In my previous article, I speculated that Islanders’ forward Thomas Vanek’s rumored interest in the Minnesota Wild may have made them a perfect trade partner for Garth Snow and the Islanders organization.
However, with just one day to go until the 2014 NHL trade deadline, things are really starting to heat up…and when you think heat, you think California.
It appears as though a series of moves made by the Anaheim Ducks today, including sending LW Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals, and G Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oiler in a 3-team deal that saw Ilya Bryzgalov head south to the Wild, they may have just become the favorite to land the prized wingers services for at least the home stretch this season.
According to SportsNet’s, Josh Rimer, and confirmed by multiple sources, the Ducks appear to be aggressively pushing to bring Vanek to the Western Conference for the first time in his career:
Hearing same thing that @JoshRimerHockey reported, that the Ducks are trying hard to acquire Vanek from the Islanders.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) March 4, 2014
Now this whole situation gained steam very quickly, as Anaheim made a series of moves in just a matter of minutes. However, between the pieces that Anaheim has, and the needs that the Islanders hope to fill, things could get very interesting within the next few hours.
Pieces that the Ducks could offer for Vanek
Right now, the most glaring need for the Islanders is their defensive core, and their goaltending. With top-pairing defenseman Andrew MacDonald on his way to Philly to reunite with former captain Mark Streit, that need will be even more prevalent for the organization down the road.
Luckily for New York, the Ducks’ have some players that may become very enticing to the Islanders should trade talks reach the advanced stages.
With Evgeni Nabokov reaching the end of his career, it is unlikely that he is in the Islanders short-term, let along long-term plans. Despite the fact that he has been solid over the past couple of years for the club, he is not a viable option for the team between the pipes down the road.
The Isles are looking for a young, solid franchise-type goalie, who would become a cornerstone to the foundation that the team is looking for in its future plans.
Although New York currently has 23-year-old Kevin Poulin in the fold, he has failed to impress as a bonafide starter in the NHL, going 11-16-1 with an .891 Save % and a 3.29 GAA in 28 games this year. With Poulin back down in Bridgeport, Anders Nilsson has been serving as Nabby’s backup, and while people believe that he has a nice upside, he doesn’t appear ready to handle a starting role in the NHL quite yet.
So we look toward the goalie pool that currently sits in the Ducks’ water, and we find a wealth of potential targets that the Islanders could pursue.
Anaheim has one of the, if not the, deepest goalie depth charts in the entire league. That depth allowed them the luxury of dealing Fasth, who had been a solid netminder for them, up north, without too much worry.
So that leaves us with, Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, and Igor Bobkov.
Andersen has been solid since being called into NHL action this year posting a 4-0-0 record with a 1.36 GAA, and .952 Save %. He would certainly be a welcome sight for Islanders fans, as he is said to have a tremendous amount of potential, despite his inexperience. However, with Fasth no longer in the fold, it appears as though Andersen may now be pencilled in as the backup for Jonas Hiller in the interim future.
Looking at the other options, both Bobkov and Gibson would be decent additions to the depleted Islanders roster. Bobkov has seen more action at the professional level, seeing a significant amount of action for the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, and padding a decent stat line.
However, Gibson is where it gets really interesting. While he hasn’t had too much experience on the pro circuit just yet, John has shined bright on an international stage, where he backstopped the United States national team in the 2013 World Championships, posting a 1.56 GAA in 5 games played.
Prior to that, he had a long string of success and experience starring for the U.S. in the World Juniors over the past few years, and playing for the U.S. development teams in the years prior to that.
His success at that level made him a 2nd round pick (39th Overall) in the 2011 draft.
He may be a very young 20-years-old, but the Pittsburgh native has boasted an impressive résumé at the highest levels of competition, making him an extremely intriguing piece to look at when the Isles consider their goaltending needs.
Gibson is a goalie that could fit New York’s criteria perfectly, and he could become that franchise goalie should he move back east. This has people within the Islanders community fixating their eyes on the possibility, should it arise:
Anaheim with a truckload of young prospects including W Emerson Etem and G John Gibson, Both would slit right into #isles lineup
— Anthony Stabile (@tonystabile) March 4, 2014
Every hockey fan knows that without a reliable goaltender, a team can not be considered a contender for the Stanley Cup, which is precisely why going for Gibson may be something that the Islanders need to explore in a potential trade for Vanek.
Defense wins championships
The most important piece towards any Cup run is a solid, hot goalie. However, if the defense in front of him is lacking, it could send a team’s hopes at Lord Stanley’s glory, down the drain.
With the Islanders parting ways with A-Mac, defense is something they will definitely need to get in return if they want a deal for Vanek to be a success.
The Ducks do have a solid defensive core, with many young defenseman capable of big minutes at their disposal. One of the more interesting D-men to look at is American, Ben Lovejoy.
Lovejoy is a stay-at-home, physical defenseman, who at 6’2″ and 205 lbs. could provide the Isles with the type of physicality and reliability that they desperately need. Especially with A-Mac out of the picture, Lovejoy could provide the team with some defensive depth and log big minutes if Anaheim would be willing to part with him.
Lovejoy is 30 years old, but with the prospects that the Islanders just got from the Flyers in return for MacDonald, they can look ahead towards defensive prospects in the future, while acquiring a solid D-man in the middle of his prime right now. Lovejoy may not be a 7-year contract type of player at this point in his career, but he could definitely still provide a powerful punch for the Isles over the next few years if the scenario presented itself.
Whatever the case may be, Thomas Vanek is on his way out for the New York Islanders.
Whether it’s in the next few hours, or the next day, Garth Snow must be ready to pull the trigger on a deal for the coveted winger, or risk being left with nothing once he reaches free-agency. With their other big trade target now officially on the move, Vanek is up next.
The Ducks are poised to make an interesting run in the postseason, and a line of Vanek-Getzlaf-Perry would be a scary thought for anyone in the league if it were to go down.
The clock is ticking, and the Isles need to be ready to make a move.
Comment below with your thoughts on a potential Vanek deal as we inch closer and closer to the NHL trade deadline.
Spencer has played hockey for over 18 years, and is an avid fan of the sport and New York Rangers. He graduated Hofstra University in 2013, with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism.
A staff member of 88.7FM WRHU, he was a part of the sports department, providing play by play, color commentary, and beat reporting for various Hofstra Pride DI sports teams.
He also was a Feature Reporter for the New York Islanders, where he interviewed some of the top players within the Islanders locker room, and around the NHL for air during Islanders’ game broadcasts on WRHU, including during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which were simulcasted on 98.7FM ESPN Radio New York, and WFAN 660AM.