New York Islanders’ Twitter is swirling with ideas of who general manager Lou Lamoriello should add at the deadline. There isn’t much in the way of substantiating reports to help fans and the media figure out what Lamoriello is going to do, which is very typical of Lou, but that won’t stop us from trying to figure it out. While there aren’t many players I feel the Islanders should be in on as the trade deadline approaches — and many aren’t entirely sure it’s the right time for a trade — there’s one in particular that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years who may be a good fit that flies under the radar: Florida Panther’s Mike Hoffman.
The Case for Mike Hoffman
Hoffman has had six-straight 20-goal seasons dating back to the 2014-2015 season, with only one of those under 25 goals. Last season, he set a new career high with 36 goals while with the Panthers, and has been a healthy and reliable player during his NHL career, playing 70 or more games each season.
An unrestricted free agent after this season, Hoffman has been an important part of the potent Panther’s offense the last number of seasons, which would be a great addition for the Islanders. Adding him to the Islanders’ top six helps move some players down the lineup and creates a more sustainable third line, even with the recent injury to Derick Brassard. Pairing Hoffman with Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal could reunite Anders Lee with Brock Nelson and either Anthony Beauvillier or Josh Bailey.
Related: THW’s Top-12 NHL Trade Rumors
The addition of Andrew Ladd and Brassard’s return (presumably) in a game or two allows for a pretty decent top nine as the Islanders compete for a playoff spot. Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, both recovering from lacerations, are hoping to return in early March, adding even more stability to the lineup.
The Panthers find themselves in an interesting situation heading into the trade deadline. They currently sit two points out of third place in the Atlantic Division behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Metropolitan Division taking up both wild card positions, of which they’re four points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second of those spots, they could easily catch up to the Leafs if they defeat them in their upcoming matchup on Feb. 23.
Currently sitting with 217 goals-for so far this season — good for third-best in the league — the team can afford to trade Hoffman. However, on the surface, the return they’re looking for may hinder the Islanders’ ability to make a deal.
With six straight 20-goal seasons, Hoffman is on track to eclipse 30 for the second year in a row. His shot is wicked and goal-needy teams should have him on their radar. But again, the Panthers would most likely want immediate help, especially on the blue line, and Hoffman could be used as a means to that end. But he’s a rental, so the return is limited.From “25 NHL Trade Candidates,” Sportsnet, 2/23/2020
The Panthers’ need on the back end was echoed by Pierre Lebrun on TSN’s Insider Trading, adding to the concern that the Islanders wouldn’t be able to reach a deal with the Panthers. However, there is a possibility that the Islanders move Nick Leddy, but only if Thomas Hickey can get healthy. The addition of Andy Greene said the organization thought they needed a more stable defender in order to compete for a playoff spot with the absence of Adam Pelech and rookie Noah Dobson being exposed in a few games.
However, if Thomas Hickey — the odd man out earlier this season with Dobson on the roster — can find his game with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, it then becomes possible to move Leddy and call up Hickey, who has playoff experience with the Islanders and is a proven NHL defenseman. Hickey, a left-handed shot that could slot in nicely with Johnny Boychuk, recently made his way back into the lineup against the Hershey Bears last night, along with Clutterbuck.
Leddy won a Stanley Cup with Panther’s general manager Dave Tallon and head coach Joe Quienville when they were all with the Chicago Blackhawks, so they would know what they were getting from the soon-to-be 29-year-old defenseman. Leddy will provide the steady five-on-five defense the Panthers desperately need while having the ability to jump in on the offensive side of the puck. He also has two years left on his deal after this season at a moderate $5.5 million per season, affordable even for the Panthers.
There are a number of options for the Islanders on the market, from Chris Kreider to Derek Grant, but things remain uncertain with the team losing its consistency over the last two months. Will Lou make a big splash before the 3 p.m. deadline tomorrow?
Get the latest New York Islanders news, rumors, commentary and analysis
Jon Zella is a 30-year-old Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.