As of the All-Star break, the New York Islanders are still considered buyers ahead of the 2024 NHL trade deadline, which comes on March 8 — though one might have to zoom out just a bit to see that.
The Islanders have won just two of their last 11 games (2-7-2) and are just 1-2-1 under new head coach, Patrick Roy. But the “blueprint” is being developed and the early returns are promising enough to suggest that a legitimate playoff push awaits on the other side of the break.
Of course, that changes if the January swoon extends into February. Then you’ll see the Islanders potentially unloading a few players. Names like Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Samuel Bolduc, and Oliver Wahlstrom first come to mind.
For now, the Islanders need depth on the wings that are capable of not only playing the “200-foot game” that Patrick Roy is preaching but can also provide the skill and aggression needed to fit the new head coach’s philosophy.
Blue-line help is also vital for a team that was already without one of its top defensemen, Ryan Pulock, who has been on LTIR before Adam Pelech took Brendan Gallagher’s illegal elbow to the head last week.
Adding a top-four defenseman would allow the Islanders to stop the constant swapping of borderline help, whether that be Bolduc or Sebastian Aho.
Team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello has struck for big deals around this time of year. Exactly one year ago during the All-Star break, he pulled off one of the biggest moves of the season, acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks.
Here are five names that could be a fit for Lamoriello this time around:
Adam Henrique, C, Anaheim Ducks: The 33-year-old Henrique is a Lamoriello guy having been drafted by the executive with the New Jersey Devils in 2008 — so the Islanders would know what they’re getting in the veteran. Normally a center, he’s capable of playing the wing, which he has done plenty of times this season with the Ducks on his way to 15 goals and 17 assists. He’s in the final year of his contract and could immediately bolster the third line alongside Pageau and Simon Holmstrom or give the second line a new look with Pierre Engvall faltering early in his seven-year deal.
Frank Vatrano, LW, Anaheim Ducks: Another Ducks product potentially on the move, Vatrano is no stranger to deadline talk or New York. Just two seasons ago, he was dealt at the deadline from the Florida Panthers to the New York Rangers for their stretch run, recording eight goals in 22 games for the Blueshirts. Vatrano is the midst of a career year with 21 goals in 49 games. His career high is 24 in 81 games set in 2018-19 with the Panthers. His price tag would be higher than Henriques, obviously. Not only is he four years younger, but he’s signed through the 2024-25 season.
Jordan Eberle, RW, Seattle Kraken: This is a longshot, but Eberle is a name that Islanders fans should keep an eye out for if the Kraken keeps drifting off the Western Conference playoff pace. He spent four seasons with the Islanders before being left available for the expansion draft when the Kraken broke into the league. The 33-year-old is in the final year of his contract, is great friends with Mathew Barzal — the two remain in touch regularly — and a reunion would right the wrong done by Lamoriello three years ago. Eberle would have an opportunity to show off more of his offensive game under Roy, but there is an obvious wrinkle here. He’s a right winger, the spot that Barzal was moved to from his natural center position to create a partnership with Horvat. However, Barzal started the season on the left wing and would perhaps be open to moving back there if it meant reuniting with Eberle.
Matt Dumba, D, Arizona Coyotes: Dumba is on an expiring deal and provides an alluring option for an Islanders team that could use a boost on the penalty kill that ranks 31st in the NHL The 29-year-old adds an added physical presence, plus shot-blocking abilities, and a hard right-handed shot that could potentially fit in well with Roy’s new system of defensemen being more involved in the attack. While he has just two goals and three assists this year in Arizona, this is a player who once put up 14 goals and 36 assists (50 points) with the Minnesota Wild in 2017-18.
Jakob Chychrun, D, Ottawa Senators: Another trade deadline, another season speculating where Chychrun will end up. The Senators are believed to be shopping the 25-year-old and he’s signed through the 2024-25 season, meaning the price will be high. However, Lamoriello was linked to Chychrun last year when the Coyotes shipped him to Ottawa and could very well be back in the mix this time around, too. The left-side defenseman would add further skill to a blueline that already has one of the best in Noah Dobson on the right side. It would also bolster New York’s stable of lefty defensemen which already includes Dobson’s partner, Alex Romanov, and Pelech once he’s healthy enough to return.