With the April 12th trade deadline quickly approaching, the Islanders will need to make a splash if they wish to return Lord Stanley to the Nassau Coliseum one last time.
The Isles are currently 16th in goals for per game and 15th in power play percentage. As much as these numbers are improved from what we’re used to seeing from the team, this is not good enough against the upper echelon of the NHL, as we saw last year in the bubble.
The Flyers forced the Islanders to a deciding game seven due to the Isles’ inability to put the them away. A more potent offense would have meant Barry Trotz’s club moving on to the Conference finals in a quicker manner. Speaking of that round, where the Lightning were clearly the better team, only further cemented that the Isles lacked the necessary fire power to achieve their ultimate goal.
G.M. Lou Lamoriello recently said; “Whatever we can do to make ourselves better, we will be doing that. I think we’re always trying to find a scoring winger, whether it was because of Anders’ situation or not.”
Lamoriello made it clear he has been looking to improve his team’s offense even before losing his captain and leading goal scorer to a torn ACL.
Lee is irreplaceable in a lot of ways, so forget the intangibles and focus on his production. The loss of Lee means the loss of 19 points over 27 games, 12 of which were goals. There are names available at the deadline that can certainly help replace some of that production. It is important to note that the addition of Lee to the LTIR freed up $7M in cap space for the remainder of this season. That is about all the Isles have, as they are a very cap strapped team. Cap relief will not be coming to Long Island during the offseason either. This means major personnel decisions will have to be made.
The way the current trade market is looking there may be some opportunities for Lamoriello to not only acquire a skilled forward, but also move a cumbersome contract the other way. The ability to include Andrew Ladd, Leo Komarov or Thomas Hickey in a deal would free up $4.4M, $3.0M or $2.5M respectively. The additional space may help Lamoriello avoid a situation similar to the Devon Toews one this past offseason.
Future Islander Kyle Palmieri opens the scoring for the Devils pic.twitter.com/ATmybSBuFh— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 20, 2021
The other elephant in the room is the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. For the expansion draft the Islanders will only be able to protect a limited number of players. Without pulling off a trade with the Kraken, the Isles may stand to lose a pretty important piece to the puzzle after this season.
There is no debate after last season’s playoff run and the success this season, that the Islanders are very close to being a true Stanley Cup contender. However, there is still a gap between them and the top contenders.
Adam Gretz of Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports pointed that out when he wrote; “Call them a contender, but maybe one that is a step below behind the top three or four best teams that should be considered the biggest Stanley Cup Favorites.”
The Islanders today can play with anyone in the league, but with the right addition(s) at the deadline they could truly make themselves a top Stanley Cup contender. They could even do this while creating the flexibility needed to do it again next year.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryandunni