The anticipation of the New York Islanders upgrading their offense is bringing fans to the brink. Despite a recent comment by co-owner Jon Ledecky – “In Lou we trust” – it’s not enough for a fanbase that has been waiting for a goal scorer since the team traded Zigmund Palfy to the Los Angeles Kings in 1999. The dominos are ready to fall on Long Island. Still, Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello is patiently waiting to tip the first tile, much to the fans’ chagrin and to everyone else’s confusion.
Islanders Trade Routes Not Straightforward
One of the questions regarding a potential “hockey trade,” as Lamoriello put it, is what happens first. Does he show his cards and trade away a player like Josh Bailey and his $5 million cap hit for the next two years before bringing someone in, or the other way around? Likely the latter, though it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were announced within moments of one another.
Where could someone like Bailey be traded? The Anaheim Ducks need to reach the cap floor and are potentially looking to add another forward according to Ducks’ general manager Pat Verbeek. Bailey’s cap hit and playmaking could make him an attractive player for Verbeek to consider. This is one of the lone scenarios that wouldn’t feel like a cap dump, either. Bailey could be of serious help to a young team with talent.
The other, perhaps more important question, revolves around who the Islanders will target. It’s easy to put together scenarios that make sense for players that would very obviously make the team better, but it’s clearly more complicated than that, no matter how frustrated you are with Lamoriello’s lack of action. Patrick Kane, for instance, would need to agree to come to the Islanders first and foremost. That’s on top of the Chicago Blackhawks retaining salary – preferably half of his $10.5 million – and, of course, the two teams agreeing on trade terms.
Kane, J.T. Miller, and Vladimir Tarasenko are also all unrestricted free agents (UFAs) following this season. So, in addition to having Kane and Tarasenko waive their no-trade clauses (NTC) to come to Long Island and a deal agreed to, another hurdle is Lamoriello finding a way to lock them up to a mid-term contract. Not such an easy move, and it’s likely why there hasn’t been a trade made to date following Johnny Gaudreau’s signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Miller seems to be the best all-around option, and with the Canucks in a bit of a cap situation, the door may still be open. It’s thought Lamoriello could still be considering this after a deal fell apart on the draft floor. He scored 99 points last season and would certainly be the upgrade the Islanders are looking for, even at 29 years old.
Another hurdle here is what these players’ respective teams want in return. The Chicago Blackhawks are tearing it down and are looking for high draft picks and good prospects, the latter of which the Islanders don’t really have. The Vancouver Canucks won 40 games last year, and despite nearing a deal with the Islanders on the draft floor, the price tag is likely pretty high for a team that was close to making the postseason in 2021-22.
The St. Louis Blues were third in the Central Division last year, and after losing David Perron to the Detroit Red Wings, are they in the business of losing a scorer like Tarasenko? He hasn’t rescinded his trade request, so if the Blues are out of it before the trade deadline this season, could we expect him to be moved so that he isn’t lost for nothing in free agency next summer? That doesn’t make it any easier to get the deal done now, though, which is what the Islanders are most concerned about. They cannot wait until then to improve their roster, as they likely won’t be in a position worthy of a deadline deal for such a player.
Islanders “Out of the Box” Trade Targets
Perhaps those three players are simply not in the cards despite clearly being the star wingers the Islanders need. Even as we look at 25-plus goal scorers last season, like say Nikolaj Ehlers from the Winnipeg Jets, he still owns a modified NTC (M-NTC). With Pierre Luc Dubois reportedly looking to go to the Montreal Canadiens, could Ehlers be pried away from Winnipeg? If the Jets are going to “reset” their roster, it could eliminate a hurdle or two for the Islanders, though the M-NTC looms.
Patrik Laine is another obvious choice. The former 40-goal scorer is a restricted free agent, a Lamoriello-preferred contract situation, but it seems like the Blue Jackets are aiming to keep him despite some obvious cap issues. There’s still time for things to simply not work out between the two and for Columbus to be unable to move some money off the books to make a contract work, which would give Lamoriello a prime opportunity to strike. It would still require a heck of a deal, but for a 24-year-old forward, moving a top prospect like Aatu Raty – while painful – may make a lot of sense.
What about Timo Meier? Would the San Jose Sharks move on from the soon-to-be 26-year-old 35-goal scorer? The Sharks are going through some changes and have a bit of a cap hurdle of their own to get over. What would it take to get Meier, a restricted free agent after this season, to the Island? William Nylander has two more years left on his deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and only one more year before trade protection kicks in. He’s been a big piece of their offense. Would Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas and his former boss and current Islanders GM Lamoriello make a deal?
Clayton Keller is a rare offensive piece with a long-term deal with the Arizona Coyotes. What would a deal look like to get him to the Islanders? His $7.5 million cap hit would require quite a bit of money to go back the other way, especially considering they are still a long way from the cap floor. As a result, they may keep Keller simply to stay cap compliant.
It’s been a long offseason so far despite it only being less than a week since free agency opened. In addition, while analysts and insiders like former Islander goaltender Kevin Weekes are confident in a move, he also mentions that Lamoriello operates “like a Navy Seal,” meaning we won’t know a whole lot until after it happens. Lamoriello is a pro at the wait-and-see game, and aside from trying to read between the lines, it’s probably best to play the game that he’s laid it out.
Jon Zella is a 31-year-old, Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.