Islanders’ Top Defense Targets Need to Include McDonagh & Dunn

The New York Islanders’ options to improve their defense had a healthy number of options less than a month ago. Fast forward to the beginning of July, and the trade route has bubbled up as more of a potential option. Specifically, the emergence of Ryan McDonagh‘s availability and the Seattle Kraken’s interest in Islanders’ winger Anthony Beauvillier, who could be part of a trade for the Kraken’s Vince Dunn.

McDonagh, Dobson a Perfect Pair

There are a lot of reasons McDonagh would be a perfect partner for emerging defense star Noah Dobson, but before we can consider how or why that would work so well, there are major hurdles both teams would need to get over. First, McDonagh has a full no-movement clause (NMC). This means he needs to approve any trade the Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to put together. Would McDonagh waive it to go back to New York and join a team he played in back-to-back Stanley Cup semi-finals and his former cross-river rival in the Islanders? Only he knows that.

Related: Islanders’ Options to Upgrade Defense

Second, there’s also a matter of what the actual trade looks like. The Lightning can’t take any money back the other way, so a roster player can’t be included in the deal. Do the Islanders have the assets to make that happen? It depends. As I’ve written before, general manager Lou Lamoriello has an important question to ask himself — is he going to use that first-round pick, 13th overall, in the 2022 NHL Draft for a defenseman or a forward? If he chooses defenseman, McDonagh, and the oft-discussed Jakob Chychrun, are options on this front. There’s the rest of the package to think about, too; despite the quality of play McDonagh brings to the table, Lamoriello would also be doing the Lightning an enormous favor. Does that lower the cost, or do both general managers know that their helping each other and a deal is harder to reach?

Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Third, and perhaps most importantly, how can both teams make the money work? The Islanders don’t have a ton of money available, especially when you consider re-signing restricted free agent (RFA) Noah Dobson this offseason and, ultimately, a new contract for RFA Mathew Barzal next offseason. If Lamoriello can move Josh Bailey, Semyon Varlamov, and Beauvillier, that would open up considerably more cap room, to the tune of $14.15 million in addition to their just more than $12 million already available.

Additionally, if the Islanders are going to go after a forward via free agency or trade, there needs to be money for their current or future contracts depending on their situation. Would the Lightning be willing to hold on to a couple of million dollars for an extra, perhaps third-round pick? That would help Lamoriello out in a major way, but something tells me two general managers who went head-to-head in the conference final two years in a row may not want to help each other out too, too much. Crazier things have happened, though. After the Lightning signed Nick Paul to an extension, the writing on the wall for McDonagh has an exclamation point at the end just a day after reports emerged of the Lightning shopping him.

A Dunn Deal

Unlike the Lightning and the Islanders, Lamoriello and Kraken general manager Ron Francis could align to help one another out. The Kraken are looking to add top-six forwards, and the Islanders may have exactly what they’re looking for in Beauvillier. A young forward at just 25, he has two seasons left on his deal at $4.15 million. Dunn has one year left on his deal at $4 million, so the money could work in so much as a nearly clean swap of cash.

Francis was criticized for the Kraken’s poor first season, but he did set them up nicely for this offseason. Currently, the Kraken have nearly $23 million available to sign six RFAs and three UFAs. No easy task, but adding Beauvillier gives his offense a huge boost at a relatively low cost considering what he brings to the table.

Related: Islanders Have 3 Good Under-the-Radar Free Agent Targets

As Lamoriello likely sees it, Dunn would be a fantastic, long-term defender to pair with Dobson. At 24 and still an RFA at the end of his deal, the Islanders’ top four would be set up really well into the future with Dunn’s addition. Additionally, unlike a potential McDonagh deal, it would allow Lamoriello to use his first-round pick and a prospect, among likely another piece, to trade for a top-winger to play next to Barzal, unless he goes the UFA route. If he does go the UFA route, picking up Dunn gives Lamoriello the ability to use the pick for an additional forward, one that could be an upgrade to the departed Beauvillier.

Rumors are flying about with every team, including the Islanders, who are all working the phones leading up to the 2022 NHL Draft to improve their rosters and move money around. Lamoriello is on the hot seat to make a number of moves to dramatically improve his roster after years of overachieving with a, frankly, sub-par group. This may be one of the most important offseasons since the departure of John Tavares four years ago.

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