According to a report from Sportsnet reporter and NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson could find himself in a new uniform before the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Friedman speculates on what sort of moves Isles GM Garth Snow may be eyeing to help guarantee the hard luck team qualifies for this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. His reasoning for moving Nelson, a former first round pick of the Islanders in 2010, is for the team to acquire another legitimate top six defenseman.
A name starting to creep out there: Brock Nelson. With Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan out, the Islanders need help on the blue line. There will be interest.
The Islanders find themselves in an unfamiliar place halfway through the season as they chase down the Atlantic Division title. As Friedman points out, the Isles are in a “missing the playoffs is not an option” stage and a return to the postseason would be HUGE in determining the future of superstar captain John Tavares.
In terms of available defensemen, we know that the Detroit Red Wings are taking offers on Mike Green, but he’s really more of a rental piece than a legitimate addition. Could he be a fit in Brooklyn? The 32-year-old Green is having a renaissance season for the struggling Red Wings, putting up four goals and 24 points in 41 games. He’s a smooth skating, right-shot defenseman and is expected to be a coveted rental piece at this year’s deadline.
Or, how about Vancouver Canucks blue liner Erik Gudbranson? Multiple reports have indicated that the Canucks will look to move on from the rugged, tough 26-year-old defenseman after one and a half disappointing season. He’s on an expiring contract as well, but unlike Green, he’ll be a restricted free-agent this offseason and whichever team trades for him will retain some control over his future.
If the Isles want to go another route, there’s three-time Stanley Cup champion Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks. The 32-year-old was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career last night, as he watched his team pummel the Ottawa Senators 8-2.
Chicago Sun Times reporter Mark Lazarus broke the story yesterday afternoon that had all of Chicago in an uproar:
Hawks fans have not been pleased with the blue liner’s in recent weeks, especially because of his hefty contract. In 41 games, Seabrook just has 11 points this season and is on target for his lowest offensive production in nearly 10 years. That being said, there’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade over the likes of Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Sebastian Aho and Thomas Hickey. Whether or not the Isles have the appetite for his contract is another question though.
Whomever ends up acquiring Nelson ahead of this year’s deadline will be getting a perennial 20+ goal scorer and 40+ point producer. The 26-year-old has just nine goals and 14 points this season, but has scored 20+ each of the past three seasons. He’s a big center who plays 3rd line minutes behind Tavares and breakout rookie Matthew Barzal, as a result, he’s seen his production take a dip this season. A fresh start and a new opportunity could jump star his offense.
Isles linked to Lehner
In the same article Friedman wonders aloud whether or not the Islanders will take a flier on Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, as well.
It’s no secret that the Sabres have been dreadful this season and Lehner’s 2.94 GAA and .910 save percentage certainly haven’t helped matters. The 26-year-old Swedish giant (6’4”, 245 lbs) has just nine wins in 33 starts this season and is set to become a restricted free-agent when his one-year, $4 million contract expires this offseason.
Could Lehner be a support option for the Islanders? Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have split starts this season, but neither has looked particularly good. You have to imagine that Snow, a former goaltender himself, would feel a lot better about his team’s playoff chances if they had some insurance in net.
In other Islanders news, it was reported by Newsday reporter Jim Baumbach yesterday that the NHL confirmed it is assessing the team’s former home in Nassau County to determine whether or not it’s fit to host the team while a new arena is being built in Belmont Park.
The Islanders left Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York in 2015 in favor of Brooklyn’s Barlacys Center. The transition has not gone smoothly, with both sides looking for an out-clause in their agreement for over calendar year. The Islanders won a bid in December to redevelop Belmont Park, home of the famous Belmont Stakes horse race, and create a new arena along with shopping malls and other attractions. No construction dates have been released, but it’s believed that the team will move back to Nassau Coliseum before their new home is completed.