With the 2022 trade deadline set for Monday, March 21, we’re taking a look back at the best trade deadline deals in New York Islanders’ history. Though the Islanders aren’t historically the most active team at the trade deadline, they’ve had their fair share of blockbusters. We’ll also dive into the last two trade deadlines for the Islanders and look at their effects on the current team.
Islanders’ 3 Best Trade Deadline Deals (1972-2018)
3) March 13, 1996: Islanders acquired a 1997 First-Round Pick (#4 – Roberto Luongo), Sean Haggerty, Darby Hendrickson, Kenny Jonsson from the Toronto Maple Lefs in exchange for Wendel Clark, Mathieu Schneider, and D.J. Smith.
To put it gently, the mid-1990s were a bit of a mess for the Islanders. General manager, and for a short period head coach, Mike Milbury created a lot of problems on Long Island that wouldn’t be rectified for years. Even his best deals, which include a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13, 1996, need to be looked at with a certain lens to be considered one of the best trade deadline deals in team history.
The team sent two short-time Islanders, Wendel Clark and Mathiew Schneider, along with current Leafs’ coach D.J. Smith to Toronto for Sean Haggerty, Darby Hendrickson, Kenny Jonsson, and 1997 First-Round Pick (Roberto Luongo). Haggerty and Hendrickson played less than 30 games combined for the Islanders following this trade, with the former playing just 15 NHL games in his career. Hendrickson had a slightly longer career, putting up 129 points in 518 games.
The critical parts to compare here are Jonsson and the first-round pick that would become Luongo against Clark and Schneider. Schneider may have had a better overall career than Jonsson, but Jonsson was a key piece for the Islanders’ short renaissance in the early 2000s that saw them return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. It’s difficult to say what impact Schneider would have had on Long Island, but it’s safe to say it would have been a fairly significant one.
Related: Top 10 Worst Mike Milbury Moves
Clark remained a consistent player for the remainder of his career, eventually landing back in Toronto for two short stints after stops with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks. The key piece here is Luongo. Despite Milbury trading Luongo three years later to draft Rick DiPietro first overall in 2000, he did choose the player who had the biggest NHL impact from that moment on, even if it wasn’t with the Islanders.
2) February 27, 2007: Islanders receive Ryan Smyth in exchange for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra, and a 2007 First-Round Draft Pick (#15 Alex Plante)
One of the shortest-lived Islanders was one of the game’s biggest stars in 2007. Ryan Smyth’s exit from Edmonton was emotional for Oiler fans and for the Smyth himself, but on Long Island, fans were ready to make some noise in the playoffs after an up and down start to the new millennium. The 2005-06 season ended in disappointment. After a three-year run of making it to the playoffs, the Islanders couldn’t recreate their early 2000s success after the 2003-04 lockout.
Queue “Captain Canada.” The Islanders were in the middle of an up and down 2006-07 campaign and needed a boost in addition to Jason Blake’s career year, one that would end with 40 goals on the season. It didn’t take much time for Smyth to make a difference on the scoresheet, but the team still struggled down the stretch. The Islanders headed into game 82 having won three straight and needing to win their last game to sneak into the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It took a Wade Dubielewicz poke check during the shootout to solidify their spot in the postseason.
Smyth didn’t disappoint during his time on the Island, scoring 15 points in 18 regular-season games, adding four points in five games as the Islanders bowed out to the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. General manager Garth Snow couldn’t re-sign Smyth following the 2006-07 season, and he eventually signed with the Colorado Avalanche.
1) March 10, 1980: Islanders receive Butch Goring from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis
Arguably the best trade deadline acquisition in NHL history, and perhaps the worst in Los Angeles Kings history, the trade that brought Butch Goring to Long Island changed the fate of the Islanders in the 1980s. “My initial reaction was one of anger and disappointment,” Goring said three decades later. “I got here and I realized I was going to an awfully good hockey club. That made it a lot easier to handle. This was a team that had a chance to win a Stanley Cup. Once I was able to get the emotions out of it, I realized it was a tremendous opportunity.”
After disappointing ends to the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons, the Islanders needed to add depth at center behind Bryan Trottier. Showing the effects of limited scoring, the Islanders struggled to recapture the success they had the previous two seasons. Goring helped elevate their scoring immediately. Even before the 1980 Stanley Cup Playoffs began, the Islanders saw the fruits of the trade, going 8-0-4 down the stretch to solidify themselves as favorites that spring. That added depth propelled the Islanders to the 1980 Stanley Cup, and three more after that. Goring went on to be the Conn Smythe winner following their 1981 Stanley Cup victory.
Recent Islanders Trade Deadline Deals (2020, 2021)
Current Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has made some significant deals at the trade deadline the last two seasons. Having found a recipe for success with head coach Barry Trotz behind the bench in 2018-19, the Islanders lacked center depth, which became extremely evident as injuries piled up early in the season. Offseason pickup Derick Brassard appeared to be better apt to play on the wing, leaving a huge hole on the third line.
On February 24, 2020, the Islanders acquired J.G. Pageau from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, and a conditional third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Lamoriello wasted no time and signed Pageau to a six-year, $30 million extension the same day. The addition solidified the Islanders at the center position and helped give the team the depth it needed to make deep runs in the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, reaching the league’s semifinal round two years in a row.
Lamoriello also picked up veteran defenseman Andy Greene, providing stability to a fairly young and experienced back-end as they geared up for the playoffs. Greene and Pageau have continued as important pieces to the Islanders the past two seasons.
On April 8, 2021, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac were traded to the Islanders by the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Both players were a significant part of the Islanders 2021 playoff run, with Palmieri paying dividends for the Islanders despite the slow start to the 2021-22 campaign. Palmieri re-signed with the Islanders following the 2021 playoffs, four years at $5 million per season.
The Islanders’ last two deadlines were a bit of an anomaly when you look back at their trade history. Very rarely did they make a move, let alone a significant one, and even less often was it a deal that added to the lineup. This year, they find themselves on the selling side of the market yet again, but it could still help set them by setting the team up for a busy summer.
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.