The New York Islanders were busy at the trade deadline, and general manager Lou Lamoriello made the necessary moves to put his team over the top. The headliner was acquiring both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils to not only help boost the team’s lingering scoring issues with captain Anders Lee on long-term injured reserve but also add two veteran skaters who can play on any line and provide scoring throughout their lineup.
However, an equally important move that went under the radar was acquiring veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Ottawa Senators. Understandably, this deal has significantly less impact on the roster than the first, but there are questions surrounding the trade for Coburn and what his impact will be once he is available.
Where Coburn Will Play
This season, the Islanders’ defense has played very well, with three great pairings. So, why add a defenseman? With few weaknesses on the backend, it’s easy to assume Coburn won’t get into the lineup often. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock have been one of the best defensive duos in the NHL, with a combined 6.3 defensive point shares, and with offensive defensemen, Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy combining for 34 assists this season, the most replaceable defenseman on the roster is Andy Greene who, along with the 21-year-old Noah Dobson, continues to prove he can have an impact even at 37 years old.
At the moment, there isn’t an ideal spot for Coburn, but by the time he is through with quarantine restrictions, injuries could become a real and unfortunate scenario for the Islanders. The team had to maneuver their pairings for most of March when Dobson was on the Covid-19 list, which proved the team’s depth but was also a reminder of the possible impact of losing a key defenseman before or when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. Injuries are inevitable, and Coburn is the type of defenseman who can effectively slide in on any night and make an impact.
Coburn Brings Cup-Contending Value
Coburn has been in the NHL for 16 seasons, and at 36 years old, this might his last chance to hoist the Cup. Of course, he won the championship last season as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is another reminder of why the Islanders acquired him. The veteran defenseman has had plenty of deep playoff runs in his career with the Lightning and as part of the Philadelphia Flyers.
While clearly past his prime, Coburn proved with the Lightning that he is a strong, hard-hitting presence. The playoffs are always more defense-oriented and tougher along the boards and the MassMutual East Division is going to be no exception, making a big defenseman an asset. Coburn, at 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, is now the biggest skater on the Islanders with Matt Martin and Scott Mayfield who are both 220 pounds. The Islanders will benefit from having that extra dimension on their defense, especially in the playoffs when players get worn down quickly.
Are the Islanders Now Ahead of Their Division?
With their deadline acquisitions, the Islanders might now be the front runners to win the East and be in contention to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since the 1982-83 season. This is the best roster the front office has put together in years especially with the additions of Palmieri, Zajac, and Coburn.
The East is arguably the toughest in the NHL and the other teams at the top of the division also made major acquisitions. Having Coburn on the roster, will help shore up the defense down the stretch and into the playoffs should injuries take their toll.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November but has been a journalist for multiple blogs since the end of the 2019-2020 NHL season. While not following any specific team, Mike covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers, a team that has turned themselves into legitimate cup contenders with Barry Trotz as the head coach.