New York Mets: Team is in “active talks” with free agent catcher James McCann

New York Yankees, Yankees, James McCann

The New York Mets have been, without a doubt, one of the most active clubs in this offseason. Ever since new owner Steve Cohen came to town, he expressed his desire of putting together a very competitive team, and president Sandy Alderson, who is now in charge of baseball decisions, has said similar things.

This week, the New York Mets added their first free agent signing of the winter, securing the services of right-handed reliever Trevor May on a two-year contract worth $15.5 million. Now, the club could be nearing a second high-profile addition.

According to Robert Murray of FanSided, the Mets are “in active talks” with free agent catcher James McCann. As you can remember, the team decided not to take Wilson Ramos’ club option for 2021, and instead chose to pay him a buyout to make him a free agent. The Mets need a starting catcher, and that way, Tomas Nido, who is currently at the top of the depth chart, would return to his more natural backup duties.

The Mets have long been connected with the best backstop in the market, J.T. Realmuto, but he is supposed to be seeking a $200 million payday. It is possible that Cohen and Alderson find that number excessive, and they have been zeroing in on McCann, who had a very good 2020 (and 2019, to be fair) with the Chicago White Sox.

The Mets are not yet close to a deal, but they are moving forward

To be clear, Murray adds that a “deal is not close” but also that “it is looking increasingly likely he will land a four-year deal.” The assumption, then, is that the ongoing negotiations with the Mets are very serious and they could be on the way of a deal.

A member of the 2019 All-Star team, McCann had a .808 OPS with 25 home runs and 75 RBI in 149 games over the last two years with the Pale Hose. He is 30 years old and is viewed as a strong defensive catcher, as well. He would be a clear upgrade over Ramos.

In the abbreviated 2020 season, McCann had a career-high 90.5 mph of average exit velocity and a 47.8 hard-hit rate, somewhat validating what he has done in the last two years and essentially becoming a two-way player capable of contributing at the plate and behind it.

Jets’ Mekhi Becton continues to impress, leads AFC tackles in Pro Bowl votes

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Amid all of the negatives surrounding the New York Jets this season, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton has been a positive. The rookie leads all AFC offensive tackles in Pro Bowl votes with 65,930 so far. That amount of votes is more than impressive, especially for a rookie, but how he got to this point is impressive as well.

Through the team’s 11 games, Becton has played in nine, starting eight. Additionally, he has been on the field for just 60% of the team’s offensive snaps. So, with playing just over half of the team’s snaps, leading the conference in Pro Bowl votes is astounding.

Offensive linemen are assessed, and voted for, based on a few statistical categories. These include penalties, sacks allowed, pass blocking and run blocking. Becton has been solid in reference to these, and every facet of his game, to say the least.

Penalties and sacks allowed

Becton has been extremely impressive when it comes to penalties, or lack thereof. With 407 snaps played, he has been called for just four penalties. That means he has been called for a penalty less than one percent of the time, 0.98% to be exact.

Those four penalties don’t rank him in the top-tier of offensive tackles in this category, but it’s impressive for a rookie.

He’ll have to continue to improve, as fellow rookie tackle Andrew Thomas has more snaps played, but fewer penalties, for the Giants. So, comparatively, penalties haven’t been his most impressive area. However, the small-enough amount of them is a welcomed sight.

As a team, the New York Jets have allowed 30 sacks thus far. Mekhi Becton has allowed 3 himself. That number isn’t fantastic, but it isn’t bad either.

Pass and run blocking

Penalties and sacks allowed are advanced stats that analysts look at, but in terms of on-the-field play, Becton’s blocking has been great. In fact, over the last two games specifically, against the Chargers and Dolphins, he has been outstanding. This is what he’s done over those games:

  • 72 pass-block snaps
  • 1 QB pressure allowed
  • 0 sacks

One word can summarize those numbers: great. Those are the numbers that aren’t necessarily realized while watching games but help show how dominant he can actually be.

When it comes to run blocking, Becton is perhaps even better. During games, the announcers seem to always be saying the Jets should “run behind big number 77.” When they do, they tend to get a positive gain of some kind. Becton’s ability to get the primary block, release, and get to the second level shows, and is a welcomed sight.

Here are some of his best block of the season thus far:

Overall, Mekhi Becton has been a very good player for the Jets this season. The rookie may very well be the best player on the team and is on his way to representing the Jets on the Pro Bowl roster, even if the game is only happening virtually in Madden 21.

