The New York Islanders are built to compete for the Stanley Cup and hope to win their first one since the 1982-83 season. The roster has reached the Stanley Cup Semifinal in each of the last two seasons and the Islanders possess little to no weakness in all of their units. That being said, the front office will look to make a few acquisitions over the course of the season to help put the team over the top, with the forward unit and defensive unit in need of one or two skaters to add depth.
Early on in the season, it’s clear that one of the needs this season is going to be a left-side defenseman. The Islanders traded Nick Leddy in the offseason while re-signing Andy Greene and acquiring Zdeno Chara but the defensive unit currently lacks speed and an offensive presence from the point on the left side, something Leddy provided to the unit. The Islanders have plenty of defensemen to look out for and some might be risky acquisitions but well worth it if they help put the team over the top and win the Stanley Cup.
At 24-years-old Jeremy Lauzon is one of the young and promising defensemen in the NHL. The Seattle Kraken selected Lauzon in the expansion draft from the Boston Bruins and is likely going to remain a key part of the defensive unit for years to come as a result. However, as a pending restricted free agent, it’s possible the Kraken try to trade the young defenseman for future assets, especially if they struggle in their inaugural season.
Lauzon would impact both ends of the ice for the Islanders’ defensive unit and most importantly, add speed at the blue line where the team is currently lacking. Considering his age and upside, the Islanders would have to trade more assets to acquire a defenseman like Lauzon who can also leave at the end of the season in free agency but is worth the risk to help add to the second or third pairing of the defense.
The Montreal Canadiens are off to an awful start to the season, winning only three of their first 14 games, giving them the worst record in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens hope to turn things around, especially when some of the key contributors to last season’s Stanley Cup Final run return to the lineup but if the team fails to turn things around, they might start trading away some of the players that are pending free agents in hopes of strong returns. Brett Kulak is having a strong season on a struggling defensive unit and is a pending free agent. Kulak would fit right into the Islanders’ defense and play in the second pairing alongside Scott Mayfield, adding an extra passing element to the team in the neutral zone and from the point.
The New Jersey Devils trading Ryan Graves to the Islanders is unlikely for multiple reasons. The Devils are in the same division as the Islanders and are off to a promising start, winning six of their first 11 games, indicating they won’t be looking to trade away any players in the upcoming months or at the trade deadline. Moreover, after acquiring Graves in the offseason from the Colorado Avalanche, the 26-year-old defenseman looks to be part of the future plans for the team.
That being said, the Islanders and Devils were trade partners last year when both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac joined the Islanders at the trade deadline. Moreover, the Devils will look to trade away pending free agents for value if their season falls apart, which is a strong possibility in the competitive Metropolitan Division and Graves will gain interest from many teams in the NHL.
Graves is one of the better skating defensemen in the game and last season made his mark at the blue line playing alongside Cale Makar on the Avalanche defensive unit, allowing him to score two goals while adding 13 assists. Graves already has a goal and four assists on the Devils and would provide a strong offensive presence for the Islanders while also limiting opposing forwards on the odd-man rush following turnovers with his skating ability.
Other Defensemen The Islanders Might Consider
Mark Giordano has proven that he is still one of the best defensemen in the game at 38-year-old and is a pending free agent who would put the Islanders defense over the top for a Cup run. However, considering Giordano is the Kraken captain and has a modified no-movement clause, it’s unlikely he will be on the move unless the Kraken are trading away all their valuable players at the deadline. Another team that is looking to compete this season is the Vegas Golden Knights but if they struggle this season, they might look to move Brayden McNabb, who would be a perfect fit in the middle of the Islanders defensive unit and strengthen the roster on both ends of the ice.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.