New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has a lot of very tough decisions to make at the trade deadline. The good news is he has options when it comes to right winger Kyle Okposo. The bad news is that none of his options are perfect solutions.
Should Snow decide to trade Okposo–New York’s best winger and arguably the team’s most important offensive player this season–the Islanders would all but be waving the white flag on 2015-16. That’s not a good look for a team that hasn’t won a postseason series since 1993.
On the other hand, Okposo will be a free agent at the end of the season and the money it would take to keep him is expected to be out of New York’s price range. That brings us to Snow’s toughest decision of the year: what should the Islanders do with Okposo?
Before coming to a conclusion, let’s take a look at his impact on the 2015-16 New York Islanders.
Okposo has 15 goals and 43 points in 51 games. He is tied with the team lead in scoring with center John Tavares.
Much like the Islanders have been this season, Okposo has been inconsistent at times. He went through a four-game pointless streak at the end of October and then another one in the middle of December, but he has come on strong lately.
The 27-year-old has three goals and seven points in the last four games. The three goals all came against Edmonton as the Islanders routed the Oilers on Super Bowl Sunday, 8-1. It was Okposo’s second career hat trick of his career. During the four-game stretch, New York is 3-1 and has won its last three games to climb back into third place of the Metropolitan division after briefly letting Pittsburgh take it away.
That’s definitely a reassuring sign because prior to winning streak, New York was faltering a bit. The team went 5-5-1 in their prior 11 games.
Despite the .500 record, though, Okposo still played well during that stretch. Since Dec. 31, Okposo has seven goals and 17 points in 16 games. That’s the most for the Islanders in that time frame.
Tavares has also played well lately, recording 16 points in the last 16 games, but with the captain’s somewhat “down season”, Okposo has become an even more important piece for the Islanders. In addition to being tied in points, Tavares is the only forward who averages more ice time than Okposo. The winger also leads the team with five goals and 13 assists on the power play.
The Islanders’ power play really slumped in December and January, but it has finally come out of it. New York’s power play percentage in six games this month is 31.6 percent. Trading its best player on the man advantage right when the unit has begun clicking is going to be a very tough thing to do.
But again, there is an argument to be made for trading him. New York can demand quite a bit for the right winger on the trade market.
Last season at the deadline, Minnesota gave up a second round pick for Buffalo Sabres winger Chris Stewart. Washington gave up a second and third round pick to land Calgary center Curtis Glencross, who didn’t even make a roster this season. Okposo is much more talented than either of those forwards.
A few weeks prior to last season’s deadline, Pittsburgh traded its first-round pick for winger David Perron. That move might be a little bit different than a potential Okposo trade because last season Perron still had one year left on his contract. Even still, the Islanders would likely receive a first-round selection or multiple second and/or third round picks for Okposo.
That’s why this decision is so difficult. In order to win this season, Okposo is essential to the Islanders, but if building for the future is the ultimate goal, than Snow must take advantage of this unique opportunity and add more assets.
Another factor that could weight on Snow’s final decision is the Islanders’ new ownership. Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin will become the new majority owners in October. As fans know, with new owners comes question marks at general manager and head coach. Both Snow and Jack Capuano will want to prove they deserve to stay in Brooklyn longterm.
That would mean retaining Okposo and maybe even adding another piece to help the team make a run this season.
Unless the Islanders collapse between now and the deadline, New York will probably be buyers, but Snow certainly has his options if he chooses to explore them.