New York Knicks: Obi Toppin reminds RJ Barrett of Zion Williamson

New York KnicksRJ Barrett and New Orlean Pelicans’ Zion Williamson were the first freshman teammates in college to average 20-plus points per game. The dynamic pair wound up their one-and-done season in Duke with an identical 22.6-point average.

This is the scenario that Barrett has been envisioning with the arrival of Obi Toppin, the Knicks’ lottery pick this year.

“I feel like it’s gonna work well. You’ve seen me play next to [that type of player] and how it worked well with Mitch (Robinson), worked well with Zion (Williamson) in the past. He (Toppin) is very versatile. He can pick and roll, pick and pop, you can put him on the deck, he can shoot it. I’m excited to have him. He gives us another dimension,” Barrett said on his zoom call with reporters on Monday.

Barrett has struggled to find his footing in the NBA during his rookie season without a running mate like Williamson.

As a result, Barrett’s solid all-around production (14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steal) which was better than some of the freshmen named in the NBA All-Rookie teams was trumped by his inefficiency (40.2% FG and 61.4% FT).

Barrett wasn’t an analytics darling last season, but eye test suggests that the Knick’s poor spacing and outside shooting have a hand in his struggles.

Can Toppin generate a Zion effect?

Toppin isn’t a mountain of muscle like Williamson, whose imposing presence has generated open looks for Barrett in college. But Toppin has the combination of freakish athleticism, hops, length, and shooting that is expected to have the same effect that could make Barrett more efficient.

Like Williamson, Toppin has a big personality and the highlight reels that may overshadow Barrett. But the Canadian wingman has thrived before, taking a backseat in college next to Williamson. Not a tinge of jealousy has broken their bond.

And Barrett looks genuinely happy to have Toppin and bonded with him right away.

“We work out at the same time every day. So I’ve really been connecting with him. Great dude,” Barrett said of his early impression of Toppin. “He’s a hard worker for sure. Very talented, very athletic, very versatile. I’m excited to have him on our team, and I feel like we’ll play well together.”

While Toppin could become New York’s new apple of the eye, the hometown kid isn’t the kind who steals the spotlight.

“I’m a big team-guy. I’m never gonna say my expectations only for myself. Me, coming into a new brotherhood, new family, I feel like I wanna change the culture, I wanna win a lot of games. I wanna get to the playoffs,” Toppin said in his zoom call with reporters on Thursday.

“I love to compete. I love to grind. I like to get better every single day and I like to push everybody around me to get better. I’m a very cool person to be around,” he added.

It looks like the Knicks’ new 1-2 punch is having a smooth start to their partnership. That’s good news to the Knicks’ fans and could be bad news to the other teams.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Mets will retain Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach for 2021

New York Mets hire Jeremy Hefner as pitching coach.

The New York Mets essentially cleaned house in the front office once new owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson took over. Former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen left the team, and most of his staff was also separated from the team.

Recently, it was reported that Hensley Meulens, who served as the New York Mets’ bench coach in the 2020 season, would not be returning for the 2021 campaign. On the other hand, manager Luis Rojas will indeed come back next year to try to take the team to the postseason.

Now, SNY’s Andy Martino is confirming that the Mets are brining back pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. Under Hefner, the Mets’ hurlers were 15th in fWAR, with 5.1, but they had the ninth worst team ERA, with 5.01.

However, Hefner should also get credit for getting the best out of Edwin Diaz, who had an amazing season after the team as a whole put together a plan to resurrect his career after a dismal 2019. In 2020, Diaz had a 1.75 ERA and a 2.18 FIP.

The Mets’ pitching could have a rebound season in 2021

It is also true that many Mets’ pitchers had to miss time due to injury. Even ace Jacob deGrom had a start pushed; and Steven Matz suffered from shoulder bursitis, Michael Wacha and David Peterson nursed shoulder inflammation, and Dellin Betances never found his footing. Marcus Stroman opted out of the season because of COVID-related concerns.

Nevertheless, the new staff is confident that Hefner has what it takes to get the best out of the Mets’ pitchers in 2021 under circumstances closer to normal. It is also presumed that Hefner’s presence in the team was one of the main factors that convinced talented free agent reliever Trevor May to sign in New York. Hefner and May worked together with the Minnesota Twins.

There is another theory that states Hefner could also play a role in trying to convince free agent starter Jake Odorizzi to join the Mets, as the team looks for more reinforcements for the starting rotation.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez, the whole story and what has not been answered

Part 1 – Gary Sanchez tendered a contract

After a lousy season and many questions as to if Gary Sanchez would be allowed to remain with the New York Yankees. Yesterday that question was answered in part when the Yankees tendered him a contract. Why they offered him a contract is still open to discussion. Do they think they can fix him or was it to increase his value on the trade market?

