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Islanders need to make moves for talent before it is too late

When I first sat down to write this story, I had a great big idea lined up discussing Taylor Hall.  Why the Islanders need to trade for him and how much he may cost. But after about five minutes of research, Pierre LeBrun ruined my idea, thanks Pierre.

In all seriousness, it is still an important exercise to look at who the Islanders could push for at the deadline and more importantly, why.

As the list progresses, the odds of the Isles landing the player decreases. But the point still remains: the organization has a talent deficiency and need to resolve it and resolve it soon. 

This is an Islanders team that is constructed to be a win-now club but does not have the talent to do so. The Islanders are the fifth oldest team in the NHL at 28.3, which typically signifies a closing window. This along with being in a cap crunch with just under $1 million in LTIR cap space remaining is not a good position to be in for a team that is not a playoff lock.

Coming on the heels of an Eastern Conference finals appearance and an aging top-six of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and many more, the Islanders cannot afford to waste a single season. In a season as odd as this one, the blue and orange ought to take advantage since they are a team we know can succeed through COVID-19, as we saw during the playoffs last season.

Despite having the mindset, this is a team that frankly does not have the talent to repeat.

Currently, the Islanders sit 25th in goals per game with 2.44, sandwiched between the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers and just a tenth of a goal better than the Ottawa Senators. Yes, a team that has five wins and a goal differential of -33 is right there with the Eastern Conference runner-ups. The Islanders have struggled with potting home high danger scoring chances, which according to Natural Stat Trick, are going in at just a 13.22% rate. This is fourth worst in the league and nearly 3% worse than last season.

To put it to the eye test, the Islanders have virtually no finishing capability, something they desperately need.

Enter the NHL trade deadline, where the Islanders have seven picks in this year’s draft, one in each round. While the Islanders have historically been conservative at the deadline, Lou Lamoriello needs to break that mold, and this is the perfect year to do it. Junior and college hockey leagues are out of sorts due to COVID-19, with many not playing full seasons. Because of this, scouts are having a tough time analyzing these players, making the picks worth less. If I am Lamoriello, I am willing to part with a first in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and the extra second acquired in the Devon Toews’s trade, which is in the 2022 draft.

1. Taylor Hall

While the LeBrun report is concerning, the Islanders should still inquire about the former Hart Trophy winner and current Sabre. While the numbers certainly do not pop off the page, with just one goal and 10 points in 15 games, one can attribute that to the offensive black hole that is the Buffalo Sabres. Beyond the ordinary stats, Hall leads the team in corsi for, second in expected goals for and one of six players with a positive goals for percentage.

Everybody knows how electric Hall can be, a bonafide elite winger that would take Mat Barzal to a whole different level. That is the kind of player the Islanders need.

Sure, it will be tough to make the money work, as Hall is on a one year, $8 million contract but sending Thomas Hickey — an OK NHL defenseman — the other way could be enough to make the money work.

2. Filip Forsberg

Over the weekend, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Nashville Predators are listening to offers on all but three players who were deemed untouchable — Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne.

 One player who stands out is Forsberg who is arguably the best forward on the Preds. The 26-year-old has one more year left after this one on his contract at $6 million per year. While it is not an ideal contract size for a team against the cap, sending Jordan Eberle and his $5.5 million cap hit might be the answer. 

A Forsberg move is a trickier trade to predict.

With an extra year, Forsberg is not merely a rental. He could net the Predators at least a first-overall pick and probably a young prospect as well. Is Keiffer Bellows someone that interests Nashville? For the Islanders, that would be ideal after his recent struggles. I would imagine a first and Bellows is not enough for the two-time 30-goal scorer, but Forsberg is certainly worth adding another couple picks.

Forsberg is just two points shy of a point-per-game pace and would be the Islanders’ second best forward behind Barzal. His lightning speed and silky smooth mitts would gel really well with Barzal or even if Barry Trotz elects to move him to the second line.

Either plan would work, as Forsberg has been driving his own line for years with Nashville. 

3. Johnny Gaudreau

Maybe I am reaching here for the final player on the list, but Gaudreau is an excellent player who was in the trade rumor mill all offseason. The 27-year-old, New Jersey native went as far to say that “no one can feel comfortable right now,” since the Flames have struggled through the first 20 games of the season. While the Flames are just two points out of a playoff spot, the Canadiens have two games in hand for the final spot. If the Flames continue to struggle, perhaps Calgary will want to “shake up” the roster.

Sam Bennett could be another Flame on the move after requesting a trade.

The 24-year-old is in desperate need of a change of scenery after being benched several times throughout the season. From the Islanders’ perspective, he is not the guy to trade for, since they already have a handful of Bennett-type players like Bellows. 

Gaudreau might cost the Isles a roster player or two, but to add a dynamic player like him would propel the Islanders to a real contender status.

 

Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWatling99

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