The New York Islanders can be good, if not Stanley Cup contenders, this upcoming season. The Metropolitan Division is going to be better, but after playing in the Eastern Conference Final this past season, we can expect the Islanders to be competitive again. If they continue the success of recent years and boast the best record by midseason in the division, they should take the leap and trade for a star to chase the Stanley Cup.
Now many will think that the Islanders can’t make a move. After all, they have been quiet in free agency with limited cap room and the inability to make a big signing. We have to consider that a big trade would happen midseason when the circumstances are different.
If other teams end up having terrible seasons, they will trade players to contenders for assets. Do the Islanders have the assets to make a move? When you consider the two second-round draft picks they acquired from the Devon Toews trade, and the possibility of throwing in a young prospect, a deal is more than likely.
What Positions Should the Islanders Target?
The two positions that the Islanders should try to acquire at the deadline are a scorer and a goalie. The roster has little to no flaws currently, but you can tell they lacked a top scorer when watching them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Likewise, the Islanders had a great goalie duo of Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss that helped carry them last season. Between Cory Schneider and Ilya Sorokin, one of them can break out and fill the void left by Griess, who left for the Red Wings this offseason.
Watching the Islanders play the star-studded Tampa Bay Lightning, you can feel close yet so far from the Cup. It was clear that the Islanders were one or two players away from competing in the series as they lost in six games. They didn’t have that top scorer to add to the offensive lines, and they had two good goalies, but neither could keep up with the brilliance of Andrei Vasilevskiy. With this in mind, here are three players they should target in a midseason trade.
Hall signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason. He’s going to play with one of the best young players in the game, Jack Eichel, but the Sabres have a lot of question marks entering this season. The Sabres might want to trade him at midseason if they have another disappointing campaign. The asking price would be high, plus Hall has a limited no-trade clause which can block the Islanders from even offering him a deal, acquiring the top scorer for two second-round draft picks and one or two prospects would certainly be worth the asking price.
Hall would immediately boost the top line and the offense as a whole. The former Hart Trophy winner would make the first line one of the best in the NHL, with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle already part of the unit. Hall doesn’t provide as much flexibility, as he primarily plays the left-wing. But considering he would add that extra dimension to the offense, the Islanders would be fine shuffling some of the lines to bring in the talented scorer.
The Hurricanes are hoping to compete for the top of the Metropolitan Division and would try to avoid trading a star to a rival within their division. At the same time, Dzingel’s trade value can’t be ignored if the Hurricanes start struggling. The ‘Canes have a young roster and if they struggle, they can befit from a few prospects and draft picks from any team willing to offer them a haul.
Dzingel isn’t one of the top offensive players in the NHL, scoring 29 points in last year’s abbreviated season and 56 points in 2018-19 (respectable but nothing extraordinary). However, Dzingel can be a great fit in the Islanders’ offense. As a primary left wing who can play center, he can move from the top-line to the second line and allows stars like Mat Barzal to play the wing if needed. Likewise, another offensive player brings more depth to an already strong offense of the Islanders.
This feels like a reach considering the Islanders might not even want to make this move. Pekka Rinne is 38 and on the last year of his contract with the Nashville Predators. Rinne also has a modified trade clause, which can block the Islanders from trying to acquire Rinne if the Predators want to trade him. In addition, the Nashville Predators are going to be in the mix for top teams in the Western Conference. However, the Predators can be on the decline and if they have a down year, they might want to trade the aging goalie in return for some assets.
Rinne has proven the ability to play great when the pressure is highest. He’d bring an experienced goaltending presence to an Islanders roster that could use a reinforcement at the position, and he’s someone who hopefully has that one last run in him. If Rinne continues to play superbly in the net and the Predators fail to put a Cup contender around him, expect Rinne to be open to joining a possible Cup-contender in the Islanders.
Would the Islanders Go After One of These Players?
Something that any Islanders fan has picked up on in the Barry Trotz coaching era is that he won’t make a move to mortgage to the future of the franchise. Since Trotz arrived, the Islanders have been competitive and able to make a move to try to win the Cup. Yet, every time they stay silent at the deadline. I don’t know if they can go another season trying to build up the farm system and build a contender from within. It’s possible when you consider the young core of players already making an impact on the roster, but I think they still need to make a splash move.
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.