The New York Islanders have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference to start the season with a 15-9 record. They have a good roster and are playing well throughout the roster, but to be a Stanley Cup-caliber team, they’ll need to make one move, if not more, to put the team over the top.
The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the teams that are in the middle of a rebuild and are in the process of tearing down their roster. They are an intriguing team for the Islanders and a lot of teams looking to contend this season as they have a few star players that can fuel a Cup run, and similarly, they have a few depth players that can help prepare a team for the playoffs.
Patrick Kane is the player that a lot of teams are going to monitor at this year’s trade deadline with the trade rumors already circulating within the league. His contract expires at the end of the season, and at 34 years old, it’s unclear if he will be a part of the Blackhawks’ plans. While they could keep him as a player to build around, general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson and the front office might look to move Kane at the trade deadline for multiple assets to help out the rebuild.
The Islanders face numerous obstacles when it comes to acquiring Kane, more so than some of the other teams that will be interested in the face of the Blackhawks franchise. He has a no-trade clause and could choose his next team to finish the season and potentially end his career. The other contract issues include his cap hit, which is $10.5 million per year and the possibility of losing him after the season as he is a rental addition. Lastly, there are also the pieces the Islanders would have to send to the Blackhawks to acquire him, and considering the prospect pool isn’t great, they can likely be outbid by one of the other teams interested in adding Kane to their roster.
However, if the Islanders managed to add Kane to the roster, he would instantly make them the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Kane is an elite forward that has led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup titles and provides playoff experience unmatched by arguably any other player in the league. Moreover, he is the passer the Islanders’ forward unit needs to complete the offense. With Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Zach Parise, and Oliver Wahlstrom all having great goalscoring seasons, the offense has plenty of skaters that can find the back of the net but aside from Mathew Barzal, they don’t have an elite passer.
It’s unlikely the Islanders will land Kane with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Colorado Avalanche emerging as frontrunners to acquire him. Even his hometown team, the Buffalo Sabres, can make a move for him if they are competitive by the trade deadline. The Islanders might have an outside chance to acquire Kane but considering his skillset, notably as a puck facilitator, he will be a player to monitor as the season progresses.
The Blackhawks signed Max Domi to a one-year contract this offseason with the hopes that he can have a big year and they can move him at the trade deadline. It’s familiar territory for Domi, who was a pending free agent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but a big year saw him traded to the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline. He’s viewed as a reliable addition to an offense, and the Islanders could be one of the teams interested in adding him to the roster this season.
Domi is putting together a great season with the Blackhawks with seven goals and nine assists, both of which are second-most on the team. The Islanders adding him would give them a middle-six wing option that like Kane, would be a pass-first player who creates scoring chances. Domi might not be the splash addition but he is the type of player the offense needs and can round out the team for a playoff run.
Like Domi, Andreas Athanasiou is having a strong season on a one-year deal and will likely be traded by the Blackhawks if the team continues to struggle. With six goals and three assists, Athanasiou is having a big year in a Blackhawks offense that has struggled and proving that he can be a prominent scorer in a contending team’s offense. The Islanders could take advantage by adding him as a depth forward.
Latest News & Highlights
Athanasiou isn’t a big name for the Islanders to acquire, unlike Kane or Jonathan Toews, another pending free agent. However, he is a well-rounded skater who notably would add a scoring presence to the middle of the offense. Additionally, his versatility, playing the center position and the wing throughout his eight-year career, gives the Islanders flexibility in the forward unit, which particularly will help them out if the injuries start to plague the roster.
Other Blackhawks the Islanders Can Acquire
The Blackhawks will look to move from the players entering the final years of their contracts, but if the right offer is in place, they could trade away some players that have multiple years left on their contracts. Jason Dickinson, who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the offseason, and Sam Lafferty are two intriguing forwards that the Islanders could add to their middle six, who are both under contract until after the 2023-24 season. Both players could be strong depth additions, and as a result, are interesting players to monitor this season.
The Islanders are hoping to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since the 1982-83 season, and they have a roster that can make a run for the Cup. However, the one big move for a player like Kane or the right depth additions can put this team over the top and propel them in a competitive Eastern Conference.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.