What will the Islanders do to replace Mark Streit?

sheldonsouray3.jpgWith Mark Streit out for the next six months for the Islanders after suffering a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum in his shoulder, the question now turns to what Isles GM Garth Snow will do to replace him on the roster. The Islanders present a fascinating situation for how to replace your best defenseman. They’ve got plenty of salary cap space if they want to trade for a big name/big salary guy who has run out of time or patience elsewhere but they’ve also got very young talent within the organization that, if they chose to, could let them get plenty of experience at the NHL level.

Who are the candidates to jump into the lineup for the Islanders? Let’s take a quick look through the names on our short list of candidates.

If the Isles are looking at a competing team to take one of their castoffs, the first name that has been mentioned all over the place is Edmonton’s Sheldon Souray. Unfortunately, not even the best of the rumor mongers can fight through the definitive answers that have been put out by everyone within the industry. Flat out, the Isles do not have interest in Sheldon Souray and Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank tells why.

No, the Islanders are not going to add more than $10 million in salary over the next two years for Sheldon Souray, an excellent power play gunslinger who should not be mentioned in the same sentence as Streit when talking about 30-minute, all-zone defensemen. Picking up Souray’s tab makes little sense, and the still-rebuilding Islanders know that. Consider it a longshot that the Islanders make a claim even if the Oilers place Souray on re-entry waivers. If Souray was on the final year of his contract, maybe. But he’s not, so…Next!

Moving right along.

This would seem like an ample opportunity to have the Rangers talk to the Isles about Wade Redden or the Devils about Bryce Salvador, but why would those rivals of the Islanders do something to help them out and why would the Isles take on all that salary when they don’t have to?

If Souray’s contract is a no-go with two years left, there’s no chance that Redden would be considered when he’s got four years left on his gigantic deal. Even if the Rangers were to bring him back through on re-entry waivers, there’s no chance the Isles would even bite then with the Rangers eating half of his salary.

One player to keep in the back of your mind that the Islanders are familiar with is Marc-Andre Bergeron. Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey makes mention of him as someone the Isles might take a look at. He can help reproduce the offensive production lost from not having Mark Streit around, but defensively he’s a bit of a nightmare.

andrewmacdonald1.jpgSo with these possible players from outside the organization getting looked at, the selection pool for replacements from within the organization is worth taking a look at as well. The name at the top of the list to get more time figures to be Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald has gotten some opportunities in the past with the Islanders, but never in an expanded role. He’s got a big shot from the point and plays an admirable kind of game.

Another name to keep in mind is the Islanders’ other 2009 first round pick Calvin de Haan. de Haan is just 19 years-old but he improved his game immensely last year in juniors and is doing well to hang in there in training camp. Mind you, the Islanders have yet to play a preseason game so it’s tough to gauge what he’s doing against his teammates in scrimmages, but he knows that the opportunity to make the team is there now with Streit out.

The Islanders have also brought Anders Eriksson into camp on a professional tryout, but if he’s their choice to help fill an empty position, fans in Long Island have reason to complain. Eriksson spent last year with the Rangers as a press box player. How Garth Snow handles how to replace Mark Streit will go a long way towards telling Islanders fans what he thinks of both the Isles system of players and the team’s chances of competing for a playoff spot are.

Going for a big name guy might sell it that they’re trying hard but it could ultimately backfire. Sticking with what you’ve got would give off the air of mailing in the season before it starts, but if that’s where the best fit comes from you can’t really hammer him over it. The best way to win over the court of public opinion is just win on the ice.

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    The Buzzer: Nikita Kucherov just keeps scoring goals

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    Player of the night. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

    The Tampa Bay Lightning have played six games this season. Forward Nikita Kucherov has scored a goal in all of them.

    He continued that goal scoring streak on Monday night in the Lightning’s 3-2 win in Detroit by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner to help lift them to their eighth consecutive win over the Detroit Red Wings.

    With that win the Lightning now have the best record in the NHL, while Kucherov’s seven goals are the second most in the league, trailing only Alex Ovechkin (nine).

    Kucherov has seen his production increase every year he has been in the NHL. He set a career-high with 40 goals a year ago and seems like he is on track to top that mark this season. Now playing in his age 24 season he should be right in the thick of his prime years in the NHL. When it comes to pure skill and offensive production there are only a handful of players in the league that can top what Kucherov is doing.

    Highlight of the Night.

    Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilievsky stopped 29 shots on Monday night but perhaps none were better than this pad save to rob Tomas Tatar right on the door step.

    Vasilevskiy had a slow start to the season but has been outstanding in his past two games, stopping 57 out of 60 shots in the Lightning’s wins over the St. Louis Blues and Red Wings.

    Factoid of the Night.

    Justin Abdelkader scored on a penalty shot for the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night becoming the first Red Wings player to do that in nearly 10 years.

    Ten years?! That seems like a heck of a long time between penalty shot goals for a team.

    Misc.

    Mike Green continued his incredible start to the season by scoring his first goal of the season for the Detroit Red Wings. He is now up to nine points in five games this season.