The New York Yankees have consistently said that they can make Sanchez a star catcher, but after five seasons in the majors, they are still looking for that formula. This season it got so bad that Sanchez was frequently replaced by backup catcher Kyle Higashioka who was a better defender and a better hitter near the end of the season. Higashioka also caught more in the postseason than Sanchez.

Part 2 – Examining Gary Sanchez’s career

Yankees sign prospect Gary Sanchez

At the age of seventeen in 2009, the New York Yankees signed Gary as an international free agent, giving him a $3 million signing bonus. After signing, he started playing with the Gulf Coast Yankees, but he was promoted to the Staten Island Yankees a year later. In 2010, he finished the season with a batting average of .329 with 8 home runs and 43 runs batted in and was called one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He started the 2012 season with Charleston but was quickly promoted to the Tampa Yankees and eventually to the Trenton Thunder. in 2015; he was promoted to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders. He got his major league appearance as a pinch hitter on October 3rd, where he went hitless in two at-bats. When the season was over, he played for the Arizona Fall League, where he led the league in home runs.

Sanchez competes for starting catcher

During spring training in 2016, Gary competed with Austin Romine for a backup catcher’s job, but Romine won out, and Gary started the season with the Rail Riders. The Yankees again promoted Sánchez to the major leagues on August 3, and he recorded his first major league hit that same day. On August 10, Sánchez went 4-for-5, with his first major league home run and 3 singles. On August 16, Sánchez had his first two home run game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Early in 2017, Gary served his first stint on the DL. Later in the year, he participated in the Home Run Derby, beating Giancarlo Stanton 17-16 but losing to Miguel Sano.

Yogi Barra held the New York Yankee record for the most home runs by a catcher record until Gary broke it with 33 in September of 2017. That same season he received the Silver Slugger Award and tied for the most passed balls in the majors. In 2018 he was again on the DL and was out for a month. Also, during the year, he was criticized for lack of hustle and more passed balls. After being on the DL twice, Gary played in only 89 games during the year. He finished the year batting .186 and got the award for the most passed balls in majors.

A Gary Sanchez rebirth?

Gary this past season, as in the past year, was again criticized for his lack of hustle and more passed balls. But on April 7th Gary hit 3 home runs in the same game, but he quickly found himself on the IL again. After a few weeks, he returned to a stretch of 0-11 at the plate. He then hit the first grand slam of his career against the San Francisco Giants. During a game in July at Target Field, Sanchez again found himself on the IL, this time with a groin strain. He returned to the rotation much sooner than expected and as a different player. No more lack of hustle no more passed balls, and more home runs. The fact is that Sanchez, Romine’s trio, and Higashioka was the most potent catcher trio in the AL.  As the season progressed, he found himself in a home run contest with Gleyber Torres falling one short of Torre’s 38.

Fast forward to the coronavirus shortened 2020 season.  Sanchez has managed to stay healthy.  However, he has been nothing short of horrible offensively. On the defensive side of the plate, he has 5 passed balls on the season so far.  That equates to roughly 13.5 in a standard season.  All of last year, in 162 games, he had only 7 passed balls. So, his 2019 defensive improvement has been lost this year. Sanchez has not had an acceptable batting average since 2017.  This season he is batted just .143, his worst season batting average ever, and it doesn’t look like he will soon improve.  Sanchez, while batting, looks like a deer in the headlights.  He looks uncomfortable and completely lost.

Part 3 – What’s wrong with Gary Sanchez?

Defense:

First, the good: Sanchez calls a good game, and he has a bullet of an arm the few will test while trying to stealing bases.

Now what’s wrong: His framing costs pitchers from getting strikes, especially high in the zone. This is important because pitchers are throwing more and more high fastballs. Ball Blocking is also a problem for Sanchez. This is important as when a ball that should have been blocked isn’t; it allows a runner to advance into scoring position or even take home. Based on a regular New York Yankee’s season, Sanchez had 13.5 passed balls this season. Only two catchers in all of baseball have had more passed balls than Gary Sanchez since 2019, including backup catchers.

Hitting:

Hitting has always been a problem for Sanchez, more in the area of contact rather than for power. We all know that Sanchez and hit monster boomers, especially to left field. They are not only long home runs but very high as well. For Sanchez, his problem is getting on base more consistently. This past season he had the worst batting average of his career .147. That is the worst batting average of any catcher in baseball, and that includes backup catchers. He swings and misses more than league average at every pitch type, even if he’s a little closer to league average against the harder pitches.

