Last week, New York Islanders winger Nikolay Kulemin went down with an injury after he was dumped into the boards by Eric Gryba. Now the team has announced that Kulemin will be out for six months after undergoing surgery to repair an upper-body injury. This injury leaves the Islanders in the position of looking for someone to fill a big penalty killing role and if they're looking outside of the organization, Blake Comeau of the Colorado Avalanche might be the perfect fit.
Kulemin is in the last year of his contract with the Islanders and is well past the point where he has any impact on the lineup from an offensive perspective. Where he does make an impact, however, is on the penalty kill. Kulemin averages 2:26 per game on the PK - second-most among Islanders forwards.
This is an interesting season for the Islanders. They are in the position of needing to show their star player they’re willing to win. John Tavares is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and while there hasn’t been much movement towards an extension, Tavares has spoken about the desire to win. Another season of the Islanders going away meekly in the spring isn’t going to be impressive to the 27-year old superstar.
The Rangers and Capitals have taken a step back this season and while the Islanders aren’t seen as a contender to mean, it’s not inconceivable to think they could grab one of the top-3 spots in the Metro Division.
The loss of Kulemin creates a hole, and if the Islanders are serious about the playoffs this season, they’d be wise to fill that hole with more than “let’s see how this goes”.
Blake Comeau is a known commodity. He’s a veteran checking forward that can be relied upon to eat up a lot of shorthanded minutes. He is exactly what the Islanders lost when Kulemin went down. In fact, Comeau has been able to contribute more secondary offense this season that we’re used to seeing from him.
Right now, there is a bit of a logjam up front for the Avalanche. With Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher healthy and the impending addition of Vladislav Kamenev, the Avs have a few too many forwards on the roster. Moving on from Comeau would help to partially alleviate that. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and doesn’t factor into Colorado’s future.
Since he’d be a rental, the cost to bring Comeau back to the Islanders would be minimal - you’d think a late round pick would be enough to get it done. The Avs could even retain some of the $2.4m cap hit if it helps the return get a little better.
Losing one of your top PK guys will hurt any team, luckily the Avalanche have a cheap one that they’re likely looking to move anyway.
This is the type of trade that doesn’t necessarily make many people take notice, but it would help to solve a problem for both teams.