The New York Islanders are close, as evident by their magical run to the Eastern Conference Final this summer.
Now they just need to find the final pieces of a potential championship puzzle.
The one glaring piece that has been the team’s Achilles heel for two seasons now is the lack of a top-line, pure goal scorer — one that has an ability to change the momentum of a game all by himself.
With a newfound status as contenders and a bright future ahead in the form of a new arena at Belmont Park, the Islanders are as an attractive destination as ever, at least according to co-owner Jon Ledecky.
“The New York Islanders are now a top-center discussion when it comes to free agents,” he said on Tuesday, providing quite a change in tone compared to years past when the Islanders were always an afterthought.
It’s one thing to say it, though, and something completely else to put it into practice. And that’s up to GM Lou Lamoriello to pull the right strings to bring on that elusive premier goal scorer.
Such a task won’t be easy considering the Islanders currently have $8.9 million in cap space (per Cap Friendly) and have to sign restricted free agents such as Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews.
That means Lamoriello will have to pull off some intricate cap gymnastics or he’ll have to make a splash on the trade market. Either way, here are a few potential targets that should be linked with the Islanders this offseason should they open the necessary financial space:
Hall if an unrestricted free agent this offseason and has the pedigree to provide the Islanders with an immediate impact on the first line.
A turbulent season with that began with the Devils provided a slow start, but he finished with 27 points in 35 games after being traded to the Arizona Coyotes.
This is a 28-year-old talent just two years removed from a Hart Trophy-winning (MVP) campaign of 39 goals and 54 assists. Placing him on a first line with a playmaking talent such as Barzal and there is no reason why those numbers can’t be seen again.
A true sniper, Hoffman would bring a shoot-first mentality to the first line and the much-maligned power play.
Hoffman was well on his way to a second-straight 30 goal season, posting 29 tallies in 69 games before the COVID-19 shutdown.
The unrestricted free agent has scored 28 power-play goals over the past two seasons with an aggressive style that the Islanders so seriously lack. He’s not afraid to shoot from virtually any angle on the ice and once again would be put in plenty of advantageous situations playing alongside Barzal.
This may be the largest pipe dream of all, but trading for a top-end talent would be much easier than trying to clear cap space for a big free-agent signing.
There have been rumblings over the last two seasons that the Winnipeg Jets could be shopping Laine, who has posted an 82-game average of 37 goals per season over his first four NHL campaigns.
He’s just 22 years old with the makings of a generational scoring talent — something the Islanders have not seen since the days of Pierre Turgeon or Zigmund Palffy.
Except this time, there’s structure within New York’s ranks.