As I briefly mentioned in a previous article, the New York Islanders decided to travel a very perplexing road with their protection list. They shielded only 3 forwards, and protected 5 defensemen, allowing a whole host of forwards to be claimed. These include Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, Nikolai Kulemin, and Josh Bailey at the upper end of the spectrum. Defenseman Calvin de Haan, who has reportedly has had difficulty coming to a deal with management on a new contract, is also left at Vegas’ disposal
What complicates matters is that Arthur Staple of Newsday has been insinuating that the Islanders have a deal in place to protect Nelson, Strome, and de Haan, while others, such as Darren Dreger, believes the deal only applies to forwards. NHL Numbers stated today that the protection agreement would protect only Bailey and Cizikas, which is easily the most disastrous deal of the group. From a pure value standpoint, Nelson, de Haan and Strome have far more value than either player. Staple believed yesterday evening that the Islanders were going to trade their 15th overall selection in order to push Vegas in a favorable direction. Even still, it doesn’t explain the particulars of the players protected.
John Tavares is an obvious keeper, and Andrew Ladd helped the offense in a big way after a rocky start. Anders Lee is coming off a phenomenal 34 goal season in only his 3rd full outing. The defense revolves around Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic, and despite his steps backward Johnny Boychuk is a big minute eater for the team. You could have made a case for Ryan Pulock over Boychuk, and made that quite convincingly, but it seemed inevitable that team would lose a defender no matter what. Boychuk did have an NMC, which complicated that matter. Considering that the team was 17th in goals against this past season, that wasn’t exactly a worst-case scenario.
Instead of taking the orthodox 4-4 route and protecting Nelson or Strome as well as Pulock or de Haan, or protecting all but one forward in a 7-3 scheme, the Islanders chose instead to protect a relative no-name in Adam Pelech. Pelech had a solid season, to be sure, but he is a bottom-pairing defenseman and doesn’t project as a difference maker. By opting to leave these players exposed, they take a large aspect of the decision making out of their own hands. GM Garth Snow sacrificed a first round pick and a certain degree of autonomy to protect two forwards, when they could instead have done that on their own. If the end goal was to entice Vegas into selecting Thomas Hickey, they could have done so without the bizarre protection structure. This isn’t even delving into the insanity of surrendering a first-round selection to protect one mid-level player over another.
All in all, the Islanders and GM Garth Snow have stolen the show today for most bewildering decision. Unless the deal with Vegas is far more encompassing than it appears at the moment, they are looking to lose a solid contributor and a 1st-round pick when both could have been avoided.
The original article incorrectly linked Dylan Strome.