It is premature to declare the end of the Pittsburgh-Washington axis that has been dominant in the Metro Division, but it appears as if we’re experiencing an ongoing redistribution of power in which a path to the conference finals is wide open. And though the road to the final four might well go through Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus, there is also a team growing into a legitimate threat in Brooklyn, where speculation about John Tavares’ future has been pushed into recesses by No. 91’s play and leadership. The arena issue does indeed cloud the future and could ultimately send the entire enterprise spinning off its axis into a great (alternate meaning) and dark unknown. But there is nothing the players can do about that, nothing the coaching staff can do about that, nothing management can do about that, and, really, little more that the owners can do about that unless and until the state calls on them to reinforce their bid for Belmont glory. For now, it is hockey, at which Doug Weight’s team — 37-19-6 going into Saturday since he took command behind the bench last Jan. 17 — seems to be good enough to become aggressive buyers at the deadline and put all those assets general manager Garth Snow assembled through trial and error to use in a time where the window appears wide open. To be honest, the two-headed goaltender doesn’t strike us as Cup material. Of the 36 netminders who have played at least 400 minutes, Jaroslav Halak is 22nd in even-strength save percentage (.918) and Thomas Greiss is 23rd (.916). The Islanders are 21st in that fairly important category. But the prospect of trading for a goalie to push them over the top seems negligible. For years there has been clamor ignored by Snow to acquire a running mate suitable for Tavares, a sure-shot Hart contender. And the Islanders do have the assets necessary to acquire Buffalo pending free agent winger Evander Kane, who is having the second-best season of his career and is likely going to be the hottest commodity on the rental market. Coincidentally (or not), the 26-year-old Kane’s best season came in 2011-12, when he was on the final season of his first contract. Good news for the team that gets him now, perhaps not such good news for the team that signs him next July to a lucrative long-term deal. But the Islanders and Tavares might not need Kane. With Taveras between Anders Lee and Josh Bailey and the scintillating rookie Mathew Barzal centering Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle, the Islanders have scored the fourth-most five-on-five goals in the league and are ninth in five-on-five success. Their shooting percentage is second and so it may regress, but the Islanders have weapons throughout the lineup. So this may not be the time or place for Kane. Rather, this is probably exactly the time for Snow to load up a package for Arizona’s estimable defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, whose contract at $5 million per runs through next season and will be the object of a wild bidding war once the 26-year-old lets Coyotes personnel know he’s unlikely to re-up for more wandering through the desert.
It’s time for the Islanders to go all-in with a big trade
New York Post | Nov 27