Islanders Strengthen Forward Unit With Engvall Acquisition

The New York Islanders joined the long list of teams to make a big move just days before the trade deadline. After Patrick Kane was acquired by the New York Rangers and Jesse Puljujarvi was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders added Pierre Engvall from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Engvall addition is Islanders general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello’s finishing touches on a big trade deadline. The Maple Leafs meanwhile made the move as part of a surplus of deals that included the acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly, Jake McCabe, and Luke Schenn, signaling an urgency to make a push to win the Stanley Cup.

Related: 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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The Islanders needed a forward to play on the second or third line and Engvall is the ideal player to do that. He isn’t a star but he helps round out an Islanders team that is ready to make a push for the playoffs and compete for the Cup.

Islanders Add Scoring Presence

Engvall is having a strong season, particularly as a goal scorer with 12 goals and nine assists in 58 games with the Maple Leafs. After scoring 15 goals and 20 assists last season, he’s established himself as a depth forward who can carry the puck into the offensive zone and fire a quick shot on the net. He won’t overwhelm opposing defenses but he’ll help add a scoring presence to the bottom-six, making him a valuable skater to have in the lineup.

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders’ offense is carried by a reliable top-six. Brock Nelson, who was selected as an All-Star, has 27 goals and 33 assists while Anders Lee and Zach Parise have a combined 37 goals. However, the scoring production drops off after that. With only three active forwards scoring 10 goals or more this season, opponents can limit the top-heavy offense, resulting in a team that averages only 2.90 goals per game.

Engvall adds a much-needed scoring presence to the bottom six and elevates the offense as a result. Instead of the Islanders chipping the puck into the offensive zone, he can carry the puck into the zone on rushes to start up the offense. He can also finish scoring chances and find the back of the net with an effective shot, something the team has lacked in recent years. Moreover, at 26 years old, he is entering the prime of his career and while his contract expires at the end of the season, he can become a building block in the forward unit.

Where Engvall Will Play in the Forward Unit

The question for first-year head coach Lane Lambert is where Engvall fits in the offense. He plays the left wing and occasionally centered the third or fourth line with the Maple Leafs, making him a complicated addition for the Islanders. At the moment, he can play in Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s role, as the veteran center is on injured reserve. However, once Pageau returns, Engvall will move to the left wing to play alongside him.

Lane Lambert New York Islanders
Lane Lambert, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The problem for the Islanders is that their weakness is on the right wing. The left wing has Lee and Parise for the top six while Matt Martin is on the fourth line, leaving little room for another forward at that position. This indicates that Engvall will play on the right wing at some point or the Islanders will have to shuffle the lines in the upcoming games. Lambert needs to find a way to insert him into the lineup without an offensive decline. Engvall can be a reliable goal scorer who can particularly benefit from a player like Pageau, who finds skaters open in the offensive zone, but only if he can form strong chemistry with him.

The Maple Leafs Return

The Maple Leafs only received a third-round selection in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, a minor piece that the Islanders could easily move to make the deal. However, the trade opened up salary cap space for GM Kyle Dubas to continue to add to his roster. They bolstered their defensive unit with the addition of Schenn and have the flexibility to make another big deal if needed. As a result, the Engvall trade looks like a win-win for both teams.

What’s Next for the Islanders & Maple Leafs

The Islanders have made their big moves and addressed the weaknesses on the roster. They needed goal scorers and acquired two of them. The team needed a star to help them this season and for years to come and managed to land one in Bo Horvat. Likewise, there was a void in the later lines and the Engvall addition fixes that. Now, the Islanders have to secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with multiple teams chasing them in the wild card race.

Lamoriello bet on himself in the 2022 offseason after he fired head coach Barry Trotz and replaced him with Lambert. He doubled down on his confidence in the current roster by remaining quiet in the offseason and keeping the team together. His finishing touches came at the deadline and they look to put the Islanders back in contention in the Eastern Conference.

Lou Lamoriello New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attends the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs are putting a bow on a big trade deadline. Dubas has made all the moves possible to make the team a favorite to win the Stanley Cup and is willing to address every need on the roster to put them over the top. The Engvall move is just another one in a busy trade deadline and it can open the door for one final blockbuster deal.

Both the Islanders and the Maple Leafs have made it clear at the trade deadline that they are going all in this season. It’s a Stanley Cup title or a bust for both teams with both rosters built to win now.

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