With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away, Isles fans are wondering what tricks Lou Lamoriello has up his sleeve.
The Islanders’ play has taken a dip since captain Anders Lee suffered a torn ACL that will keep him out the remainder of the season. With up to $7 million in cap space to work with, and five games remaining on the homestand, the time is now to make a move. In the ten games since Lee suffered his injury, the Islanders are 6-4-0 and have struggled to find consistency. Head coach Barry Trotz has juggled the lines, most recently giving Leo Komarov a chance to flank Mat Barzal on the wing, yet New York’s top line has struggled to consistently generate offense.
Perhaps Thursday’s performance against Washington was the spark they needed, but asking Leo to produce like a top-6 winger is a tall task for someone with 62 career goals in almost 500 games. With Michael Dal Colle being banged up as well, the Isles depth at left wing is extremely limited. While Kieffer Bellows has had his moments, he has yet to earn Trotz’s trust to become an everyday contributor.
That leaves Ross Johnston, Matt Martin and Leo Komarov as the team’s only options. While that trio contributes to the grinding style the Islanders are known for, they cannot be trusted to provide consistent offense.
Plain and simple, the Isles need more and with the prospect pool already thin, looking outside the organization is the way to go.
So, who might the Isles pursue?
The usual suspects such as Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmeri have been mentioned and certainly Isles Twitter would throw a parade if Lou was able to land one of those big fish. But a potential under-the-radar move that could actually be more realistic is Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks.
Rakell is only 27-years-old and is under contract through next season with a reasonable cap hit of $3.8M. His last few years have been rough, but he did have consecutive 30 goal seasons just three years ago. This year, on a Ducks team that ranks 28th in goals scored, Rakell leads the team with 7 goals and 15 assists in 36 games, with none of those goals coming on the power play. As a right-hander with a wicked shot, plus experience playing both wing positions, Rakell would be a tremendous addition to the Isles’ top six and power play for this year and next.
Despite the Ducks being in a full rebuild, they’re right up against the cap ceiling thanks to some of the disastrous contracts they’ve given out. With Anaheim currently ranked 30th in the NHL standings, a fire sale could be in order come deadline day.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun recently reported the Ducks’ asking price for Rakell to be “a young, experienced NHLer, plus a first-round pick.”
Perhaps the Isles could entice Anaheim with a youngster like Kieffer Bellows or Michael Dal Colle (assuming he’s healthy) to go along with their first-round pick in order to get the deal done. Lamoriello’s history tells us he won’t be afraid to part with first-round picks or prospects if he feels a deal is needed to upgrade his team.
With Rakell’s pro-rated cap hit less than $2M, that would leave the Islanders with room to add other pieces, such as a depth defenseman or another depth forward to go along with Rakell.
The Isles desperately need more punch upfront and adding Rakell would take some of the burden off Mat Barzal and present him with more favorable matchups as well. Lamoriello is famous for his phrase, “when you have time, use it.” Well, we’re 10 days away from the trade deadline, he won’t have time for much longer.
Follow Ethan on Twitter @egreenberg99