Currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders possess the first wild-card spot. At this point, if general manager Lou Lamoriello believes in this team, it’s absolutely paramount that he makes a trade for a scoring winger.
With that being said, considering the Islanders’ best defenseman, Adam Pelech, is sidelined for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury, should Lamoriello also pull the trigger on a trade for a defenseman?
Is Another Defenseman Necessary?
Following Pelech’s injury, the Islanders’ shallow defense depth became very noticeable; they currently have a 20-year-old filling in full-time for the 247-game veteran in Pelech. Although Noah Dobson has played pretty well in Pelech’s absence, a more experienced defender may be exactly what the Islanders need. Obviously, the Islanders’ biggest need is a goalscorer, however, if the team isn’t completely solid on the blue line, they won’t stand a chance in the playoffs, or even of making it there to begin with.
When the organization decided to demote Thomas Hickey after training camp, the thought was that he would most likely be called-up during the season if there was an injury sustained. However, due to an injury of his own which has kept him sidelined for most of the season, this hasn’t been the case.
This leaves the Islanders with limited options after Dobson. Alongside Sebastian Aho, who was recently called up from the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Grant Hutton is the only other viable option within the organization to replace an injured defender. Given the fact that Aho hasn’t suited up in the NHL since the 2017-18 season, and that Hutton has yet to play a single game in the NHL, the Islanders’ current options past Dobson are very weak.
What Caliber of a Defenseman do the Islanders Need?
Since the Islanders already have one of the best defenses in the entire league, they may not need an elite defenseman. Despite their current strength on the back end, it certainly needs more depth. An ideal defender to look for would be someone who has a low cap hit, has NHL experience, and has experience in winning. However, the most important thing is that the player is in the final year of his contract. The last thing that the Islanders need is to pick up an extra contract when they have to figure out how to pay Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews next offseason.
The great thing about the trade deadline is that there are almost always teams who’re looking to sell. In the Islanders’ case, it becomes even easier to find a target because most non-contending teams are looking to sell their rentals. Therefore, the Islanders may have an abundance of options.
How Can They Do It?
In an article written by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, there was a mock trade offer between the Islanders and Ottawa Senators discussed (from ‘LeBrun: Six specific trade deadline moves that make a lot of sense,’ The Athletic, 02/03/2020). In the trade, Ottawa would send forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenseman Ron Hainsey to the Islanders. In return, the Islanders would send forward Kieffer Bellows, a conditional 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2021 third-round pick. The two picks would each have the condition to move up one round depending on what happens with the Islanders the rest of the way, and if Pageau were to re-sign with the club.
This trade is a great example of what the Islanders could be looking to do by the Feb. 24 deadline. Regardless of the players involved in LeBrun’s mock trade, the way the trade would happen is perfect for the Islanders. This is because the trade would be centered around Pageau, who is a natural goal-scorer. However, at the same time, the Islanders would be acquiring a veteran defenseman with playoff experience in Ron Hainsey. Considering this type of trade would be giving the Islanders the two kinds of players that they badly need, it’s definitely something Lamoriello should look into.
Obviously the Islanders can acquire a forward and a defenseman in separate trades, but it’s important for all options to be considered at this time of year. Also, let’s not forget that Lamoriello will most likely only make a trade if the team starts to play well again. The last thing that he will do is sacrifice this team’s future for rentals when the players aren’t playing up to their abilities.
Although the Islanders need a goal-scorer more than a defenseman, it’s important to remember that defense wins championships. And as of right now, the Islanders don’t have the depth that they need on that side of the puck.
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