What Happens Next For The New York Islanders?
Mar 3, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Islanders right wing Ryan Strome (18) skates with the puck during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s anything we’re certain about, it’s that the New York Islanders are going to go somewhere this offseason.

The New York Islanders shocked everybody when they protected five defensemen on Sunday ahead of the upcoming expansion draft. But that’s not the end of the saga.

Garth Snow still has multiple options for how to proceed. The most likely, sources tell TSN’s Darren Dreger, is for the Isles to trade their 2017 first round pick to keep Vegas from selecting any of their forwards.

Surprisingly, the Islanders kept Calvin de Haan, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome off their protected list, opting instead to shield Adam Pelech from the Golden Knights.

What’s interesting about the aformentioned trade scenario is that it means Vegas would favor the draft pick (fifteenth overall, as the Isles finished the regular season with the best record of any team not to make the playoffs) over the established NHL contributor.

Granted, the Knights essentially have two teams to fill — their NHL roster and their prospect pipeline. But it’s a notably weak draft, and it’s curious that George McPhee and his staff would pass up on established NHL guys.

If, as the media seems to believe, the Isles do in fact trade their pick, Vegas will likely be faced with the following options: Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Jaroslav Hálak and Thomas Hickey. While all are above-average players, losing any of them wouldn’t be catastrophic for the Islanders.

Looking beyond this week’s expansion draft, it’s still awfully possible that the Isles will make a significant trade. Head coach Doug Weight recently said, “It’s an important three weeks,” and while certain circumstances may have changed, Weight’s comments haven’t.

Coveted targets Jordan Eberle and Matt Duchene were both protected by their respective teams, which allows the Isles to continue negotiating with them. Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan (if the Isles execute this trade) will remain on the club. And Garth Snow — the same Garth Snow who has been constantly ridiculed by his fanbase — understands that he needs to upgrade his forward corps to improve his team.

Trading from strength gives him his best shot at doing that.

There’s nothing certain about where the Isles will go this summer. John Tavares still needs an extension, New York still needs a stadium and Garth Snow still needs an updated roster.

If there’s anything we’re sure about, though, it’s that the Islanders are going to go somewhere — the question is now, where?

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.