The New York Islanders are having a rough season with only 21 wins in their 53 games played and look poised to trade away some of the veteran players at the trade deadline. Unlike most teams looking to trade away players, the Islanders are still built to contend for the Stanley Cup in the upcoming seasons, and as a result, might make a few minor moves rather than overhauling the roster of its veteran stars.
Two teams that will look to acquire talented players at the trade deadline are the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. The teams are having remarkable seasons fueled by two of the best offenses in the game and are only one or two players away from winning the Stanley Cup. Moreover, both the Panthers and the Avalanche can look to the Islanders roster for their specific roster needs, most notably, depth in all three units which is pivotal for a Stanley Cup run.
Semyon Varlamov has been one of the more intriguing goaltenders ahead of the trade deadline in the NHL for multiple reasons. The Islanders veteran goaltender has played a limited role on the team this season, starting only 16 games, and goaltenders are difficult to move at the trade deadline, requiring quick adjustments to prepare for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, Varlamov has more playoff experience than most goaltenders that are available for trades, notably helping lead the Islanders to the Stanley Cup Semifinal in 2021 with great performances in the net. Moreover, the veteran goaltender is under contract for the next two seasons, allowing any team that acquires him to compete for the Stanley Cup for the next two seasons, further increasing his value.
Both the Avalanche and Panthers already have established starting goaltenders that they will likely turn to for a playoff run. Sergei Bobrovsky is having a great season with the Panthers with a .916 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.55 goals-against average (GAA) on 1185 shots and as a result, the front office feels comfortable with their goaltending heading into the deadline. Likewise, Darcy Kuemper has put together a respectable season for the Avalanche with a .917 SV% and a 2.57 GAA on 1158 shots. Both teams, however, need a backup goaltender to help take pressure off their starters for the final month of the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Varlamov particularly would play the backup role and start a few games after being acquired but also would be able to step up and start in the playoffs if necessary.
Scott Mayfield is putting together another strong season in the Islanders’ defensive unit with 2.5 defensive point shares and 92 blocked shots. The veteran defenseman continues to eliminate opposing forwards in the neutral zone on the rush and in the defensive zone with the ability to limit shots on the net and force turnovers. In addition to the great defensive play, Mayfield has proven he can be a versatile defensive pair as he can play the top airing but also on the later pairings in a more defensive role and con easily slide into any defensive unit to help a team win the Stanley Cup.
The Avalanche and the Panthers are both allowing 2.88 goals per game and are led by some of the best two-way defensemen in the game including Cale Makar, Devon Toews, Aaron Ekblad, and MacKenzie Weegar. Both teams have great top pairings but look vulnerable on the later pairings and need a pure defensive defenseman that can limit opposing offenses that possess four scoring forward lines. The Avalanche would have the luxury of playing the 29-year-old defenseman alongside Samuel Girard allowing Mayfield to compensate for the fast but overaggressive pairing. The Panthers meanwhile could play the veteran defenseman alongside Brandon Montour who has six goals and 18 assists this season and allow the pairing to continue to attack in the offensive zone.
Mayfield would also be the ideal acquisition for both teams and like Varlamov, the veteran defenseman has two years remaining on his contract and isn’t a high-risk acquisition. In addition, Mayfield isn’t going to hurt either team’s salary cap with a $1.45 Million contract per year after signing a five-year deal in 2018, allowing both the Avalanche and Panthers to easily make the trade.
Cal Clutterbuck doesn’t seem like the ideal forward to be acquired at the deadline by two teams that possess great forward units and potent offenses. The Panthers score 4.12 goals per game while the Avalanche scores 3.91 goals per game and are the two highest-scoring teams in the league, a large reason for their successful seasons. Despite the production offensively, both teams would like to add a checking forward to the later lines, a skater that not only could force turnovers in the offensive zone but add toughness to the team and make big plays along the boards.
Clutterbuck is one of the best forechecking forwards in the game and is a pending free agent, making him a likely trade candidate on the Islanders roster. The 34-year-old forward might not be the big acquisition for either team but could be the forward that gives them an edge needed in the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup.
Other Islanders That Could Be Traded
Both the Avalanche and the Panthers could add help to the defensive unit and considering both teams already possess great scoring defensemen, could look to acquire Zdeno Chara, who primarily contributes to the defensive zone. However, at 44-years-old, Chara isn’t a great skating defenseman and could contrast negatively with both teams that loved to play with speed, especially when transitioning to the offensive end of the ice. Both teams might also look for a puck distributor like Josh Bailey to help out a later line but with both teams already thriving offensively, it’s unlikely either team will look to acquire another forward to help find the back of the net.
Ultimately, the Islanders have a handful of players that help out with the primary needs of the Avalanche and the Panthers but also of multiple teams in the NHL. Teams will look to acquire depth at the deadline and oftentimes, the one player that is moved at the deadline helps propel a team to the Stanley Cup.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.