Speed:

Gary Sanchez is just plain slow on the base paths and always has been. But this past year, it’s the worst that it has been. According to FanGraphs, his 2020 speed was 25 feet per second. That’s a one foot per second drop from last year. Here’s why this is important; as a player ages, he loses speed, and with that slower speed, it allows the defense to play further back, thus causing the hitter to be out more often because the defender has more time to act.

Part 4 – Is there a way to repair Sanchez?

If I knew the answer to that, I would be making the big bucks as a New York Yankee consultant because they obviously haven’t been able to figure it out either.

The Yankees are still trying to find the right structure for Sánchez in his preparation. Throughout the sport, many veteran players frequently say that their careers changed for the better when they found a routine that could translate to consistent, successful results. The New York Yankees are still trying to find that formula.

One thing that may help Sanchez is his ability to stay healthy, which he has had problems with until this year. For all we know he started off hitting poorly at the beginning of the season, and with such a short season, he may have been trying too hard, causing him to swing and miss constantly.

Another idea I floated was acquiring Yadier Molina, a future Hall of Famer, to platoon with Gary. He would supply the New York Yankees with a more reliable defender and hitter. He also may help fix Sanchez when his three catching coaches haven’t been able to do so.

New York Yankees: A cheap, quality catcher became available after the non-tender deadline

The New York Yankees decided to tender Gary Sanchez a contract before Wednesday’s deadline. The former All-Star catcher will earn around $5 million as an arbitration-eligible player, but he will have to improve on his 69 wRC+ and 36 percent strikeout rate if he wants to be considered as the starter going forward.

Last season, his struggles were so bad that Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone decided to bench him in favor of Kyle Higashioka, a 55 wRC+ batter. Higgy’s defense and blocking ability are superior to Sanchez’s.

However, Sanchez appears to have a future with the New York Yankees. He could still get traded, and things could get really ugly once both parties sit down to negotiate his contract for the 2021 season.

The Yankees could take a look at Curt Casali

For now, the Yankees seem committed to try and save him, both in the plate and behind it. But if the team wants to explore other cheap options capable of playing backstop, the Cincinnati Reds let Curt Casali go after the non-tender deadline.

Casali is a second-time arbitration-eligible player that, according to MLB Trade Rumors estimates, is slated to make around $2 million next season. The Reds elected to let him go instead of paying him that money.

But the Yankees are not the Reds, and Casali offers a league-average bat (career 95 wRC+) and above-average defense. He could be a sneaky good addition to the Bombers, and could play more than an average backup.

Casali is a 32-year-old veteran who produced last season for the Reds, hitting six homers with a .866 OPS over 93 plate appearances. He’s also good behind the plate (12 career defensive runs saved while being in the 78th percentile in framing in 2020.)

All in all, the Yankees should be interested in Casali since he is cheap and a decent offensive and defensive catcher. Will they make a run at him? Or will they bet all their chips to the Sanchez – Higashioka pairing?

A New York Ranger season starting on January 1 is looking less likely

National Hockey League, NHL

Recently, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the targeted start date of January 1 for the NHL and the New York Rangers is a “work in progress”.  Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of work to done and not a lot of time left to finish it if the league and the Blueshirts want to ring in 2021 by starting their season.

One of the issues is money. Recently, the NHL asked the players to defer more salary past this season beyond the 10 percent already agreed to last summer. The players have balked at this. As of Wednesday, the NHLPA had not offered anything to alter what was agreed to in the June Memo of Understanding defining the parameters of the CBA extension.

Speaking at the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sport” panel on Wednesday, Bettman said the pandemic is a huge factor in its plans for the upcoming campaign. Bettman also said Wednesday that he didn’t view their talks as a renegotiation, but rather the “system’s going to be impacted” and that needs to be addressed in order to return to play amid these extraordinary circumstances.

Then there is the reason the Rangers, the NHL, and sports leagues around the world are in a state of flux, the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was addressed by the commissioner on Wednesday when he said “COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave, and between Thanksgiving and the aftermath and what they think is going to happen for Christmas and the aftermath, we are taking our time and making sure as we look to ways to move forward, we are focused on health and safety and doing the right things.”

Bettman said the league is focused on safely navigating this season, pinning its hopes to the widespread distribution of a vaccine as a way to return to business as usual next fall.

