Every passing second of inaction ahead of the NHL trade deadline should make the New York Islanders and their fans a little more uneasy.
Just two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders are in desperate need of defensive help, the Achilles heel of a team that is getting improved goaltending and already possesses a dangerous offense.
While a trip to the playoffs should be incentive enough for general manager Garth Snow to go for it, the looming expiring contract of superstar captain John Tavares should make it paramount for the Islanders to improve their roster as quickly as possible.
Tavares has been the consummate professional over the past year as he continued to pledge his allegiance to the Islanders every time he was peppered with questions about the status of negotiations with the team.
Those negotiations might as well be taking place in Area 51 or at Loch Ness considering they have been nothing more than a myth. Tavares will wait until the end of the season before speaking with co-owner Scott Malkin, per Sportsnet’s John Shannon.
It will be there where Tavares will likely make his demands or simply inform the organization that he will test the waters, which could be one of the worst things to happen to an organization that has experienced its fair share of disasters.
Should the Islanders want to avoid Tavares hitting the market, their best course of action is putting a winning product on the ice and showing the 27-year-old that they are committed to regaining Stanley Cup glory for the first time since the 1980’s.
That means they have to do more than securing first-line winger Josh Bailey, who is having a career season, for the next six years. Per Shannon, the deal will play no part in making Tavares stay.
New York also sent a third-round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Brandon Davidson, who has defied the odds of playing in the NHL by beating cancer, but hasn’t played more than 51 games in a season after making his debut in 2014-15. He has the size needed to be a physical defenseman at the NHL level with a 6-foot-2, 208-pound frame with a heavy slap shot, but it hasn’t translated well at the pro level yet, though he admitted on Saturday after the trade that he has been playing “some of my best hockey here over the past month.”
He has 20 points in 137 career games with a minus-five rating.
While he might have a shot to become a regular at the NHL level in New York, Davidson isn’t the answer to fix an Islanders defense that has allowed a staggering 225 goals in 63 games.
And a broken Islanders defense has a slim chance to make the playoffs, let alone get past the first round should they sneak in.
In his first eight NHL seasons, Tavares has made the playoffs just three times with the Islanders since being drafted first overall in 2009, making it past the first round just once. If he wants to sign over the prime and possibly the remainder of his professional career to the Islanders, he’ll obviously want to spend that time competing for Cups instead of eighth seeds in the playoff race.
That means Snow, whose job is likely already on thin ice, has to make a move before the deadline passes.