The New York Islanders entered the trade deadline in a unique situation, with only 26 wins in their 60 games played and a roster that had plenty of players that could have been traded but ultimately stayed quiet. The Islanders were one of the few teams to not make a move on the busy trade deadline day itself.
The Islanders had multiple players that could have brought back a strong return including Cal Clutterbuck, Semyon Varlamov, and Scott Mayfield. However, Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders front office didn’t find a good enough offer and instead, re-signed the 34-year-old veteran Clutterbuck to a two-year extension.
The Islanders, with 61 points, remain outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Capitals currently holding the eighth seed in the playoffs with 80 points. The Islanders will look to make a late-season push for the playoffs but it’s unlikely they will land one of the wild card spots. With the team remaining quiet at the deadline, what does the recent trade deadline imply for the team for the rest of the season? Moreover, what does it imply for the offseason and the foreseeable future?
Islanders Expect to Remain Competitive This Season
The Islanders have a slight chance of making the playoffs as a result of a lot of early-season struggles, resulting in a season to forget. The team started the season with 13 consecutive games on the road and lost star players like defenseman Ryan Pulock for multiple weeks to injury. However, the Islanders still expect to finish the season strong and possibly slide into the playoffs as a wild card team.
The Islanders remaining 22 games, unlike the start of the season, strongly favor the team, to say the least. 10 of the games are at UBS Arena and the roster only has one significant road trip left when they face the Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, and St. Louis Blues in April. Moreover, the Islanders will play 11 games against teams within Metropolitan Division, allowing them to gain ground two-fold in the standings. Keeping the roster together most notably is going to keep the team competitive and allow for a strong finish to the 2021-22 season.
Clutterbuck, Parise & Veteran Presence
The Islanders look to remain competitive next season. However, what stood out from the trade deadline is that the front office chose not to rebuild or even retool the roster, making a move or two to accumulate prospects or draft selections, both of which the team currently lacks. Instead, the extensions to both Clutterbuck and Zach Parise indicate that the Islanders will remain competitive most notably with the core of players currently on the roster.
The Islanders have one of the more experienced rosters in the NHL and most of the players on the team were essential to the recent success. The Islanders reached the Stanley Cup Semifinal in consecutive seasons with four forechecking forward lines that limit opponents from establishing a scoring presence. Clutterbuck, who was a pending free agent, was one of the key players in the team’s success and the extension guarantees he will remain part of the forward unit along with Parise, who agreed to a one-year extension as a depth scorer. The veteran-built roster is set up to compete for the Stanley Cup and the front office is buying into the roster in place.
Islanders Big Offseason Ahead?
The Islanders have a roster built to compete next season but are arguably one or two players away from truly being a Stanley Cup roster. Whether it’s a puck-moving defenseman or a top-line forward, the Islanders have set themselves up to make a move in the offseason to acquire a star-caliber player.
While the Islanders still need to create cap space, keeping the core in the roster together notably sets them up to make a big signing in the offseason. The player that stands out for the Islanders to pursue is Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, a New Jersey native who surprisingly, failed to sign an extension before the season started, making him a pending free agent. Gaudreau might want to stay with the Flames, a team that is already built to win the Cup, but the Islanders have built a roster that could be intriguing for the star scorer.
Likewise, the Islanders also have the pieces in place to make a big trade to acquire a star-caliber player. Patrick Kane would be a one-year rental, but the puck distributor is going to help open up any offense next season and the Islanders could acquire the veteran forward from the Chicago Blackhawks, a team fully invested in the rebuild. Another team in the middle of a rebuild is the Arizona Coyotes and this summer could see two-way defenseman Jakob Chychrun on the move. Ultimately, the trade deadline allows the team to maintain a competitive roster and look ahead to a potentially busy offseason.