Thursday, January 4, 2018

Pros and Cons of Isles Locking up Mayfield for Five Years

What should we make of the Islanders signing Scott Mayfield long term? Probably not much, because the price tag is so low that Mayfield could end up earning closer to one percent of the Islanders cap than two when his deal is done. Problem is, the Islanders have some skilled young defenseman in the pipeline and they'll be stuck with Mayfield for better or for worse through the 2023-24 season.

Do they want that? Apparently yes.

Mayfield's signing doesn't provide any short-term relief to a defense that is reeling with the losses of Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk. It was pretty obvious when Travis Hamonic was dealt in the off-season that the Islanders were going to have a thin blue line but without their second and third best blue liners they look just plain abysmal and it's hard to say if Mayfield is doing much to help the cause.

A quick check of Natural Stat Trick shows that Mayfield has done okay from an analytical perspective, and that's nice. He's actually leading the Islanders in 5-on-5 points per 60, goals per 60 and assists per 60, which is remarkable when you think about it.

You have to consider these numbers a pro for Mayfield, who has been on ice for 20 goals for and 20 goals against while at 5-on-5 this season. He hasn't been killing the Islanders but he doesn't seem to be a great fit with New York's style, which revolves around quick transition and is pretty complex for a slow-footed player like Mayfield. To his credit he's pretty sound positionally but he often times looks overmatched in one-on-one battles, particularly those that revolve around quickness or puck savvy. In other words, yes, he's physical and can separate an attacker from the puck, but how often is he able to get into position to do that separation against better players?

Maybe it won't matter because Mayfield is being signed to play third-pair minutes, but it is concerning to see how much penalty kill time he's getting. He averaged 1:40 of shorthanded ice time per game in December and the Islanders penalty kill was an absolute train wreck, putting up a 64.3 percent kill rate for the month. Blame the goaltending all you want, but you could also point at Mayfield being overmatched when facing elite players while shorthanded.

Bottom line: It's not the end of the world.

This is a small deal and it doesn't really change anything in Brooklyn. The Islanders need to updgrade their d by trade or this season will be lost and no pep talk by Doug Weight is going to change that fact. How do they do it? I'll leave it up to everybody on twitter. Hit me up: @TheFanChild.

Mayfield has played 65 NHL games and hopes are that he'll improve. He has the size, the attitude and the tenaciousness to be a solid third-pair defender. He can be better on breakouts. He can be a lot quicker at reading and reacting to developing danger. He can have better gaps and be a more powerful skater. These are the things he'll have to figure out to help the Islanders.

Personally, think the Islanders are in a lot more danger defensively than they even realize. I'm not convinced that Ryan Pulock, Mayfield or Seidenberg have what it takes to be effective NHLers at any spot on the depth chart. de Haan could be gone after the season and Hickey as well. It leaves the Islanders with three defenseman--Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuck and Adam Pelech--that have promise. Some might disagree on Pelech, but I think he's solid and getting better. I actually like him as a very good third pair player down the road. As for the second pair, New York better start shopping while at the same time hoping that Devon Toews and Mitchell Vande Sompel are ready to fulfill their promise in the not too distant future.

They've got draft picks that they will either need to use on drafting some high quality defensemen or parlay to improve the term short-term. Four picks in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft is nothing to scoff at--Garth Snow should be able to upgrade his team through trade and still have retain a few of those picks.

It makes sense for the Isles to lock up Mayfield for the forseeable future because it gives them some depth at the position for a very low price. AT the very worst the Islanders have a No.7 defenseman who is ready to play on any given night. If he improves and Garth Snow looks smart, hey it wouldn't be the first time.