Since Anders Lee went out with a season-ending injury, the New York Islanders are 8-4. They replaced a player in Lee with Kieffer Bellows for a couple of games before inserting Leo Komarov onto the top line. In those games, New York is 6-4 but desperately needs someone to fill the void left behind from Lee. Let’s take a look at some possible scenarios the Islanders can do to help their top line for the rest of the 2020-21 season as New York was one of the first teams to strike prior to the trade deadline.
After the acquisition of Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils along with Travis Zajac, He seems like the player to slot in on the first line. Despite a bit of a slow start this season, the veteran forward has eight goals and 17 points so far this year. He is a similar type of player to Lee, as he scores most of his goals in tight.
So far, Matt Martin has done a nice job at filling in on the power play, but Palmieri would also be able to slide right into the top unit and gain even more chemistry with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. The big question will be how quickly Palmieri gets the chance. The deal was made Wednesday night, so he would only have a morning skate with his new team before he got the chance on Thursday versus the Philadelphia Flyers.
Even if Parmerri does not start on the top line, he and Zajac should regularly see themselves in the lineup. That would make two players come out of the lineup, which would likely be Komarov and Bellows. While Bailey has had a down year to his standards, the veteran forward has shown chemistry with Barzal before. The two clicked for a memorable playoff goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019. That would ultimately leave the Islanders to shake up their second line of what was Bailey, Brock Nelson, and Anthony Beauvillier.
Having Bailey on the first line would be very beneficial to a player like Eberle as he would have two players that are playmakers in Bailey and Barzal. However, playing with Barzal, Bailey should see plenty of more scoring chances and has shown in the past that he can be a goal-scorer when he shoots.
Wahlstrom has yet to prove that he can play on the left-wing, but if the Islanders want to experiment, they can go all-in and place him on the first line. It would give them three capable scores with Barzal and Eberle and would allow the second line to remain intact.
In all likelihood, it would end up hurting Jean-Gabriel Pageau as he would lose a winger that can score. However, Pageau may be forced to play the wing now with Zajac, and assuming Wahlstrom is the one to move to the first line, he would gain a player in Palmieri, which would not disrupt the Islanders’ second line of Bailey, Nelson, and Beauvillier.
Even with the Islanders having a terrific season, they are still going to need to play well to be in the top four of the East Division. There will be one team consisting of the Islanders, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins or Flyers that will miss out on the playoffs. Considering the Islanders dealt a first-round pick to the Devils, it would be very unlikely to see general manager Lou Lamoriello make any other moves. That would mean the group he has in for what the Islanders hope can be a long playoff run.