The New York Islanders are left to pick up the pieces of John Tavares’ exit, the 27-year-old star captain opting to sign a seven-year, $77 million deal on Sunday with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s a bitter pill for the franchise to swallow after Tavares continuously claimed he wanted to re-sign with the franchise that drafted him and did not want to be traded at the February deadline. Instead of getting a sizable return for the five-time All-Star, the Islanders get nothing as he walks.
Now Lou Lamoriello will be tasked with trying to replace the star power that has departed with Tavares because as things currently stand, the Islanders would be a longshot to contend for the postseason.
In the immediate aftermath of Tavares signing with Toronto, the Islanders didn’t help the feeling of doom and gloom by signing Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula, two veterans that will do nothing more than contribute to lower lines and the penalty kill, at best.
Luckily for Lamoriello, the Islanders have over $24 million of cap space this summer that can be used to secure some big names in New York, whether it’s through trades, free agency or offer sheets.
Here are a few options that could be pursued:
As reported on Sunday, the trade market for Karlsson has picked up since the start of free agency. With one year left on his deal and his future with the Ottawa Senators uncertain, it might be best to trade one of the best defensemen in hockey as soon as possible in order to maximize a return.
The Senators might use the opportunity to unload the bad contract of Bobby Ryan, an underachieving, aging goal scorer who provides a $7.25 million cap hit from now until 2022, but it would be a small price to pay in order to acquire the two-time Norris Trophy winner. If Ottawa wants to get as large a return as possible, it might want to go the sign-and-trade route to ensure the team that gets Karlsson will keep him for more than just a year.
The Islanders had the worst defense in hockey last season and have the draft picks and young assets needed to pique the Senators’ interest.
The Columbus Blue Jackets left winger, like Karlsson, is a free agent at the end of the 2018-19 campaign and has seen his name crop up in trade talks. The Islanders were listed as possible suitors by TSN’s Darren Dreger on Friday.
At 26 years old, Panarin is coming off another consistent season in the NHL. After being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks last season, the Russian accrued a career-high 82 points (27 G, 55 A). That’s just two points less than what Tavares put up last season for the Islanders.
A No. 1 goaltender is atop the Islanders’ team needs and after missing out on Philipp Grubauer and Carter Hutton, the Islanders might have to acquire their netminder via trade. Especially if they opt not to go for or miss out on Robin Lehner.
Schneider could be expendable for the New Jersey Devils. After splitting time with Keith Kinkaid, the 32-year-old had offseason hip surgery that forced the Devils to sign Eddie Lack as a backup.
With a .920 career save percentage and 2.36 goals against average, the Islanders could offer the Devils a youngster or two for a goalie that is signed through the 2021-22 season.
At 22 years old, William Nylander has quite a high ceiling in the NHL. He’s recorded over 60 points for two-straight seasons with the Maple Leafs and can play either center or right wing.
With NHL Rookie of the Year Mathew Barzal likely set to be promoted to the first line to fill the void left by Tavares, Nylander could be a promising second-line option. As an unrestricted free agent, the Islanders could float a high offer sheet in the Swede’s direction that the Maple Leafs simply couldn’t match.
While it might cost a draft pick or two in order to compensate the Leafs, it would be worth it to bring on a young talent that could pack quite a 1-2 punch with Barzal.