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Simpson: Deadline Trades Are Not the Answer in 2021 for the Islanders

Every season, as the trade deadline approaches, hockey fans speculate on who might be on the move from their team and who they might pick up.

Islanders fans are not immune to this obsession, which rivals their concern over jersey design. They well remember that on March 10, 1980, some 41 years ago today, the team acquired Butch Goring from the Los Angeles Kings in a transaction that set the standard for deadline deals, one that is often credited with pushing the franchise over the top to win their first Stanley Cup.

Can Lou Lamoriello perform a Bill Torrey-like feat of magic this year?

First, a point of history is in order. Trading Billy Harris and Dave Lewis for Goring, important as it was, was not the only change in the Isles’ lineup that March. At the beginning of the month, Olympic hero Ken Morrow made his debut alongside Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, who returned to play after a 41-game absence due to a thumb injury. The arrival of Potvin and Morrow added to the presence of first-year Islanders Dave Langevin and Gord Lane, which refashioned their blue line and made Lewis, a steady defender, expendable (while Harris’s play was already slipping). It’s distorting to see the Goring trade in isolation. Many parts fell into place to make the Isles Stanley Cup champions that spring.

It’s difficult to see the same circumstances in place today.

Acquiring talent means giving away perceived value. That’s become a more complex matrix of considerations in today’s NHL, given salary cap considerations and the looming Seattle expansion draft, where the Islanders are almost guaranteed to lose someone they would prefer to keep. So set aside those scenarios where Andrew Ladd goes somewhere else in exchange for a goal-scoring winger (at present that does not include Zack Parise, who has only three goals and ten points this year and was recently a healthy scratch for the Minnesota Wild with a cap hit makes him unaffordable). No one’s taking Leo Komarov off your hands as a favor. The organization’s major moveable assets are draft picks and a few prospects (Sebastian Aho and Kiefer Bellows come to mind) whose future with the Islanders remains cloudy (insert Josh Ho-Sang comment here).

There are a few other players in the system who are attractive trade chips, but the Islanders don’t seem to have made up their minds about them quite yet.

To get something, you’re going to have to give up something, and yet you have to believe you’ll improve as a result and your trading partner will have to feel the same way. Among the forwards, how do you really benefit by trading Jordan Eberle or Josh Bailey, two names often mentioned? Nick Leddy’s become an offensive force again along with the emergence of Noah Dobson, addressing the gap left by the departure of Devon Toews. If you denigrate a player, why do you think someone else craves him? Remember that Peter Chiarelli is currently unemployed.

Don’t forget the length of the contracts involved.

Are rentals really worth it?

Expiring contracts are what they are, a gamble taken to win in the short term. Given the Islanders’ cap situation, the only way to resign someone is by disposing of someone else, and that has to factor into the cost of acquisition.

Ah, yes … speaking of the cap, you might want to consult capfriendly.com to see what the Islanders have to do this coming summer, because there are pay raises in order and some tough decisions to be made. Last summer brought similar circumstances that led to Toews’s departure.

In short, it’s hard to see how the Islanders improve this year via trade, regardless of the continued longing for a scoring winger (has Oliver Wahlstrom shown signs of being that guy?) or another defenseman (with Aho and Thomas Hickey already serving as depth defenders). A blockbuster has to please both teams and address a multitude of concerns.

You don’t always get what you want, and sometimes that’s okay. Remember … Butch Goring was not Bill Torrey’s first choice in 1980. That was Toronto’s, Darryl Sittler. Imagine what might have happened had Harold Ballard and Punch Imlach felt differently about their star center.

No toy department, that’s for sure.


Follow Brooks on Twitter at @BrooksDSimpson

About Brooks Simpson

Brooks Simpson writes, teaches, and speaks on American history and politics as a professor at Arizona State University. A native Long Islander, he has been an Islanders fan since the franchise's inception in 1972.

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