“We are hopeful and optimistic based on everything we are hearing that we can get back to normalcy in ’21-22,” said Bettman.

Of course, Bettman is seeing what is happening in the NFL, as numerous players contracting the virus has wreaked havoc in the schedule.

Then there is the recent news that 48 out of 546 NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the initial testing phase from Nov. 24-30. The NBA is attempting to start their season on December 22.

The final barrier to starting the season on January 1 is the holidays.

A mid to late January start is looking more realistic and likely.

 

New York Yankees to pursue Cy Young Award winner in free agency

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees are preparing to make an effort to fill the number two pitching spot behind Gerrit Cole for the 2021 season.

After dropping a nine-year, $324 million deal for Cole, the Yankees are trying desperately to stay beneath the $210 million luxury tax threshold. However, they have a bit of money opening up with the departures of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ.

Nonetheless, some reports have indicated the Yankees are interested in bringing back Tanaka and have appeal in several different alternatives this off-season, but one name that has bubbled to the surface is former Cy Young picture Corey Kluber.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that “a rival executive speculates that given the developments in the starting pitching market, and the respective team needs, he sees Corey Kluber landing with the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox.”

The New York Yankees will be in the mix at the top for pitching, as always:

Kluber offers a more realistic option behind Cole, and he could be revitalized to his previous form with a change of scenery. Kluber pitched just 1.0 innings in 2020 due to a Grade 2 teres major strain.
If the injury is, in fact, behind him, the Yankees could land him on a cheaper contract than Tanaka and possibly get exponential value.
Taking a look at his last productive season in 2018, Kluber pitched 215.0 innings, earning a 2.89 ERA with a 44.4% ground ball rate, a category he’s very consistent in. He struck out 9.29 batters per nine, but his 2019 season was also influenced by injuries. Over the past two years, Corey has only played in 36.2 innings, but similar to Luis Severino, the Yankees could still have confidence in his abilities. Considering prior to his 2019 campaign, he was one of the best pitchers in the MLB and represented a massive upgrade, taking a flier on him is a high-risk, high reward move.
Kluber did see a decrease in velocity the past two seasons over a small sample size, but nothing significant compared to the 2018 season. His primary pitcher are his cutter, sinker, and slider. He’s not a fastball pitcher, utilizing offspeed pitches that hover in the high 90s and mid-80s to confuse batters.
Personally, I think Kluber could be a fantastic option for the Yankees if he’s willing to settle for less than $15 million per season.
Again, I believe the Yankees could benefit from a contract with Kluber on a short-term deal, but there is still interest in bringing back Tanaka. If they can resurrect Kluber’s past performances, he could be a perfect option for a team that tends to invest in injury-prone stop-gap players like James Paxton.

New York Giants: Should Patrick Graham be considered for HC positions in 2021?

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants managed to emerge victorious on Sunday over Cincinnati despite Daniel Jones injuring his hamstring. With 34-year-old veteran Colt McCoy under center in the second half, the Giants relied heavily on their defense and running game to preserve the win. With relentless play style and brilliant game planning by Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, the Giants’ defensive unit held the Bengals to just 155 yards of total offense. It’s because of this that Graham’s impact should not go unnoticed.

Since their Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in 2011, here is where the Giants’ defense has ranked in both points and yards allowed:

2012:  Points: 12th, Yards: 31st.

2013: Points: 18th, Yards: 8th.

2014: Points: 22nd, Yards: 29th.

2015: Points: 30th, Yards: 32nd.

2016: Points: 2nd, Yards: 10th.

2017: Points: 27th, Yards: 31st.

2018: Points: 23rd, Yards: 24th.

2019: Points: 30th, Yards: 25th.

Through eleven games in 2020, the Giants’ defense under Patrick Graham currently ranks ninth overall in both points and yards allowed. A significant improvement from the past three seasons. The last time the Giants were ranked top ten in both of the above categories was also the last time they made the playoffs in 2016. Coincidence? Not exactly. The one noteworthy difference between the 2016 unit and the 2020 unit, aside from the coordinator, was the number of playmakers. In 2016, Landon Collins was a legitimate DPOY candidate, and Damon Harrison was the best run-stuffing DT in the NFL.

Collins and Harrison both have found new homes in Washington and Detroit, respectively, since the Gettleman regime took over in 2018, and the defense has been more or less completely overhauled. Now the Giants’ fresh young core with players like Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson have a very bright future ahead of them. Not to mention significant improvements in the secondary with veterans like Logan Ryan and James Bradberry, who are both having stellar seasons. Just imagine if second-round pick Xavier McKinney had been healthy to start the season. Graham would have a field day with the possible packages of McKinney alongside Peppers and Love.

