Islanders can’t be done addressing forwards after Pierre Engvall deal at 2023 trade deadline | Op-ed

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Islanders trade deadline
New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee, left, and Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon battle for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello couldn’t hold back his laughter when he was asked if his team had any more moves ahead of Friday’s NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET.

“I have no idea,” he said after a chuckle.

As if we would have expected anything else. 

The secretive, at times even stealthy Islanders, made a second trade before the deadline nearly a month after making their big splash in acquiring Bo Horvat. New York acquired forward Pierre Engvall from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2024 third-round draft pick.

Pierre Engvall Islanders
Pierre Engvall (Wikimedia Commons)

“It’s my job to give our group the best chance to have success,” Lamoriello said on Tuesday in Minnesota before the Islanders’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Wild. “With the recent injuries we’ve had, we’ve done everything that’s expected. This gives a little extra support.”

The Islanders’ ranks certainly have been diminished over the last few months. Oliver Wahlstrom and Cal Clutterbuck are likely out for the season, Mathew Barzal is week-to-week with a lower-body injury, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is slowly making his way back from the shelf, as well.

It’s left Lamoriello’s ranks well short, forcing him to play the likes of Simon Holmstrom on the first line alongside Horvat and usual second-liner Anders Lee. Zach Parise, a staple at left wing on the third line has moved up to the second. 

A collection of AHL and seldom-used NHLers have filled out the lineup around fourth-line mainstays Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin — whether it’s Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Hudson Fasching, or Arnaud Durandeau. 

As Lamoriello alluded to, Engvall provides a more legitimate bottom-six option for an Islanders team that has had little to no production from the third and fourth lines since Barzal’s injury. The 26-year-old also provides what the Islanders’ M.O. has been since Lamoriello’s arrival: forechecking, penalty killing, but most importantly (what they haven’t had) speed.

The Hall-of-Fame executive remained somewhat cryptic when asked about Barzal, saying that he’ll be re-assessed next week but adding that he “doesn’t have a timetable” for a return. It sure makes it seem like that week-to-week framework is very much intact — and there are only about five weeks left in the regular season. 

Regardless of the team’s current standing as the No. 1 Wild Card holder in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders don’t have enough time to simply hope that Barzal — and even Pageau — can come back to restore some stability to the lineup. They’re four points clear of the drop out of the playoff picture, but the lurking Buffalo Sabres have played five fewer games

So, to answer Lamoriello’s question, the Islanders shouldn’t be done.

They need another top-six forward option to provide legitimate support for the offense. Even with Horvat producing upon his arrival, the Islanders have scored two or fewer goals in four of their last six games since Barzal’s injury. 

Max Domi
Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane (88), Max Domi (13), Seth Jones (4) and Taylor Raddysh (11) celebrate after Domi scored in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, in Dallas. Kane had the assist on the goal. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Max Domi has 18 goals and 49 points this season for a Chicago Blackhawks team that has been selling — most recently shipping Patrick Kane to the crosstown Rangers.

Nick Schmaltz is putting up solid numbers for the dysfunctional Arizona Coyotes with 18 goals and 41 points in 44 games. 

James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers is a veteran playmaker that could add more creativity to the top six. Tyler Bertuzzi, who scored 30 goals last year for the Detroit Red Wings, could use a change of scenery and has the ability to play on both the left and right-wing. 

There are options there, it just comes down to whether or not the Islanders’ front office is willing to take one more risk to send the message that they really are all-in on not just making the playoffs, but trying to make some semblance of a run while there.

For more on the Islanders, visit AMNY.com