On the verge of losing their team captain, face of the franchise, and first overall pick in 2009, not to mention likely missing the playoffs for the eighth time in 11 seasons, the New York Islanders appear to be a team in disarray. Their General Manager, Garth Snow, has been around for all eight disappointments. Only once have the Isles made it out of the first round since 1993. An organization that consistently takes one step forward, only to fall flat the following season. While the outcome of the 2017-18 season is all but decided, it would be easy for Islanders fans to go into the off-season dreading what may come. Despite a few unknowns, the Islanders organization could go from being a middling failure to a powerhouse.
NHL Entry Draft Lottery
Most would assume that signing John Tavares is the first step to creating a team to be reckoned with. This may be true, but certain chips falling the Islanders way could ultimately lead to Tavares re-signing with ease. During the 2017 Entry Draft, the Islanders sent defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames for a first round pick in 2018, a second round pick in 2018 and a conditional second round pick in 2019 (which if Calgary misses the playoffs this season will remain in 2019). This trade seemed a good one for both organizations at the time, but Calgary has free-fallen out of a playoff spot and Travis Hamonic hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the Flames. All this will lead to the New York Islanders having a shot at two lottery picks
Only four times since 1979, has a team had two picks in the top five.
- 1988 – The Quebec Nordiques take Curtis Leschyshyn third overall and Daniel Dore with fifth overall pick.
- 1997 – The New York Islanders select Roberto Luongo with the fourth pick and Eric Brewer with the fifth.
- 1999 – The Vancouver Canucks grab Daniel & Henrik Sedin with the second and third overall picks.
- 2000 – The New York Islanders opt for first overall pick Rick DiPietro and fifth overall pick Raffi Torres.
Ironically, the Islanders also had three picks in the first ten selections in 1999 where they selected Tim Connolly fifth, Taylor Pyatt eighth and Branislav Mezei tenth. Count it up, that’s seven top ten picks in three drafts. That’s incredible. The only player of real value was Luongo, whom they ultimately traded to the Panthers for the opportunity to take Rick DiPietro. Perhaps Tim Connolly could be included on that list as he had a decent career but almost exclusively for the Buffalo Sabres.
In any case, one may look at the list above and say that if the Islanders were to get two high draft choices in the upcoming draft, there’s no guarantees and knowing the Islanders, they’ll probably miss on both. To look at it this way would be short sighted. The draft was not seen as important back in the late 1990’s as it is now, and teams have gotten much better at hitting on first round picks, especially top five selections. Garth Snow has at least shown competency in drafting after selecting Matthew Barzal with the 16th overall pick in 2015.
Odds the Islanders Win Draft Lottery
Admittedly, the odds are slim. Right now, due to where the Flames sit in the standings, there’s only a 2.7% chance of striking gold, and with enough points between them and the next crop of teams to assume they won’t fall lower. The Islanders pick, however, have a 5.4% chance of grabbing a lottery pick and could easily fall a couple spots to increase their odds. Essentially, the Islanders have about a 10% chance that they’ll have one pick in the top ten in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. At worst, these picks will likely be in the eighth to 12th range. Which still gives them a great opportunity to draft a couple impact players. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or both could make camp right away (although it’s likely they’d give them one to two years to ripen).
Even if the most likely scenario occurs, and not the dream situation, the Islanders will add some potential core pieces to their team. Adding to an already strong core of Matthew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and assuming he remains an Islander, John Tavares.
Re-signing John Tavares
Given what is on the table for the Islanders at the Entry Draft, and based on his many comments about wanting to stay with the Isles, John Tavares will re-sign with the Isles. To hold out this long, to be a trooper during all these years, and to watch the perfect storm that has culminated in having Barzal center the second forward line, it would be unwise for Tavares to bail now. Even with a 10+ million dollar cap hit for Tavares, and assuming the cap goes up to around 78 million, the Isles will have over 20 million in cap space to improve their team in the off-season.
Garth Snow may not have been the ideal candidate for GM back in 2006 when he took over. He has made mistakes, but the experience of failure may be paying off. The New York Islanders organization is poised to become one of the next powerhouses in the NHL if they can keep their house in order. It appears that John Tavares will remain with the organization for the long haul, and that his patience paid off.
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