If there was any slim hope that the New York Islanders could pull off a blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets for star winger Patrik Laine, hockey insider Dave Pagnotta all but squashed it this week.
Speaking with Hockey Night in New York, Pagnotta explained that the Jets would likely ask for an Islanders package that would include Ryan Pulock or Adam Pelech — the organization’s top-two blue liners.
The Islanders could certainly use a talent like Laine’s to insert on their first line to bring their offense to a new level. At just 22 years old, Laine has averaged over 30 goals per year over his first four NHL seasons. Putting him alongside the playmaking likes of Mathew Barzal would see Laine hit new heights as he continues to develop into an NHL star.
However, the asking price of Pelech or Pulock is likely far too steep for general manager Lou Lamoriello, who already traded restricted-free-agent defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of second-round draft picks in an attempt to clear cap space.
The Islanders have an estimated $9 million in cap space and still need to re-sign Barzal and Pulock, among others.
On top of that, the team is actively shopping veteran Johnny Boychuk in an attempt to take his $6 million cap hit off the books, which would further cut into the blue line’s ranks.
Dealing away either Pelech or Pulock would only shift the Islanders further away from their identity as a resolute, organized side that stresses good defense over everything.
Pulock is averaging 22:22 of ice time per night over the last two seasons with a two-way style that makes him a quarterback for the team’s power-play unit.
Pelech has quickly developed into a top-pairing defenseman, averaging a career-high 21:08 per game in 2019-20 while overcoming an Achilles injury to help stabilize the team on its way to an Eastern Conference Final appearance.
The Islanders have defensive depth with youngsters Noah Dobson, Sebastian Aho, Bode Wilde, Mitch Vande Sompel, and Samuel Bolduc either ready to make the jump to full-time NHL play or brewing in the AHL, it would be difficult to have any of them attempt to try and replace the loss of a Pelech or Pulock — which would hurt the Islanders more than help them, even if it meant landing Laine.