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Islanders mailbag: Support for Noah Dobson or scoring help? Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat?

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Noah Dobson Islanders
Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Welcome to the first installment of our Islanders mailbag where fans can reach out with their questions for amNewYork Sports editor and Islanders beat writer, Joe Pantorno.

Each week, we pick a handful of pressing questions to answer in an attempt to provide some insight on some important Isles topics.

Want to be featured in the next Islanders mailbag? Tweet your questions to @JoePantorno.

 

@Than531 asks: Who is more likely to be traded this summer, Anthony Beauvillier or Josh Bailey?

Josh Bailey Islanders
Josh Bailey (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

We’re starting out of the gates with a tough one because both Bailey and Beauvillier’s names have reportedly been floated out as trade pieces. Given their statuses, their markets won’t likely overlap, either. 

Both contracts can be classified as must-moves for GM Lou Lamoriello as he tries to create more cap space to address the wide range of holes within the roster. For a team with approximately $12 million in projected cap space currently, getting Bailey’s $5 million and Beauvillier’s $4.15 million off the books would be a considerable boost. 

Bailey is a savvy veteran with an abundance of playoff experience that could help a young team reach its cap floor while providing a leadership presence in the locker room. 

Beauvillier is a younger project that could add a scoring surge to a team’s middle six when put in a proper offensive system — which is something the Islanders haven’t had since the arrival of Lamoriello. 

At just 25 years old, though, I would think there would be more interest (and opportunities) in Beauvillier and his upside compared to Bailey, who has scored fewer than 15 goals in 10 of his 14 NHL seasons. 

 

@IslesBills asks: Do you think adding a scoring winger or finding a competent partner for Noah Dobson is more important?

The latter — which is going to prompt plenty of groans from Islanders fans because an elite scoring winger is the BIG thing that the organization lacked in its run to two consecutive Stanley Cup semifinals. 

But as things currently stand, the Islanders have four proven defensemen looking forward to 2022-23: Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Dobson, and Scott Mayfield. 

Pelech and Pulock were split up last season due to necessity, but Lamoriello should build the blue line to ensure these two stay together in what could be one of the very best pairings in the NHL. 

Dobson is the next big thing for this team and should be able to spend the next few seasons flourishing rather than being paired with another young, inexperienced defenseman like Robin Salo (Mayfield is also a right-side d-man) — who will likely make the jump to full-time play in 2022-23.

That makes bringing in a proven partner to put at Dobson’s left a priority, whether it’s Jakob Chychrun, Ivan Provorov, or Samuel Girard. 

The formula for successful Islanders teams has been laid out already with a strong defense. Bolster the back end and ensure the best possible product in front of Ilya Sorokin before looking elsewhere.

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@ksinch24 asks: How does this team finally go about adding a dynamic playmaker without really messing up the chemistry and what they do well?

I answered a part of this in the last segment by ensuring that the blue line is secure. Pelech, Pulock, Mayfield, and Dobson all played big parts in those Stanley Cup semifinal teams, so the core of the defense is there to at least carry the torch. 

It gets a bit trickier on the offensive end because we saw how much this team missed Jordan Eberle at times last season while two prevalent names in Bailey and Beauvillier are on the block. However, chemistry can only get a team so far, as we saw last season when a COVID and injury-hampered unit just didn’t have the horses to overcome adversity and make a legitimate playoff push.

Lamoriello has done well to identify players who fit the so-called “Islanders system,” whether it was J-G Pageau or Kyle Palmieri, or especially Zach Parise. So there shouldn’t be much of a question of whether or not the ecosystem of the team’s locker room would be upset by a potential big deal.

There might be some relenting of two-way play should the team go big-game hunting for an elite-level offensive scorer, but a team flush with veterans — the entire fourth line, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Pageau, and Palmieri — should have no issue holding those who aren’t playing up to snuff accountable. That would be a big help for Lane Lambert behind the bench.

 

@mikedee_ asks: Alex DeBrincat or Johnny Gaudreau? Who is more reasonable to think the Isles might get and who would be a better fit?

Johnny Gaudreau (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to expect either of these big-time scorers to be Islanders next season given the team’s inability to land big fish. 

Could things be different now that they have an exceptional new home in UBS Arena and a more promising trajectory after Barry Trotz’s invaluable contributions over the previous four seasons? Yes, it could, but it’s one of those situations where I’ll truly believe it when I see it. 

Now it comes down to the question of which method of acquiring such a dynamic talent is easier? It’s going to take a lot of money for the Islanders to sign Gaudreau (40G, 75A last season with Calgary) in free agency. It’s also going to take a lot of capital (draft picks and prospects) to pull off a trade for just one year of DeBrincat (41G, 38A last season with Chicago) before he hits free agency.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported that the Islanders “could” be in on the Gaudreau sweepstakes, which is about as much information as you’ll get when it comes to information leaking from Lamoriello’s camp. It’s also more than we’ve heard about any connections regarding New York and DeBrincat; so for that reason, I’ll say that Gaudreau is more reasonable (and still a longshot) for now. 

In terms of who would be a better fit, I’ll stick with Gaudreau. He’s an elite scorer like DeBrincat but is much more skilled as a playmaker while adding more on the defensive side of the puck. His expected plus-minus, which measures possession quality based on where shots for and against are coming from, was a +27 compared to DeBrincat’s +2.2 last season. Of course, it’s worth noting that Gaudreau’s Flames were one of the best and most organized teams in the Western Conference compared to the fledgling Blackhawks. 

Put him on Mathew Barzal’s left wing with Kyle Palmieri on the right side and the Islanders have quite an imposing first line. 

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