sell on being an up and comer to veterans rather than just playing pauper each summer.
Now add in the building pressure of the lease deadline in 2015, the lack of venue movement in Nassau County and the need for options and putting more pressure on the metropolitan area, and you should realize why Nabokov is in Snow’s plans, even if just for a few more months. Too many ancillary issues will continue to carry along with the team the rest of this season.
The Islanders need wins more than anything, and steps forward here are far more paramount than the mid-draft draft pick, which almost certainly will not get anything done. Snow’s interest will only be piquéd if a desperate team will overpay with a second or even first round draft pick, something, again, that is not very likely.
You can cite as many stats as you like, maybe even that Nabokov didn’t make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, but given where the Islanders stand, and in this columnist’s mind, the situation is undeniable.
Come the trade deadline, if you are sitting and waiting for something to happen, well, let the force be with you, young padawan.
Read more columns by B.D. Gallof
Do you think the Islanders should trade players like Parenteau and Nabokov at the deadline? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …