NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Islanders-Penguins stream coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The New York Islanders are in an interesting position as the NHL trade deadline approaches over the next couple of weeks.
They are clearly one of the better teams in the NHL and should be considered a contender, something that would already make them a prospective buyer in the trade market. They enter Monday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) two points back of Washington for the top spot in the East Division and two points ahead of Pittsburgh for the second spot. When you add in the injury to team captain Anders Lee, who will miss the remainder of the season, it would seem to only add to the motivation for general manager Lou Lamoriello to make a trade. Or multiple trade.
With Lee on LTIR the Islanders have the flexibility to add somebody significant to help fill that void. But how active is Lamoriello going to be, and what exactly should he be in the market for to help the Islanders?
In speaking with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun this past week (link here; subscription required) Lamoriello talked extensively about how any trade would have to make sense with all of the variables, ranging from chemistry to keeping players in their correct roles. He made it clear the Islanders will not make a trade just for the sake of making a trade.
If you have followed the Islanders’ transactions since Lamoriello took over as the team’s general manager, it is pretty clear that he has taken a patient approach in building this roster. Of the 29 different players that have appeared in at least one game for the Islanders this season, 18 of them were already in the organization when Lamoriello arrived in 2018. That includes six of the top-seven point producers on the roster this season.
Overall, Lamoriello has only made seven total trades as Islanders general manager, while only a couple of them brought an NHL player back to New York.
- July 3, 2018: Eamon McAdam to Toronto Maple Leafs for Matt Martin.
- February 16, 2020: David Quenneville and a second-round pick to New Jersey Devils for Andy Greene.
- February 24, 2020: Matt Lorito to Toronto Maple Leaf for Jordan Schmaltz.
- February 24, 2020: Three draft picks to Ottawa Senators for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
- October 11, 2020: Kyle Burroughs to Colorado Avalanche for AJ Greer.
- October 12, 2020: Devon Toews to Colorado Avalanche for two second-round draft picks.
- December 11, 2020: Future considerations to Detroit Red Wings for Dmytro Timashov.
That is it. Not a ton of difference-makers or game-changers in there outside of adding Pageau and trading Toews. The Martin, Pageau, and Greene trades are the only ones that brought an NHL regular to New York, while the Toews trade is the only one that saw him send an NHL regular away. That trade was made almost entirely due to salary cap compliance.
Pageau and Greene were pending free agents at the time of their trades at the deadline a year ago. Pageau was immediately re-signed to a six-year contract extension while Greene was brought back during the offseason.
The incentive to make a trade is simple: The Islanders were only a middle-of-the-pack team offensively even with Lee, and without him they are losing one of their most productive and important goal scorers. But even with that the Islanders do have some intriguing X-factors on the roster to help fill that spot. Oliver Wahlstrom looks like he is on track to becoming a top-line player in the NHL and has been especially hot in recent games. Kieffer Bellows is also on the NHL roster at the moment and has scored three goals since Lee was injured.
[Contender or Pretender: Islanders can ruin your team’s postseason dreams]
Young players like that knocking on the door and starting to make an impact could certainly alter their plans.
As for choices outside of the organization, you have to consider the obvious names that are going to be available.
Would Taylor Hall fit the Islanders’ style of play? He is willing to accept a trade out of Buffalo and his value is at an all-time low right now so the Islanders (or any team) could theoretically get him at a bargain basement price.
Kyle Palmieri would be an intriguing Lee replacement if the New Jersey Devils decided to part ways and were willing to trade him within the division.
Then there is Columbus’ Nick Foligno as a possibility. Both he and Palmieri would seem to be strong fits within the Islanders’ structure, even as short-term rentals. They may not replace Lee entirely (on the ice or off of it) but they would be more than acceptable replacements to help give the Islanders some added offensive punch.
Beyond that there is not really much that this roster needs. With Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin playing at a high level in goal there is no need for an addition there, and while the defense lacks a true “No. 1 defender” it is still a very strong group (led by the Adam Pelech–Ryan Pulock duo) that does not have any real weakness.
Forwards should be the name of the game here, assuming Lamoriello opts to get involved with the trade market this season and he has a decent choice of options to pick from.