Isles owners evaluating overhaul
January 17, 2017 | 8:37pm ET
Letting Jack Capuano go as coach might be the first of many major moves the
New York Islanders make over the next several months.
TORONTO, ON -- For the last few weeks, we've been hearing whispers the
owners of the New York Islanders, John Ledecky and Scott Malkin, have
been going through a thorough organizational evaluation, from head to
Many have reported the
club exploring the possibility of bringing on a President of Hockey
Operations, to oversee the team's on-ice dealings, and while that's
most certainly still the case, Ledecky and Malkin appear to be moving
towards a complete revamp of the organization's brain trust,
which could affect their AHL club almost as much as the NHL club.
Today, the first domino fell. This afternoon, the Isles fired head
coach Jack Capuano, with Doug Weight taking over on an interim basis.
Islanders GM Garth Snow, who gave Capuano a vote of confidence in
mid-November, made it sound like the decision to relieve Capuano of
his duties came from above, and it certainly looks that way.
Snow told the media they plan on looking at every option for a new,
full-time bench boss, but the organization has much more to worry
about than who its next coach will be.
As I reported earlier in the season -- and this should come as no
surprise to anyone -- the Islanders' biggest concern revolves around
the future of superstar John Tavares. They need to keep this guy
happy. They need to show him they're on the right path towards Stanley
Cup contention. He has one-year left on his contract after this
season. So far, what incentive does he have to stick around beyond the
The Isles have been trying to find Tavares a long-term wingmate
forever. Their kids haven't gotten the job done and the search
continues. That's not good.
Capuano's out. Weight's in, for now. Okay. Now what?
Well, it looks like Snow is sticking around for the rest of the
regular-season, at least. Beyond that?
"I'm not hiding from the fact that it starts with me," Snow said in
today's media conference call. "I don't even worry about that. I just
focus on what I need to do on a day-to-day basis."
That's the right mentality to have, so that's a bit of a positive.
Whether the Isles bring a top dog to overall all of the hockey
operations department remains to be seen, obviously, but it's starting
to sound more and more like Snow's time is running out.
Does that mean Ledecky and Malkin have already made up their minds?
No, not necessarily. He's certainly being given time to right the
ship. But how does he go about that?
Everyone will automatically point to the Isles losing right wing Kyle
Okposo and center Frans Nielsen, two now-All-Stars, in free agency,
and New York's attempt to replace Okposo, at least, by signing Andrew
Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract, with a full no-movement
clause in the first four seasons, has, to date, failed.
The criticism is just. And Snow isn't afraid to take it. But he has
six-weeks until the trade deadline and -- if he's still around --
about five months until the NHL Draft in Chicago (the other trading
season) so fix a number of the team's problems, including its
Oddly enough, the Isles are eighth in the NHL in goals-per-game
(2.83), but 24th in goals-against (2.98). They're scoring plenty, but
they can't keep the puck out of their own net. And a 17-17-8 record
isn't horrendous -- but in the highly competitive East, all of a
sudden, it's not nearly good enough.
So what happens? Again, the priority here is your captain. What reason
does he have to sign an eight-year, $80 million contract extension in
Brooklyn (other than the cash)? He can lock in a seven-year deal
elsewhere worth between $10 million and $11 million, per season, and
depending on state/provincial tax implications, he could end up taking
more home at the end of the day.
If Garth Snow keeps his job beyond this season, putting the right
pieces around Tavares is key. If the team's goal is a roster teardown,
after dishing out big contracts to Ladd, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk,
then if I'm JT, I'm peacing the hell out of town.
Now, I don't think that's going to happen -- the teardown, that is --
but it's up to Snow and his staff to turn this puppy around. If they
creep into playoff contention in the coming weeks, great. But whether
that happens or not, the same goal is in affect.
The Islanders' most tradable roster player, outside of Tavares, is
With Calvin De Haan seeing regular ice time and Adam Pelech now seeing
more of it, Hamonic should be more available, given the need to get a
stud on Tavares' wing. Granted, you're going to have to add an extra
piece or two, good ones, with Hamonic, but what have you got to lose?
I'm a big fan of Anders Lee. I love Casey Cizikas' energy. Ryan Strome?
Maybe. Josh Bailey? Expendable. Brock Nelson? Movable.
The Isles have overvalued many of their prospects, and while almost
every team is guilty of that, they can afford to package a combination
of a young roster player with a younger prospect, and Hamonic, for a
top line winger. It's time to be bold.
Gabe Landeskog could be a solid addition, and despite his off season
(like everyone's having in Colorado), the right deal could help change
things up. Matt Duchene will cost much more. There are options out
there, and I'm not going to dissect every one of them, but Snow has
options. The problem is that such a move might be better suited for
Bottom line: if Tavares decides to walk in less than 18 months, it's
likely due to a lack of top-tier talent playing alongside him, and
whether Snow's there to make that ultimate decision won't be known for
another few months.
Tab Bamford, TFP's Chicago Correspondent and Columnist, and I speak
often -- okay, we text -- over the happenings around the NHL and it
often leads to some kind of trade speculation. A few weeks ago, Tab
brought up a suggestion: Would the Philadelphia Flyers consider moving
winger Wayne Simmonds in a deal that resulted in Corey Crawford going
At the time, I didn't think much of it. Obviously, the deal would need
to be larger, likely to include Steve Mason, who is scheduled to
become an unrestricted free agent July 1, along with a very strong
asset in order to pry Crawford from Chicago.
But with the Flyers struggling mightily lately, and Chicago's faith in Scott
Darling increasing with each game he plays, this might be an avenue
both teams explore.
Simmonds is locked into an affordable contract ($3.975 million cap
hit) and has two years left on his deal after this season, and could
fill a void in Chicago's top-six. He has a
limited no-trade clause and might have a say, but so would Crawford,
who comes with a $6 million cap hit and three years left after this
season and owns a no-movement clause with a limited no-trade list.
It's worth exploring for the Flyers, that's for sure, who have had
questions in goal for eons.
And while losing Simmonds would hurt, the Flyers might not need to
look too far for a replacement.
The Flyers are being linked to Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane
again. He has one-year left after this season at $5.25 million, and
could fit in nicely. But the asking price might begin with 23-year-old
Shayne Gostisbehere, and the Flyers would need to add about $4 million
in salary (Matt Read?) in order to make that happen.
There will be additional parts in a Simmonds-Crawford deal, and a
Kane-Gostisbehere deal, but are the Flyers better off with Crawford in
goal and Kane on the wing than they are with Mason between the pipes
and Gostisbehere on the blueline? A top-tier goalie certainly makes a
world of difference.
Just a crazy thought.
David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of
The Fourth Period. Follow