The Islanders saw their top option for a game-changing, elite-scoring winger go to Columbus (of all places) as Johnny Gaudreau shocked the hockey world by choosing the Blue Jackets over the likes of New York and the New Jersey Devils.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello now has to pivot quickly to address his team’s greatest remaining need, which is a viable first-line mate for Mathew Barzal.
The problem is Gaudreau was the only real franchise-altering option on the free-agent market, meaning Lamoriello will have to head to the “hockey trade” (as he calls it) market to bring a scoring star to UBS Arena.
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He has options, though will the Islanders have the assets to reel in one of these big fish?
They have each of their first-round picks through 2025, per CapFriendly, and a 24-year-old winger in Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 million AAV) that hasn’t flourished with the Islanders but still has generated some intrigue around the league.
Their farm system isn’t as robust as others, to put it nicely, and it remains to be seen just how willing they’d be to part with the likes of an Aatu Räty or William Dufour, or Simon Holmstrom — to name a few.
But time is running out on Lamoriello to prepare the Islanders to take that next step toward Stanley Cup Final contention after two consecutive semifinal appearances followed by a postseason-less, wild, and unpredictable 2021-22 campaign.
For that reason, here are a few big names that he could inquire about to fill that massive void on the scoring charts.
1) Vladimir Tarasenko, RW
- Team: St. Louis Blues
- 2021-22 stats: 34 goals, 48 assists, 82 points in 75 games
- Contract: 1-year, $7.5 million cap hit remaining
- Age: 30
Tarasenko came back from a shoulder injury to prove that he can still score at an impressive rate. While he never officially rescinded his trade offer from last season, it remains to be seen just how willing the Blues are to deal him — especially after seeing 27-goal scorer David Perron sign with the Detroit Red Wings.
2) JT Miller, C/LW
- Team: Vancouver Canucks
- 2021-22 stats: 32 goals, 67 assists, 99 points in 80 games
- Contract: 1-year, $5.25 million cap hit remaining
- Age: 29
The Islanders reportedly had talks with the Canucks regarding Miller at the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal before ultimately pivoting and sending their No. 13 pick to the Canadiens for Alexander Romanov.
Miller is versatile enough to play both center and wing — the latter being the most necessary for the Islanders — though last season was the first time in his 10-year career that he posted more than 72 points. Still, he’s a cheaper option for a cash-strapped Lamoriello compared to other big names available.
3) Patrik Laine, RW
- Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
- 2021-22 stats: 26 goals, 30 assists, 56 points in 56 games
- Contract: Restricted Free Agent
- Age: 24
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen has already expressed his desire to keep Laine after signing Gaudreau. However, he’ll have to pull off some major financial gymnastics to clear enough space to bolster the Finnish sniper (they currently have about $3 million free).
The Islanders could send an offer sheet Laine’s way and run the risk of losing a ton of draft capital or trade for Laine’s rights and try to sign him long-term. Either way, it will cost them a pretty penny but the 24-year-old has shown the promise of being a perennial 40-goal scorer for years to come.
4) Patrick Kane, RW
- Team: Chicago Blackhawks
- 2021-22 stats: 26 goals, 66 assists, 92 points in 78 games
- Contract: 1-year, $10.5 million cap hit remaining
- Age: 33
The Blackhawks seem to be tearing it all down, especially with the trading of Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa. While there have been rumors that Kane would waive his no-movement clause, he hasn’t officially done so yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
The 33-year-old is still an elite playmaker, averaging 1.15 points per game over the last decade (708 games), but his contract is an albatross — even for a year — which would prove plenty of issues for Lamoriello to try and fit.