So what’s the common denominator? That would be Patrick Graham. If you are just a casual Giant fan, when the coaching staff was revamped after the 2019 season, the candidates chosen were not exactly the big names we were expecting. So far, fans should be very comfortable with what we have seen from Joe Judge so far. Judge’s decision to bring in Graham, who was most recently the DC for the Dolphins in 2019 and had also worked with Judge in New England in the early 2010s, will end up being one of the smartest hires of the offseason.

Graham, a Yale graduate, has already significantly improved this Giants defensive unit in just his first season. Defensive-minded coaches are always a gamble in the modern offensively driven NFL. However, with already three coaches fired during the season so far, and likely more to follow, don’t be surprised if Graham’s name will generate some buzz.

Johnny Boychuk’s retirement provides certain situation the Islanders have dealt with before

New York Islanders, Islanders, Sebastian Aho

As the Islanders await word of when the upcoming season will begin, a big opportunity has arisen inside the organization.

With the news of Johnny Boychuk’s retirement a week ago, a prime spot is now up for grabs on defense.

This is not the first time the Isles have dealt with trying to replace a key absence on the back end. You have to go back three years for when the Islanders were faced with a similar type of situation.

Back then, the organization was pained with the decision of whom was going to replace d-man Travis Hamonic. Hamonic, who had spent five years with the franchise, was shipped to the Calgary Flames on draft weekend after former g.m. Garth Snow granted his request to be traded to be closer to home for personal reasons.

In training camp that September, it was three youngsters — Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech — who competed with each other for the one open slot.

Mayfield ended up winning the battle out of the trio, but all three became regulars as the season progressed after several key guys on defense got banged up.

Fast forward to now, Pulock is the club’s No. 1 d-man and just re-signed for two more years. Mayfield has evolved into a steady defender with good upside. And Pelech? Well, he has transformed into arguably the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.

So now the Islanders are back in that same spot, only this time they have close to almost five names who could be Boychuk’s replacement — Sebastian Aho, Grant Hutton, Parker Wotherspoon, Mitch Vande Sompel and Thomas Hickey.

Aho heads the top of the list for a reason. For him — who’s actually the only one besides Hickey with any NHL experience (he played 22 games during the 2017-18 season) — this could finally be his time to shine. He has thrived for the Isles’ AHL affiliate the last three seasons, including three All-Star Game appearances.

The 24-year-old Swede was also qualified by the organization back in October with the notion he would be fighting for a spot on the blue line. He’s been patient with waiting to get his chance to prove his worth.

Back in April, he voiced his frustration too about wanting to play for the big club but not having received that opportunity just yet. “It was a little frustrating,” he then told a Swedish news outlet. “In the beginning you are just happy to get to practice with the team every day and see and learn. Then it’s clear, it doesn’t really matter what level you are at – you always want to play matches.”

“It is up to me to try to prove that you should be up in the NHL and that you will take the chance next time it comes. For me, it’s just a matter of continuing to play in the way that has taken me to where I am today. At least they say they have me in their future plans and tell me not to give up. If I do what I’m good at, my chance will come, they say more or less. I can not do more than that.”

Hutton, 25, has made good strides playing in Bridgeport the last two years after turning pro. A lot of critics believe he could be a very good d-man. Wotherspoon and Vande Sompel have been attached at the hip almost throughout their time in the minors. Vande Sompel has had some tough luck staying healthy — he suffered an arm injury in training camp last season which cost him nearly the entire year — but at 22, he’s still young enough to where he should receive a long look. Wotherspoon seems ready to make the jump to the Islanders after another solid season anchoring Bridgeport’s defense.

Then there’s Hickey. Even at 31, has to garner consideration because he’s once again healthy and still under contract until after the 2021-22 season.

You might also be asking yourself, where does Andy Greene fit in all of this?

It’s a good question.

Greene, who supposedly will be back with the organization based on comments from Lou Lamoriello, will probably be suited as the team’s extra d-man. He turned 38 in late October, and with the amount of depth and options the Isles have on D, it’s hard to see him being a regular every night.

The Islanders’ defense was already going to be different this season. What with Devon Toews being traded and Noah Dobson taking his place. But now with Boychuk out of the equation, another huge spot is open with several names ready to fight for it.

They’ve seen this situation in the past and it should be fun to see it take place again.