The Islanders don’t have the luxury of waiting out the entire two months between now and the 2023 NHL trade deadline on March 3 to make a move and potentially improve their roster.
The Metropolitan Division has become a gauntlet as one of the very best in hockey and after a dismal 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken on New Year’s Day, they sit at the very fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff picture prior to Tuesday night’s clash in Vancouver against the Canucks.
Injuries have become a prevalent issue with the likes of forwards Kyle Palmieri, Cal Clutterbuck, Oliver Wahlstrom, and defenseman Adam Pelech dealing with knocks that have or will sideline them for notable stretches. Regardless, a full-strength Islanders team would have still needed something more to establish itself as a legitimate threat.
While Lou Lamoriello is more often than not dormant when it comes to acquiring game-changers for the Islanders’ roster, this is usually the time of year when he is most active. He made invaluable deadline deals in recent seasons to bring on the likes of Palmieri and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to boost the Islanders’ ranks ahead of consecutive runs to the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Let’s see if he can do it again.
What do the Islanders need?
The first part of this answer hasn’t changed in over a decade. They need a scoring winger to complement a wealth of depth down the middle and provide a legitimate threat for a sputtering power play.
Anders Lee and Zach Parise have combined for 24 goals this season. The other 10 wingers that have dressed for the Islanders this season have combined for just 30 as of Jan. 2. Their power play, which lacks that finishing touch, ranks 28th in the NHL amid a particularly arid stretch in which the man advantage is 1-for-its-last-30.
There also could very well be a need for more defensive depth, especially with Pelech on the shelf for an undisclosed amount of time after suffering a head injury in early December against the St. Louis Blues. The team appears hesitant to rely consistently on Robin Salo while also having to give notable minutes to Sebastian Aho and more recently, Parker Wotherspoon.
What can they afford?
If the Islanders do make a sizable move for a game-changing winger, they are going to have to give up considerable assets to ensure their salary fits on the roster. As it stands, the organization has approximately $1.494 million in cap space, per CapFriendly.
They would likely have to try and shed a contract like Anthony Beauvillier’s or Josh Bailey’s to help facilitate a deal while asks from other teams will likely start with top prospects from a thin farm system.
It also helps that the Islanders have all of their draft picks from Rounds 1-7 in each of the next three years.
What is out there?
Here we take a look at some of the top trade targets around the NHL and what it might take to get them:
Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks: It’s important to note that Horvat is a center, but the Canucks look to be in full sell mode and a forward with 26 goals in 36 games is an obvious target that could prompt one of Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson to shift to the wing. Last month, TSN’s Darren Dreger said that the Canucks would be looking for “a young NHL center” and a “young NHL right-shot defenseman.” The Islanders have neither of those things that they’d be willing to part with.
Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes: The star defenseman is signed through the 2024-25 season, which is why the Coyotes are looking for a big return in two first-round picks plus either a prospect or young NHL player, according to Pierre LeBrun of TSN.
Timo Meier, RW, San Jose Sharks: Meier has 21 goals in 39 games after posting a career-high 35 last season. He and the Sharks haven’t had talks of a contract extension and if it becomes more clear that he’ll walk in free agency, they’ll likely try to deal him at the deadline. Per Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, a first-round pick and a top prospect would get the 26-year-old contingent on him signing a long-term deal to stay on Long Island.
John Klingberg, D, Anaheim Ducks: Klingberg hasn’t lived up to the one-year, $7 million deal he signed with the Ducks this season, but a first-round draft pick should at least pave the way for a top-pairing defenseman to potentially join the Islanders’ ranks where he’d enter a far more sustainable system compared to Anaheim. Of course, the question comes down to if he’d want to stay long-term or if the Islanders would be able to clear the space for his deal.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues: The 31-year-old has asked for a trade in the past, has been linked to the Islanders in the past, and his contract is up at the end of this season. His value also is dwindling considering he has just 10 goals through 34 games this season after posting 34 goals last year. That could potentially relieve the asking price for the Islanders given his $7.5 million cap hit. Putting him next to Barzal could be the spark needed to re-ignite his goal-scoring touch.
Mathew Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild: Dumba has battled inconsistencies throughout his career, which might be a red flag for Lamoriello. However, a veteran defensive rental to bolster the blue line for the stretch run could be invaluable for the Islanders. Even with a $6 million cap hit.
Anthony Duclair, LW/RW, Florida Panthers: The Panthers appear to be in salary-cap hell and might be forced to unload Duclair’s reasonable $3 million cap hit this season and next to create some space. He’s back skating after undergoing Achilles tendon surgery and posted 31 goals last season. He’s a speedy forward that can create chances on both wings and certainly has the right kind of price tag for an Islanders team strapped for available cash.