New York Islanders fans will not be hearing the words “we stood pat” after this trade deadline. General manager Lou Lamoriello agreed to send their 2020 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2022 third-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The Islanders desperately needed a forward, and after acquiring defenseman Andy Greene to stabilize the blue line, this trade indicates that the Islanders are going for a deep playoff run.
What the Islanders Paid
At the end of the day, draft picks are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. It appears as though Lamoriello believes the Islanders will advance further beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The pick is top three protected, making it worthwhile to move for a player who would be selected 20th overall or later. It’s true that, in the past, the Islanders’ draft picks haven’t made an immediate impact. Kieffer Bellows, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang are all examples, dating back to 2016, of top end draft talent that has taken time to crack the NHL lineup.
The same could be said of the second-round pick. The Islanders would have selected late in the second round, likely around the 50s. Scott Mayfield is the lone second round selection within the Isles lineup. The final piece to the deal is a conditional 2022 third-round pick. The condition is that if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this season, then Ottawa will receive the pick. If not, then the Islanders only coughed up two picks in 2020, something the team doesn’t traditionally do at the deadline.
What Pageau Brings
The Islanders paid for Pageau because he simply checks off all the boxes as far as their needs. Not even having suited up for the team yet, the center-man becomes the Islanders’ leading goal scorer with 24 goals so far this season. The Isles have lacked consistency in the goal scoring department, and the transaction should help boost the offensive production of the team. Pageau is likely to slide into the third-line center slot, which gives forward Derick Brassard the opportunity to play on the wing, where he has found most of his success during his Islanders tenure.
With Casey Cizikas injured and out of the lineup, the Islanders are suffering in the faceoff dot. Mathew Barzal is currently only winning 40.8% of faceoffs, and the team’s win percentage is only 49.6%. Pageau has a career win percentage of 52.2%, and in the 2019-20 season, he is winning draws at a rate of 53.8%. The uptick in faceoff wins will help the Islanders in their offensive zone, and should lead to a rise in puck possession.
While with the Senators, Pageau’s CF% fell below 50%. Although at a 48.1%, the Senators are struggling as a whole this season, which directly translates to the low possession numbers. In head coach Barry Trotz’s system, expect that number to climb over 50%, as Trotz has the Islanders defensively sound, and Pageau will see a rise in opportunities to possess the puck.
Pageau is on his way to breaking his career high of 43 points back in the 2015-16 season. With 21 games left to play, he is just three points shy of that mark, and is likely to finish in the mid 50-point range. The center-man has been impressive in his five-on-five play this season, tallying 25 points out of his 40 at even strength. In addition to his even strength play, the Ontario native comes to Long Island already tied for the team lead in power play points.
Since the 2016-17 season, Pageau hasn’t seen the postseason. However when he was there with the Senators, he rose to the occasion. In 19 games played that playoffs, he scored eight goals and added two helpers. Even more impressive, eight of those 10 points came at five-on-five play. Add on the fact that his faceoff win percentage went up to 54.3%, and you can conclude the Isles added a playoff performer in Pageau.
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The addition of Pageau stabilizes an Islanders forward core that has been ever-changing for the duration of the season, and gives Trotz the ability to roll out four lines like he prefers. The third line has been a who’s-who for a while, with a mixture of veterans and rookies filtering in and out. Barzal and Brock Nelson have their solidified roles on the first and second lines, so it’s safe to assume Pageau is the third-line center moving forward. The only question remains is, who plays the wings on the third line among a group of Bellows, Josh Bailey, Derick Brassard, Michael Dal Colle and Leo Komarov.
The Islanders have beefed up an already well-structured team that was in need of an offensive boost in Pageau, as well as the blue line with Andy Greene. The Islanders are all-in this season, aiming for a deep playoff run. Arthur Staple of The Athletic states, “This is a lot to give up for a rental, which leads me to believe Lou Lamoriello feels (or knows already) that he can sign Pageau to a long-term contract to be the Islanders’ No. 3 center for the next few seasons.” (from Roundtable reaction: Islanders got what they needed in Pageau but paid a big price, The AthleticNHL – 2/24/20).
Staple was right to believe Lamoriello wanted to sign the new Islanders forward to have him stay on Long Island. Pageau and the Islanders came to an agreement on a six-year, $30-million deal. Pageau is expected to make his Islanders debut at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum tomorrow, against the New York Rangers.
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James is a THW New York Islanders writer and podcast host of Nassaumen Hockey Podcast. A trusted source for Islanders content for many years at THW, James is passionate about keeping Islander fans up to date on the latest in Islanders news. Other content contributions also include his Co-Editor-in-Chief status for NYIslesBlog.com. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow James on Twitter.