    Steven Stamkos picked up a pair of assists in the win for the Lightning, giving him eight on the season. Once he starts scoring goals (he only has one so far) he is going to be a force. His absence a year ago was a big reason why the Lightning fell just short of the postseason. With him back healthy they now have two of the top offensive players in the league (Nikita Kucherov).

    Scores

    Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Detroit Red Wings 2

    Leon Draisaitl lands on injured reserve for Oilers

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    After missing his team’s 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers announced on Monday that forward Leon Draisaitl has been placed on injure reserve.

    He was injured one week ago in a game against the Winnipeg Jets and has been sidelined with an eye injury and concussion symptoms ever since. It’s a big blow to an Oilers team that is off to a slower than expected start having won just one of their first four games.

    Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million contract over the summer making him a significant part of the Oilers’ core alongside Connor McDavid. He finished the 2016-17 season as one of the top offensive players in the league and is going to be counted on to help carry the offense again when he is healthy. The Oilers don’t have a ton of forward depth and are going to need McDavid and Draisaitl to be the focal points once again if they are going to live up to the preseason hype that made them one of the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

    Before he was injured this season Draisaitl had recorded one assist in three games.

    The Oilers host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

    It is not yet known how long he will be sidelined.

    SPHL gets creative, adopts ‘pick your opponent’ playoff format

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    When discussion about the NHL’s playoff format comes up, there is a section of fans who would like to see the league allow for an even greater reward for top teams other than home-ice advantage.

    That idea has become a reality thanks to the Southern Professional Hockey League.

    The 10-team SPHL announced on Monday that they are overhauling their opening round and turning it into what’s being dubbed the “Challenge Round.” The top three teams will get to choose their first-round opponent during a “Challenge Round Selection” event which will be broadcast to fans on Sunday, April 8, the day after the regular season concludes. After the top three seeds select their opponents, the No. 4 team will be matched against the leftover side.

    Every playoff series, including the President’s Cup Final, will remain best-of-three with re-seeding taking place for the second round.

    The idea for this change came to SPHL commissioner Jim Combs over dinner in June with Axel Bammer, Chief Operating Officer of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. When Combs heard that the league’s top teams get to pick their opening round opponent, he could imagine the buzz and interest it would generate. (Sweden’s Elitserien did this in the past as well.)

    A week after meeting with Bammer, Combs met with the league’s owners and received zero pushback about the idea. The new playoff format was widely embraced as the group felt this was the future of the hockey.

    Feedback has been mixed on the change. But Mike Campos, who covers the SPHL for The Sin Bin, sees it being a big plus for the league.

    One of the benefits of being at the bottom rung of the professional hockey ladder (second-lowest, if you consider the FHL a pro league) is there is flexibility to implement radically new ideas other leagues can not. If the “Pick Your Opponent” format change generates buzz among fans and rivalries between teams resulting in a spirited postseason, the decision could be a winner for the SPHL.

    As Campos notes, lower levels of hockey allow for plenty of onnovation while not straying far from the fundamentals of running a hockey league. This new format will certainly make the end of the regular season much more interesting and provide bulletin board material for teams and storylines heading into the playoffs. It’s an idea worth exploring, and the SPHL is no stranger to implementing ideas that catch on elsewhere.

    It was the SPHL where 3-on-3 hockey began over a decade ago. It was deemed a silly gimmick at first, but now that we’ve seen it at the NHL level for two seasons, it’s clearly a welcomed change — one that’s made overtime hockey must-see television.

    Combs said the league will see how it this playoff format idea plays out in April before deciding whether to keep or tweak it in the future.

    So what do you think? Would you want to see the NHL go in this direction for the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

    Stick-tap Scotty Wazz

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    With Perreault out four weeks, Jets call on prospect Kyle Connor

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    Kyle Connor has been a scorer just about everywhere he has played — the USHL, the University of Michigan, and the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League.

    He’s only had a brief taste of life in the NHL, playing 20 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season, scoring two goals and five points.

    The 2015 first-round pick hasn’t yet experienced the same success at the NHL level, although he’s about to get another opportunity with the Jets after getting recalled on Monday. The move comes after Winnipeg placed Mathieu Perreault on injured reserve. He’s expected to miss up to four weeks.

    Perreault has yet to play a full 82-game schedule with the Jets because of injuries, but he’s been an important player when available, with consistent production and strong possession numbers. That said, the 20-year-old Connor is a promising prospect with the potential for significant upside, especially considering the role he should find himself in.

    Per NHL.com on Monday, Connor skated on the wing with Bryan Little and sophomore scorer Patrik Laine. That, it would appear, is Winnipeg’s second line, which gives them a difficult top-six group of forwards — the top line consisting of the red-hot Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler — for the opposition to face.

    “Speed. That’s the big piece that he can add to that line,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “Patrik’s such a great shooter. Bryan’s a really quick player. What Perreault did well was he got in and he got on it. He was quick enough to get in there to create some offensive zone time and allow those guys to do the things they do well and Kyle should be able to add that.”

    The Jets have won three in a row, with Connor Hellebuyck giving them a trio of impressive performances in net. They host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, although according to Sara Orlesky of TSN, Steve Mason is expected to get the start.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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